November 1, 2002
To: Faculty Council
From: Paul S. Muhly
Re: Proposal for a joint faculty-staff budget committee
I write this memo to address the two questions raised at
the last Faculty Council meeting: 1) What are the pros and cons of forming a
joint faculty-staff budget committee? 2) What role(s) should budget committees
(separate or combined) play in the budget process?
Concerning point 1), the pros and cons that were solicited
from the Senate’s Budget Planning Committee are described below.
Concerning point 2), I have attached an excerpt from the Final Report and
Recommendations of the Budget Planning Advisory Committee (the Carlson Report)
that was commissioned by former President Coleman to review the University’s
current budget processes and to make specific recommendations to improve the
processes, leading, in particular to a “more strategic use of funds.”
That report recommended that “[s]teps should be taken to promote more
effective faculty and staff participation in University-level budget allocation
decision-making”, and offered suggestions (recorded below) on how this might
Experience shows that the
administration usually responds more favorably to an idea when it is endorsed by
faculty and staff in a joint discussion than when it is generated in separate
discussions. The FRIC was held up
as an example of how the faculty and staff’s interests can be promoted
simultaneously in ways not possible in separate committees.
The two current committees share
many of the same issues. The
administration would have to prepare fewer materials and spend less time
repeating itself in meetings.
A joint committee would provide a
more diverse perspective on the issues than would either committee separately.
The discussions and interactions have tended to be broader when the
faculty and staff meet together.
A committee somewhat larger than
either of the two separate committees might make it easier to develop effective
subcommittees whose responsibilities would be focused on particular budget
issues. A larger committee might
also assure that there would be some members on campus to participate in budget
discussions during the summers.
The primary force driving all
budget decisions ought to be the effectiveness of our academic mission: our
teaching, our research and our service. The
faculty have a unique perspective on these issues and related fundamental
responsibilities that are not shared by the staff. Some worry that the faculty voice might get diluted in
undesirable ways in a joint committee and that this would adversely affect our
academic mission. This might become
especially troublesome if the joint budget committee were to take on the task of
reviewing unit reviews (as has been proposed and discussed for the Faculty
Senate Budget Planning Committee).
Some who voiced concern over the
possibility that the “faculty voice” would be diluted also opined that there
is no evidence to support this. They
acknowledged that the primary interests of the Staff Budget Committee have
generally focused on employee oriented issues, rather than on academic matters,
but expressed optimism, based on past experience, that given the opportunity to
be involved in discussions of academic importance, the staff would energetically
and helpfully become involved.
Concern was expressed over the
fact that the chair of the combined committee is to be appointed by the
President of the University.
Concern was expressed that a
disproportionate number of staff are from clinical, hospital, and other
Some feel that the size of a joint committee would work against its effectiveness. Discussions in large committees tend to be less candid. Larger committees present scheduling problems.
3: Steps should be taken to promote more effective faculty and staff
participation in University-level budget allocation decision-making.
Budget allocation decisions are made in three different ways at the
University level. First, the
University makes an annual budget allocation to each budget unit.
Second, the University allocates monies from centrally controlled budget
pools (e.g., research funds, equipment funds) to specific purposes in each unit,
generally on the basis of requests received from those units.
Finally, in response to a unit review (either a regular review or a
specially requested review), the President’s Council on Strategic
Implementation (PCSI) may determine that the unit’s allocation of funds should
be increased or diminished on a long-term basis.
We believe that there should be effective faculty and staff participation
in all these decisions. With regard
to allocations from budget pools, there sometimes is such participation.
Advisory boards or committees participate in the process of reviewing
proposals and awarding funds from various research funding pools controlled by
the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Faculty are also often asked to advise on travel and curriculum
development grants awarded by the International Programs Office (a branch of the
Provost’s Office). There are
other examples. On the other hand,
many of the budget pool funds administered by the Provost’s Office are awarded
without any independent faculty or staff involvement (except insofar as faculty
and staff participate in preparing requests for funding that are submitted to
the Provost). Thus, with regard to centrally administered budget pool resources,
our recommendation is simply that consultative mechanisms should be maintained
where they are already used and should be developed where they are not currently
The PCSI group (which has the authority to authorize extraordinary
changes in budget allocations) already includes faculty and staff
representation. We agree with the
recent move to link faculty and staff representation on PCSI more closely to the
elected leadership of the Faculty Senate and Staff Council.
However, we also believe that faculty and staff terms on PCSI should be
lengthy enough for the representatives to become knowledgeable about the issues
that are regularly under consideration by PCSI.
Knowledge and experience are vital to making effective contributions on
budget matters, and we would not endorse a regime in which faculty and staff
turnover was so rapid as to diminish the ability of faculty and staff to
participate usefully in PCSI’s discussions.
Faculty and staff also participate in general budget discussions through
the Faculty Senate and Staff Council Budget Committees.
In this connection, these committees are consulted frequently by central
administration and urged to offer their views and suggestions freely.
Indeed, we believe that the central administration’s record in this
regard is exemplary. Nevertheless,
there are some problems and, while we do not have any very good solution to
them, there are some possible options for addressing them that we think deserve
further discussion by those committees and administrators.
One problem was alluded to earlier: gaining expertise in budget matters
takes a considerable period of time. Several
steps might be taken to address this problem.
First, the terms and term limits for members of both the Faculty Senate
and Staff Council Budget Committees should be long enough for those members to
develop real expertise in budget matters. Second,
careful thought should be given to ensuring that the membership of the committee
includes people who have prior experience with budget issues, whether because of
their academic credentials or because of their work experience.
Third, budget orientation meetings, which have been successfully used in
the past, should be held on a regular basis early in each academic year.
A second problem is the separation of faculty and staff into two separate
groups. This puts an extra burden
on administrators (who must find enough time to discuss budget issues with two
different groups), and it means that faculty and staff are not able to share
information and perspectives about budget issues.
While we recognize that faculty and staff frequently have differing
interests, our work as a joint committee has convinced many of us that there is
significant value to discussing budget issues together.
We would, accordingly, recommend that the Faculty Senate and Staff
Council Budget Committees seek and pursue opportunities for joint meetings on a
A third problem is the sense that the Faculty Senate and Staff Council
Budget Committees sometimes feel that they are not consulted on the “real
issues,” e.g., the decisions that determine who gets what and why.
We believe that past consultation with these committees has been
substantive and meaningful, especially over the past few years.
But this consultation has usually focused on specific initiatives (should
the University request an additional allocation for library acquisitions or an
increase in tuition) or on broad principles for managing budget crises (e.g.,
should salary increases be paid even if the state does not fund them).
The question of basic university priorities is rarely a subject of
We think that
improvements in this state of affairs primarily require changing the practices
of committee members and administrators in small ways (i.e. changing people’s
expectations about what to ask and what to talk about).
In part, the question is the timing of consultations.
Budget discussions currently focus primarily on the current year’s
budget. Increased emphasis should
be placed on securing early faculty and staff input and feedback concerning
budget decisions to be made in future years, with attention both to general
issues of priorities (e.g., the relative importance of research initiatives
versus Provost office initiatives) and the future budget implications of new
initiatives or policies being considered on campus.
In addition, where discussions must focus on impending budget decisions
(e.g., when budget cuts must be made), feedback should be sought from the
Faculty Senate and Staff Council Budget Committees on the specific proposals
(e.g., whether to cut centrally-funded research support, curriculum support,
travel support, etc.) as well as on general principles.
Finally, we also believe that implementation of recommendation 2 (regarding activity-based budget reporting) will help make faculty and staff participation in budget discussions more effective because, as noted above, it presents some basic budget issues more clearly and starkly than do current budget reports.