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.”

Monday, March 5, 2012

Senate Meeting of March 5, 2012

Craig Bernthal

Today's Academic Senate meeting fell mainly into three parts: the discussion and passage of a resolution by Tom Holyoke, referring Chris Henson's motion for a state audit to the University Budget Committee, a presentation by John Constable about the budget, especially level B allocations, and finally, a short question and answer period, in which I raised two issues. I will take these in order.

Motion from Tom Holyoke:

Tom Holyoke's resolution passed, after some procedural dispute, with one dissent and one abstention. The motion was as follows:

Motion regarding state audit resolution:

I move that the resolution regarding a state audit be referred to the University Budget Committee
with the following instructions to the committee:

--that the University Budget Committee (UBC) conduct a comprehensive review of the University’s budget;

--that the review should include but not be limited to the concerns expressed in the second Resolved clause of the audit resolution;

--that the President of the University provide all budget documents to the UBC and make budget personnel or other resources available to aid the UBC in understanding and interpreting the documents;

--that the UBC provide a preliminary report of this review to the Academic Senate by the end of this semester, including a summary of what documents it has requested and what documents it has received, and any conclusions or recommendations regarding any aspect of the University budget, including additional areas of the budget which could be cut;

--that the UBC continue to report to the Academic Senate on the results of its review by February 28, 2013;

--and that the chair of the Academic Senate inform the President of the University and the Chief Financial Officer that UBC will be conducting this review and that they are expected to provide all financial documents the committee requests.

In my opinion, this was a wise resolution. It puts any state audit on the back-burner while the University Budget Committee looks at the budget in detail and finally offers its opinion to the Senate as to whether such an audit is advisable. The Senate will get the benefit of the UBC's expertise, which it needs, in making an decision about a further audit. Moreover, the resolution incorporates that part of the English motion for the state audit  ("the second resolved"), which directs the UBC to examine specific parts of the university budget as follows:

Resolved:  That such an audit should include but not be limited to the following:

 --the allocation of general funds to all units of the University, academic and non-academic; the percentage of cuts made to those allocations as a result of    budget cutbacks; and any increases in any part of the University budget during a time of  budget cutbacks and the justification for those increases;

 --the existence and disbursement of any carry-forward funds from the preceding two years;
 --the existence and disbursement of any reserve funds;
 --funding and increases in funding to special programs, initiatives, or centers during a time of budget cutbacks;
 --evaluation of the projected savings in the AABATF recommendations;
 --the amount of revenue obtained from student fees; the ways in which that revenue is allocated; any portion of those revenues being held by any unit of the University; and the intended use for student fee revenues being held;
--expenditures within the administration of the University, including salaries, salary increases, the creation of new administrative divisions, staffing, and travel expenses;
--the relationship between the University budget and commercial projects such as the Save Mart Center and Campus Pointe, including any transfer of University  funds and any financial obligations incurred by the University through those projects

That specificity is something the Senate has a right to request and that the faculty needs.

Budget Presentation by John Constable

I will not go far in trying to summarize this, as I believe Constable's power point presentation will be available through the Academic Senate. (If I get a link, I will edit this blog to include it.) I will say that, although John talked in general terms about the university budget, mainly to distinguish between Level A, B, and C allocations, he mainly focused on how Level B allocations were determined, particularly within Academic Affairs. This is interesting, and very good to know. But the critical question the faculty needs answered is How are Level A allocations--those allocations made before any money gets to the Schools--determined?

Questions and Answers

With only a few minutes left for questions and answers, I asked two questions. The first pertained to a subject that has taken up a lot of space on this blog. I asked John Constable to clarify his role on the Budget Task Force vis-a-vis his role as chair of the University Budget Committee. John stated that he, along with the rest of the Budget Task Force, was instructed to use discretion about Task Force discussions, and that he did not communicate Task Force discussions in any detail to the UBC, except to tell the UBC the general subjects the Task Force was discussing. That, I believe, is consistent with what I have reported on this blog. At that point, Michael Caldwell read a written apology to John Constable, which was nuanced to a degree that makes it impossible for me to summarize or quote without the danger of mistake. I therefore refer the reader to the minutes of the meeting. Possibly, since the statement was written, it will be available in full.

My second question to Constable was whether the UBC would take up the issue of why the university, after years of carry-forwards in the amount of about $20 million, had carried over $65 million last year. He said that he wanted to know the answer to that, and the UBC would be looking into it. I think that this is one of the big questions the faculty needs answered. It may have been rational to save that much money in the face of diminishing allocations--or not. I do not know. I do believe that the faculty needed to know about the figure long before the Budget Task Force was convened in an atmosphere of dire emergency.

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