Monday, July 27, 2009

Yet Another Futile Call For Conversation?

"There is need for a deep conversation about how much nickel-and-diming the University can take without addressing the hard question of how the University will survive."

[Senate Committee on Finance & Planning, July 14,2009]

Further information from the meeting notes:

What is the status of the hiring pause, Professor Luepker asked? The University is still hiring, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, just more slowly.

Does the University need to track down every penny?
It spends a lot of money on accounting for every cent.

And how many times must something be approved?

Professor Konstan related an example: he was asked by an accountant to justify a four-way split between units of a $200 charge. That is ridiculous, he said.

Is it still the plan to buy down resident undergraduate tuition with the federal funds and require everyone else to pay the 7.5% increase, Professor Luepker asked? It is, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Then in the fall of 2012 the increases will kick in for everyone because there will no longer be federal stimulus funds available, Professor Luepker observed. He recalled that Mr. Pfutzenreuter has said previously that the University can get through the next two years but that after that the situation will be difficult. That is correct, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said.

Professor Konstan said his department is seeing the number of TA positions dropping dramatically and students are worried; they have not cut RA positions thus far. What will happen in the Law School, he asked? The University always assumes that it will have the same number of students, even with fewer staff and fewer jobs available for graduates; perhaps it needs to begin modeling a decreased number of students.

Professor Luepker next asked Committee members to review the list of issues pending before the Committee and asked if there were any of particular interest. He also related that he had read the charge to the Committee and would like to spend time at the first meeting in the fall talking about its purview.

Professor Konstan said that it is not just the topics, it's who the Committee is talking with—when, for example, the Committee wishes to discuss making hard decisions about cuts rather than eroding units. He surmised that Vice President Pfutzenreuter would not disagree—it is the senior vice presidents and the President who make those decisions. Either the Committee needs to see them or the Faculty Consultative Committee needs to take up the issues. There is need for a deep conversation about how much nickel-and-diming the University can take without addressing the hard question of how the University will survive. That is an important discussion that needs to be on the record for the next generation of Regents and University leaders. Professor Luepker agreed and suggested the Committee needs to ask those hard questions.

At times it seems like a variation on the humor about work in the old Soviet Union. To paraphrase, Mr. Klein said, "the administration pretends to consult and we pretend to provide advice" and then the Committee moves on to the next meeting.

Professor Luepker commented that when Vice President Pfutzenreuter and others come to talk with the Committee, they explain that things were done because that's what the front office wanted. The Committee also needs to talk to the front office.

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