Executive Committee Minutes - October 27, 2004




Present:          Alexander, Beck, Bolin, Bradford, Fech, Hoffman, Peterson, Scholz, Shea, Signal, Wunder      


Absent:           Flowers, Stock


Date:               Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Location:        201 Canfield Administration Building


Note:  These are not verbatim minutes.  They are a summary of the discussions at the Executive Committee meeting as corrected by those participating.


1.0       Call to Order

            Peterson called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.


2.0       Chancellor Perlman, SVCAA Couture, and VC Owens

            2.1       Strategic Planning and Core Values

SVCAA Couture stated that two communications were sent out to faculty and staff which laid out the planning process for strategic planning.  She noted that the Chancellor’s email message included the core values.  Peterson stated that faculty members have been irritated by the use of the language “commitment to excellence” as if the university has not been committed to excellence in the past.  He suggested that the phrase should read “continued commitment to excellence”. 


VC Owens stated that the administration is hoping to have open forums, including ones over satellite so that employees in other areas of the state can communicate about the strategic planning.  SVCAA Couture stated that the identified core values were a first attempt.  She stated that she and VC Owens want to have more focused discussions on the values and the plan. 


Peterson noted that the email message from the Chancellor indicated that the core values were not listed in priority yet many people unconsciously might give weight to the values as they are listed.  He stated that he received an email message from a professor who pointed out that teaching was not at the top of the list even though it has been identified as the first mission of the university.  VC Owens stated that the Chancellor did not give rank to the values and he acknowledged that both the legislature and the Board of Regents have stated that the university’s number one priority is undergraduate education. 


SVCAA Couture stated that the genesis of the core values comes from documents produced on campus such as the 20/20 Report, the Report from the Transition to University Task Force, and the Blue Skies report.  She noted that all of the documents were reviewed at a one day retreat of administrators and the core values were then identified.  She stated that the values will need to be refined but they were developed to provide a starting point for creating the strategic plan.  She noted that it is important to see if the values resonate across campus.  She stated that some values may need to be added as the process develops.  SVCAA Couture stated that strategic planning as a process can be defined differently by different people.  She stated that we are interpreting the term generically, that is, we are not applying a formal definition of “strategic planning” to our process.  She stated that the academic units of the university will be the initial starting participants in the planning process. 


Wunder stated that core value number two can be interpreted as restricting some kinds of research.  He stated that not all research may push frontiers or advance society.  SVCAA Couture stated that she is glad to see these kinds of issues being raised and she hopes that all faculty members will be involved in conversations like this one.  She noted that scholars who deal with past history can still advance society by making new discoveries.  She stated that she did not believe this core value was restrictive.  She pointed out that the university needs to have the ability to communicate to the public about the research that is being done on campus, and statements about what we do as it related to society are important to that work. 


Beck asked how IANR’s over arching strategic plan will intersect with UNL’s strategic plan.  VC Owens noted that IANR will not be starting from scratch but different elements of the IANR strategic plan can be incorporated and others will need to be worked on. 


Peterson stated that the strategic plans from the units are supposed to include the response to the Gallup surveys but the timing of when these reports are due is conflicting.  SVCAA Couture stated that this was discussed last week and the administration is working on resolving the issue. 


Alexander asked if the SVCAA was aware of any institution that had successful strategic plans that were actually followed.  SVCAA Couture reported that she was involved in strategic planning processes for six years at Washington State University.  She pointed out that strategic plans are continually being updated and the plans can be used to evaluate if the departments and colleges are on course.  She stated that the plans also help to determine what has been accomplished at the university.  She pointed out that if the strategic plan is followed it can be used as a great communication tool.  She stated that the plan could help people feel more connected to the university. 


Alexander noted that many real advances in research are often made on independent work that is conducted by a professor.  He stated that the strategic plans can inhibit this from happening if faculty members feel that they can only conduct research that is identified in the strategic plan.  He pointed out that the vision of the faculty should not be limited by a plan.  SVCAA Couture stated that she has heard this concern previously.  She noted that it is important to have the ability to be flexible in order to help advance the efforts of individual faculty members.  If this is an important priority to UNL, it should be a goal stated in our strategic plan.


Bradford stated that the sequencing of the process does not allow departments to modify values later on.  SVCAA Couture noted that things will constantly change but a starting point needed to be identified in order to begin the planning process.  She pointed out that departments do not need to decide definitively now what our core values are before we can start thinking about what we want to accomplish.  Thinking about what we want to do could indeed change our statement of core values.  She noted that the core values might need to be adjusted or added.  Bradford asked if the department should respond to the core values.  SVCAA Couture stated that they should and that both academic units and individuals have been and will be asked to respond to the stated values.  She noted that departments need to tell the administration what should be included in the statement of core values. 


Bradford pointed out that at some point the values will need to be prioritized.  SVCAA Couture stated that at the deans’ retreat there was agreement that the pursuit of excellence needed to be continued in all areas of the university but there was no discussion about prioritizing the other stated values.  VC Owens stated that those attending the retreat found that all of the values were important.  He noted that the recent work done on apportionment of responsibilities will help determine priorities of the values.  


Hoffman noted that many of the professors have been through the strategic planning process numerous times and after it is completed nothing ever happens.  He asked how this strategic plan will affect teachers.  SVCAA Couture stated that it is the philosophy behind the planning process that will determine its use.  She stated that leadership will be needed to see that the plans are used and that changes are made.  She noted that the deans are thinking about and struggling with the process and considering how they can use it to reinvigorate their faculty.  She stated that the administration wants to make the faculty feel that they have the support of the university behind them.  She stated that it will take everyone’s investment in order to make the plan work. 


SVCAA Couture pointed out that one of the five criteria of the North Central Accreditation process addresses how the university conducts planning.  She stated that the strategic plan can be a major portion of UNL’s accreditation report to the NCA. 


Wunder suggested that the strategic planning should tie the academic program reviews with the budget so faculty members can see how planning has impacts.  He noted that few universities tie all these three components together.  He pointed out that the core values should be at the forefront of the academic program reviews.  VC Owens stated that a letter from Chancellor Perlman states that the academic program reviews should be an active part of the planning process.


SVCAA Couture stated that department plans are going to be looked at because they will have impacts on hiring.  She noted that programs of excellence need to be tied into the plan as well. 


Beck pointed out that the strategic planning correlates to the underlying theme being discussed by the Reduction-in-Force Committee as one of of long term planning and incorporating academic program reviews.  She stated that the strategic plan and eventually the RIF strategy could compliment each other to better deal with any future budget crisis.  She asked if the planning efforts will have any impacts on the programs of excellence proposals.  SVCAA Couture noted that the process for this year’s set of proposals has already started but there has been some discussion that the programs of excellence should relate in some ways to the priorities of the strategic plan in the future.


            2.2       Nelnet

Peterson reported that there has been some concern over the pending contract with Nelnet because the corporation has taken advantage of some loopholes in the federal law.  Chancellor Perlman stated that in 1992 the Federal Family Educational Loan Program (FFELP) was enacted to provide government subsidies and incentives in the form of guarantees against defaults to encourage private financial institutions to make loans to students.  In 1994-95 the Federal Direct Student Loan Program began.  Chancellor Perlman noted that UNL is the only campus in the NU system that participates in the Direct Student Loan Program.  He stated that Nelnet is a corporation that would provide the administrative services for graduate and professional students to get these loans.  He pointed out that the campus has the opportunity to earn some money by being involved with a corporation such as Nelnet.  He stated that any money earned will more than likely go back into the general student financial aid fund.  Chancellor Perlman stated that offering the services of Nelnet to graduate and professional students would provide the students with cheaper loans. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that the other controversy about Nelnet deals with a 1993 provision made by Congress which stated that corporations could get a 9.5% return rate on loans.  He noted that this occurred when the economy was doing well and interest rates were high.  He pointed out that Nelnet was the only public company that did not take advantage of the 9.5% return rate and in 1992 they wrote a letter to Congress pointing out that this high return rate was in fact taking money away from student aid.  Chancellor Perlman noted that Congress did not take any action and Nelnet finally wrote another letter stating that they would start to take advantage of the 9.5% return rate.  He reported that Nelnet took the additional money raised by the high return rate and put it in a reserve in case the government later determined that they would not be allowed to charge the higher rate.  The reserve would be used to pay back the government if they were required to do so.  In fact, a year later Nelnet received a letter from the government stating that they could charge the higher rate.  Chancellor Perlman noted that as a result of the money Nelnet raised and set aside, it appears that the company made a considerable profit. 


Chancellor Perlman reported that Congress did eventually close 60% of the loophole in the federal law.  He noted that Nelnet has consistently lobbied to get the loophole closed. 


Peterson asked if the Board of Regents will take action on the contract on Friday.  Chancellor Perlman stated that there are six different contracts that will need to be approved by the Board on Friday.  He noted that one of the local banks will be the trustee of the contract because state law prohibits the university to be a lending institution. 


Chancellor Perlman pointed out that Nelnet is a Nebraska company that employs 500 people.  He noted that it is a good company that is owned by a family with a long-standing reputation in Nebraska.


Beck asked where the earned money will go and who will be eligible for the loans.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he is inclined to put the earned money into the general student aid fund which is available mostly to lower income students. 


            2.3       ES/IS Program

Peterson reported that he spoke with SVCAA Couture after her reception regarding the ES/IS program.  SVCAA Couture stated that she has had discussions with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies and the Director and staff of the General Education program about the ES/IS program, particularly in context with the accreditation process. 


SVCAA Couture stated that when the ES/IS program was first developed conversations were held with Academic Affairs.  She noted that there has not been any follow up to review whether requirements of the program are still being met.  She stated that since it has been approximately ten years since the program began it would be a good time for the campus to review and look at the program.  She noted that the initiative to do this should come from the Academic Affairs office with the involvement of the faculty and the Senate. 


SVCAA Couture stated that she wants to have more substantial discussions with the deans to see if the campus wants to change the general education program.  She noted that two or three recommendations made in the Senate proposal to change some aspects of the current program could possibly be put into place for the next few years until a new or revised program is developed.  She suggested that the Senate proposal should be reviewed by the deans.  She noted that one of the goals of any changes to be adopted now should be to make things easier for the students in determining what courses they should take. 


Wunder stated that the Senate called for the Executive Committee to meet with the college deans and curriculum committees to discuss the proposal.  He noted that discussions were held with some of the colleges.  He suggested that the deans should identify two or three of the Senate’s recommendations when the SVCAA meets with them.  He pointed out that there were faculty members when the ES/IS program was developed who felt that there should be a person or a review committee to oversee the courses to see if they still meet the requirements of the ES/IS program. 


2.4       Reality TV Show

Wunder stated that he is concerned that the negative decision to have the reality TV show on campus will come home to roost with us.  He noted that he watched Tommy Lee on the Larry King show and he was asked by King if Lee was enrolled in classes to which Lee replied that he was.  VC Owens and Peterson stated that it was their understanding that he was not a registered student. 


SVCAA Couture stated that she watched Tommy Lee on the David Letterman show and thought it went well.  She pointed out that the athletics department handled Tommy Lee’s playing with the marching band very well and Lee seemed to be having a very good time.  She stated that she spoke to the Chancellor’s leadership class recently and they discussed the reality TV show on campus.  She stated that the students were universally positive about the show and they pointed out that reality TV shows are a part of their culture.  She stated that the producer and other crew members have spoken to various classes giving them an opportunity to see what the work is like in the entertainment industry. 


Peterson noted that Eddie October, producer of the show, is willing to meet with the Executive Committee.


Wunder asked if either the VC or SVCAA were involved in the decision to allow the program to be filmed on campus.  VC Owens stated that he did not know about it until he heard it at the Senate Executive Committee meeting on October 13th.  SVCAA Couture stated that she believes the decision was made before she came to campus but that would have to be confirmed by the Chancellor. 


Shea pointed out that for some people the biggest concern is that there was no consultation with the faculty or student groups yet the decision impacted all of us.  He noted that many felt that it would have been appropriate for the Chancellor to consult with the faculty and student groups.  SVCAA Couture stated that there may have been conditions that made it difficult for the Chancellor to discuss the issue with anyone.  She noted that the Senate should always be consulted in matters directly affecting academic programs, but there may be other matters about which it isn’t appropriate or possible to consult the faculty.  


Wunder stated that the show may be something the citizens of the state will not be happy about.  He stated that UNL is being used for the show and that he is receiving negative comments from colleagues across the country.


Peterson stated that the Chancellor will be at the November 2nd Senate meeting and will be questioned at that time.


Chancellor Perlman stated that the university has been pressed for several years now from various TV stations to have a show filmed on campus.  He noted that there is an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that states that many universities have had TV programs filmed on their campus.  He pointed out that he has told MTV and other stations no but reconsidered when NBC, which is a more governed network, approached him.  He stated that he had numerous conversations with the producer and the network and he was led to believe that the university would not be shed in a bad light.  He pointed out that the show centers on Tommy Lee’s rehabilitation and if he wants the audience to be with him he needs to take thing seriously.  Chancellor Perlman reported that he has seen some of the out takes and feels a lot better about the decision.  He pointed out that the university will be the landscape but the program is a comedy about a fish out of water. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that there has been mixed reactions from the students.  He stated that those who have interacted with Lee or the program have thought it has had a positive impact.  He noted that he has also received messages from faculty members who have interacted with the show and they also said that there have been positive impacts. 


Chancellor Perlman pointed out that Lee seems to be trying very hard and is sincere.  Chancellor Perlman pointed out that Lee does not represent UNL and what people will see is a beautiful campus and good classes being taught by good faculty members.  Chancellor Perlman noted that Admissions is getting comments from prospective students that UNL must be a pretty cool place if Tommy Lee is coming here.


Peterson asked if it would have been possible for the Chancellor to consult with the Committee before the contract was signed.  Chancellor Perlman stated that it might have been possible although it happened very quickly and the Executive Committee does not meet regularly during the summer.  He noted that the confidentiality issue might have prevented him from discussing the contract.  He stated that it is difficult in some cases to know when it is appropriate to consult with the faculty.  He stated that he does understand the concerns that faculty members have raised. 


Shea pointed out that more consulting rather than less would be better.  He stated that hearing things afterwards makes it difficult to understand why the Chancellor does not share information with the Committee first. Chancellor Perlman stated that he does try to keep the Committee informed on things but sometimes timing is a factor.  In fact, at times he errs on the side of providing too much information to the Committee.  He stated that the confidentiality cause was a factor in not revealing more information sooner. 


Shea stated that he believes that anything that impacts the academic community should be discussed with the Committee.  He stated that he is concerned with the campus community being more engaged.  Chancellor Perlman pointed out that every decision he makes has an effect on the campus.  He noted that at times it is paramount to hear the voice of the faculty particularly in matters relating to academic planning and promotion and tenure.  He stated that there are times when a decision that impacts the campus is not a matter of shared governance and at other times the decision to consult with the faculty is somewhere in the middle.  He stated that in retrospect this might have been one time when  consultation with the faculty, if time had permitted, would have been appropriate and most likely he would have mentioned it to the Executive Committee if the timing had been right. 



            2.4       Issues on the Horizon

VC Owens stated that he has received Peterson’s list of names of faculty members to serve on the search committee for the Dean of the Agricultural Research Division.  He reported that he wants to get the search going soon.


Chancellor Perlman stated that he hopes an announcement on the Teaching Initiative will be coming out soon.  He stated that there is about $600,000 of one time money that can be used for the Initiatives.  He stated that he hopes this will infuse the campus. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that he is waiting to get a report from the Enrollment Management Council on the barriers on campus that restricts students from enrolling.  He pointed out that the enrollment figures have been of great concern to him.  He noted that UNL will have about $5 million in tuition loss this year because of the decreased numbers.  He stated that some of the barriers are around the way the admissions criteria are interpreted and applied.


Chancellor Perlman stated that he asked the Council to look at two areas of the relationship UNL has with the community colleges.  He stated that UNL needs to be more accessible to transfer students.  He stated that he will be sharing the report with the Executive Committee in the near future. 


Peterson suggested that the campus should work more closely with Southeast Community College.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he has been invited to do so.  He noted that he will be meeting with the Presidents of the Community Colleges in January. 


3.0       Announcements

            3.1       Article on Tuition Rates

Peterson reported that a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education indicated that tuition rates at UNL were higher than rates at some neighboring institutions such as the University of Colorado at Boulder, Kansas State, and the University of Kansas.  He noted that UNL tuition was lower than at some of the other Big 12 schools.


3.2       Reception for SVCAA Couture

Peterson reported that the reception for SVCAA Couture on the 26th was nicely attended.  He noted that after the reception he had a good discussion with SVCAA Couture about the ES/IS program.


4.0       Approval of 10/20/04 Minutes

Alexander moved and Bradford seconded approval of the minutes as amended.  Motion approved.


5.0       Unfinished Business

            5.1       Resolution for the Senate     

Peterson noted Beck revised the draft motion regarding the Reality TV show.  He stated that there did not seem to be a consensus from the Committee that they should endorse the motion and to bring it to the Senate.  Peterson pointed out that any senator can bring a motion forward but he suggested that it should be written and made available in writing to the Senate before the meeting. 


6.0       New Business

6.1       Email Message to Faculty and Staff

Wunder stated that he drafted an email message to send to faculty and staff to urge them to vote on Election Day.  He noted that the email does not endorse any particular person but it does remind people to remember those elected officials who supported the university during the budget crisis.  He pointed out that an email message was sent out two years ago urging people to vote.


Peterson stated that he would send the Committee the email message and ask for their revisions and inputs on it. 


The meeting was adjourned at 5:15 p.m.  The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, November 3 at 3:00 pm.  The meeting will be held in the Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator and Pat Shea, Secretary.