Blaise Pascal, PenseĆ© 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Budget Task Force Confidentiality

I would like to print a partial retraction and apology to Provost Bill Covino and to Michael Caldwell, based on a previous blog about the Academic Senate meeting of February 13, 2012. At the end of that entry, I quoted Provost Covino verbatim as giving this charge to the Budget Task Force:

"At the first meeting of the Task Force I informed the Task Force that this was not a confidential committee, and said further, or we had a discussion in the course of which I said further, that they would be dealing with information and deliberations that were evolving in the course of their discussions, and that while their deliberations were not confidential, and I had no reason to think that that should be the case, that they should, as we all should, exercise their best professional judgment and discretion relative to seeking input or reporting out. That was my instruction paraphrase to the Task Force."

After talking with a member of the Task Force, I believe that this was the charge the Task Force got, no more and no less. So any implication by me that what Provost Covino said was not a full disclosure of the truth is inaccurate, wrong, and I regret it. 

I believe what happened was this: The members of the Task Force heard that charge, and given the sensitivity of the issues they were dealing with, and their desire to have candid discussions about budget cuts, they decided all of the information they were given and all of their discussions had to be kept confidential. That was not an unreasonable decision. Such a committee has to have enough confidentiality to be able to function. Given this, however, I'm not sure what the Provost meant when he said, "this was not a confidential committee," since everyone on the committee seems to have thought it was precisely that. 

My objection, all along, has been cutting the University Budget Committee out of the process. It was cut out, and I do not believe there was any mechanism in place or any person charged with connecting the UBC to the Task Force.  What would be the point of having a liaison? If you were going to link to the UBC, why not just make the UBC part of the Task Force and have done with it? (Here, I have to say, I think that Michael Caldwell was honestly mistaken, and perhaps this will be clarified in the future.)

The UBC should have been part of the Task Force. It will need to address the possible $10.1 million shortfall in the coming year, and the faculty needs the best, most experienced people it can get on that committee.

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