University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Senate

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Urbana-Champaign Senate Meeting
January 25, 2010

A special meeting of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Senate was called to order at 3:15 p.m. on the 3rd floor of the Levis Faculty Center with Interim Chancellor/Provost Robert Easter presiding.

Senate Executive Committee Report

Senator Joyce Tolliver (LAS), Chair of the Senate Executive Committee (SEC), provided the following report.

As we begin our discussion today of the effects of the University’s financial crisis, I can’t help but think that our conversations should be informed by a little perspective: this is a moment when people all over the United States are coping with the severity of our national financial crisis, and when social services all over the state of Illinois are closing down because there is no money to finance them. The University’s cash crisis is just one part of that very bleak picture. Jim Nowlan, of the University’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, recently characterized the financial condition of our state as “close to de facto bankruptcy” (Crain’s Chicago Business, Jan. 18, 2010).

The reason we are taking furloughs or pay cuts is because the state has been unable to keep up with the normal schedule of payments necessary to keep the university operating. Of the funds appropriated to the University, we have received only about 7% of the money that the state appropriated to us in its budget, with no immediate relief in sight. No other state university in Illinois has received such a small percentage of the budget allocated to it.

It is also true that the percentage of the University’s budget supplied by the State has decreased steadily over many years to the point that now only about 18% of our budget comes from the State of Illinois. As a result, the University has been forced to rely increasingly on funds from tuition in order to fulfill its instructional mission. Nevertheless, we still need the money from the state: roughly an equal portion of our instructional costs are funded by state money. But now, more than halfway through the fiscal year, we continue to send the State bills that are not being paid, and no one knows if we will ever receive our full appropriation for the year.

For all these reasons, it seems clear that some cuts and reductions are in fact necessary in order to cope with the present crisis, and to help prepare us for the uncertain funding situation down the road.

The faculty’s, staff’s, and students’ frustration with and anger over the decision to impose temporary pay cuts (regardless of the manner in which they are taken) is to be expected. A cut in our pay, which comes on the heels of several years of token or even nonexistent pay increments, will impose real financial hardships on many of us. Without a doubt, they will do damage to the teaching, research, and outreach activities of the campus, not only because of the reduced professional activity they represent but, perhaps more profoundly, in terms of lowered morale, and the danger of increased fissures within our campus and university community.

But furloughs, distressing as they are to all of us, are a symptom of a deeper, much more serious problem – and it is important to direct our attention and efforts at the underlying problem, rather than just at the symptoms.  The current cash crisis is not a situation created by poor administrative choices, but by a cash flow problem faced by the State. For this reason, it seems to me that, right now, targeting the campus or University administration would misdirect the focus of our anger and frustration.
The severity of the budget situation, which is a university-wide problem, has been under discussion for at least the past two years within the University Senates Conference—the twenty faculty members whom the senators on the three campuses have elected to represent their concerns to the President and his staff.  They have also been discussed in this Senate, and you have received regular reports over the past two years of the growing severity of our situation.

Furloughs or pay cuts were first mentioned publicly as a contingency option at least a year ago, and have been the subject of regular discussions – and debates – between the President and his staff and the University Senates Conference.  More recently, on our campus, representatives of the Provost’s office have met regularly with the members of the Senate Budget Committee, the Campus Budget Oversight Committee, and the Faculty Advisory Group, all of which include faculty representation, and, along the lines suggested in proposed resolution RS.10.02, I am working with the Provost’s office on ways to coordinate the efforts of all those committees. President Ikenberry announced recently that he will also set up a mechanism that will allow individuals to anonymously suggest areas of the budget that should be cut.

Some have suggested that, rather than instituting furloughs, serious attempts should have been made to forestall this situation by making deeper cuts in administrative costs. Such efforts began at least two years ago, and are still under way. According to the report we heard here last month, expenses at Swanlund have been cut by over a million dollars in the past year or so. The President, the Chancellor, and the Provost have repeatedly supported budgetary plans that make cuts first to areas that are not directly related to instructional costs—areas such as energy, information technology, purchasing, and administrative services. At last Thursday’s open meeting of the Board of Trustees, plans were presented for another $50 or $60 million in administrative cuts at the general UA level and across the campuses.

But, given the severity of our situation, short-term cuts will provide only short-term solutions. It is clear that, even after the deepest imaginable administrative cuts, other reductions will also need to take place—reductions that must arise from the kind of thinking that goes beyond the bottom line. By this I mean decision-making that recognizes that the University is not a corporation and that to treat it as one would only guarantee disengagement and resentment among the faculty--and mediocrity, at best, in the kind of education that we can offer our students and in the types of research projects that can be undertaken.

This point is crucial: we, as faculty, must be integrally involved in the decision-making about how and where budgetary reductions should occur, and, as individuals, we must do everything we can to set aside narrow self-interest as we look at how we are spending money. A passionate, committed engagement on the part of faculty members is essential if the long-term budgetary planning is to result in a university that we can continue to call ours.

The good news is that this type of planning--with the participation of the elected members of the Senate and members of its committees--is already underway, and we have a chance to strengthen it.  What makes this level of involvement possible is the robust system of shared governance that we have nurtured on this campus and in this University.

I would like to pause here to say a few words about that system and about the record of this Senate--how this body has participated in shared decision-making.

Shared governance is not co-optation. On this campus, it is a system whereby the faculty and students—and, soon, I hope, the academic professionals-- freely elect representatives from among their own ranks to represent and defend their concerns in conversations with members of the administration.

When there is a need to argue with decisions being considered by the administration, and to aggressively press faculty or student concerns and needs, this Senate has always been willing and able to do so. Those of you who have been around for a year or more need only be reminded of the Global Campus—which no longer exists, thanks largely to the persistence of this Senate and the support by the Senates Conference of our efforts. And I assume no one needs to be reminded of the Senate’s central role in the response to the admissions crisis, and its aftermath, last fall.

But even in those instances in which we perceive that the members of the campus or University administration are pursuing a course of action that is not in the best interests of faculty or students, an adversarial or suspicious relationship between faculty governance and administration can only do damage to everyone.

 It is my personal conviction that thinking that rests on structures of polarities and on us-versus-them rhetoric rarely leads to understanding. More to the point, though, the very foundation of the system of shared governance is the assumption of good faith on the part of all involved, the assumption that faculty and administrators—who themselves tend to come from within the faculty—want to serve the university’s overall interests, and specifically, that we all want to protect, to the greatest extent possible, the academic excellence of our three campuses. When any of the participants in the shared governance process begins to impute bad faith on the part of others, it is all too likely that this imputation will become a self-fulfilling prophecy: an adversarial relationship is created on all parts, mistrust grows, and then no mutually agreeable solutions will be possible.

Does this mean that we should not question the budgetary decisions made by the University administration in the past and in the present? Quite the opposite: I think faculty and students should be poring over the details of the budget--all of which constitute public information—because, at this point, we—the members of the University community—need all the help we can get. But the larger question before us is how and why we should do so. It is my conviction that, for the good of the faculty, for the good of our students, for the good of the academic and the non-academic staff, we must think of this crisis as one we must face, and solve, together—through faculty solidarity, yes, but also through solidarity with our students, with staff members and with the human beings who work in Swanlund or the Henry Administration Building.

If we want to get through this crisis, we cannot get distracted by internal divisions or finger-pointing.  Rather, we must focus on the common goal of communicating to the people of the State of Illinois, and to state legislators, that, if public higher education is to continue to exist in Illinois, the state must find ways to fulfill its fiscal obligations. We can, of course, discuss ways to best communicate that message.  I want to emphasize that, in keeping with the official position of the University, each of us affected by the furloughs or pay cuts has the right to decide individually whether to take a straight pay cut or a furlough—and, if the latter, when and how to do so. But I also feel strongly—and here I speak also for my colleagues on the Senate Executive Committee—that we will be most effective if we can find ways that do not further undermine the teaching, research, and outreach missions of the University.

But, beyond dealing with this immediate cash flow crisis, we need to draw on the immense amount of wisdom and good will that is present in this room and among our colleagues, so that we can begin to formulate the underlying principles that must guide us as we all work together to preserve our vision of what the University of Illinois should be.

We will start by considering the articulation of some of those principles in the two documents we have before us on the Action agenda, and then move on to a more general discussion of how we should face the new budgetary realities in upcoming years.  As we engage in that discussion, I hope we can focus on productive approaches to the processes and substance of the decisions we must make in order to assure the financial survival of our campus and our university.

For today’s discussions, I would like to request floor privileges for Elyne Cole, Associate Provost for Human Resources.  I move that such privileges be granted (there was no objection).

Tellers for today’s meeting are Senators Harry Hilton (ENGR), Jacqueline McDowell (AHS), and Clif Brown (BUS).

Chancellor’s Remarks

Dr. Easter expressed his appreciation for Senator Tolliver’s sentiments.  He added that the business of the University must and will go on.

Proposals for Action

01/25/10-01          The Presiding Officer presented for action SC.10.06B*, Senate Executive Committee Statement on Furloughs.  Senator Joyce Tolliver moved approval of the measure.

01/25/10-02          By voice vote, it was approved.

01/25/10-03          Dr. Easter presented for action RS.10.02*, Resolution on Furloughs and Cost Cutting.  Senator Kathryn Oberdeck (LAS), co-sponsor of the resolution, summarized its highlights, including the need for transparency in the budget process.  Senator Oberdeck then moved approval of the resolution.

                               Senator David Olsen (BUS) moved to insert “students” after “faculty” in the penultimate Whereas paragraph and insert “student and staff” after “faculty” in the first Resolved paragraph.  Both motions were approved by voice vote.

                               Senator Frederick Schwink (LAS) moved to substitute “temporary” for “voluntary” before “pay cuts” in the second Whereas paragraph.  Senator Leslie Struble (ENGR) moved to add “adversely” before “affect” in the fifth Resolved paragraph.  Both motions were approved by voice vote.

                               A motion to insert “probationary faculty and other” between “unduly tax “ and “employees” in the third Resolved was defeated by voice vote.

01/25/10-04          By voice vote, RS.10.02 was approved unanimously, as amended.

Committee of the Whole

The Senate approved a motion to enter a Committee of the Whole for purposes of discussing long-term implications of the current budget crisis.

Senator J. Douglas McDonald (LAS) pointed out that sometimes cuts in spending can be useful and that the state may follow suit.  The issue of raising revenues by increasing tuition led to a discussion of the practical limits of tuition hikes and when do they become anathema to a public education.  Additional comments regarding increasing revenue focused on recruiting more out of state students while maintaining a commitment to students from Illinois.

Senator John Prussing (ENGR) reminded all that the identity of our next governor will be very important and he urged everyone to get out and vote in the gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, February 2.

A comment was presented about the need to take dramatic steps, such as shutting down the campus for a week.  Associate Provost Mike Andrechak responded that such a measure, while not entirely feasible for a variety of reasons, would save about $120K.  The administration was also urged to examine the need for large capital projects in the pipeline.

Senator Sarah Projansky (LAS) suggested that faculty remain in their classrooms on furlough days, but spend the sessions teaching off the syllabus to educate students about the current financial situation.

The Senate rose and reported for purposes of exiting the Committee of the Whole.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.

Robert C. Damrau, Senate Clerk
*Filed with the Senate Clerk and incorporated by reference in these Minutes.