February 26, 2017

Budget transparency sparks debate at faculty assembly

fac assembly votes on Jarosi's resolution

By Shelby Brown–

Interim Provost Dale Billingsley says fear of further SACS sanctions prompted president Greg Postel to blast an email Feb. 15 about the $48 million shortfall in the current budget. He addressed the Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly meeting Feb. 24 as they debated budget transparency.

“If we don’t act now to stop the flow of this money, we’re going to be cited for another probation violation that will put us in an even worse state than we already are,” Billingsley said. “We were frightened by what we saw.”

Billingsley said the combination of a new board of trustees demanding fiscal prudence and a SACS letter received Feb. 15 forced the administration to send the email. Although it may have appeared the consultation usually followed in the budget process was circumvented, he said it wasn’t. The budget is far from finalized, he said.

Some voiced concerns about access to information like “budget scenarios” and viewing budget information in real time. Philosophy Chair David Owen said faculty having an active role in budget shaping is key.

“The budget scenarios are always one (model) behind.” Owen said. ” This year I haven’t seen any scenarios.”

Billingsley agreed that U of L is a public university and budget documents should be available to anyone.

“Not even the senior administrators of the university have a constant view of what the state of what the budget is,” Billingsley said. “There is software that will afford us access to that information at will. I expect we will be buying that as soon as we can scrape the money together.” 

In an email to U of L faculty and staff, Interim President Greg Postel said he expected to end the 2016-17 year “balanced.” Postel began discussions about developing a more long term strategy for revenue in 2017-18. Postel encouraged ideas from colleagues for ideas to generate revenue.

Professor Susan Jarosi presented two resolutions advocating for budget transparency and the importance of shared academic governance.

“I think the general sentiment is that faculty are very concerned about these issues with the budget, and particularly faculty participation in budget decisions going forward,” Jarosi said.

Some faculty opposed the resolutions. Professor David Schutlz found the motion premature.

“The current administration has barely been in, and they haven’t had the time to react yet. We have faculty senate, that is our voice,” Schultz said. “If you want the administration to consult with every faculty group, they’re never going to have time to move forward to progress.”

Professor Beth Willey cited time constraints like the encroaching deadline to meet the necessary requirements before the budget is presented to the board of trustees and the state.

“We have from now until June 30 to staunch the flow of blood,” Willey said. “I don’t see us having any kind of useful discussion about a budget this complicated and coming to some kind of resolution before June 30. I don’t think this is the time nor the place to ask for this right now.”

A motion sending the resolutions back to a committee for language alterations passed. Both resolutions will be examined again at the March 24 meeting.

Professor Riann Van Zyl and Willey also outlined a five year plan U of L’s Quality Enhancement Plan.

QEP will focus on promoting engagement, reflection and involvement for students who are uncertain about their majors or career paths. Willey and Van Zyl want the program to help retention rates at the university.

Photo by Dustin Massengill / The Louisville Cardinal

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