Executive Committee Minutes - September 22, 2004




Present:          Beck, Bolin, Bradford, Fech, Peterson, Scholz, Shea, Signal, Stock


Absent:           Alexander, Wunder


Date:               Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Location:        Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace


1.0       Call to Order

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


2.0       President Milliken

Peterson thanked President Milliken for meeting with the Executive Committee.   He noted that this was the first time, to his knowledge, that the President of the University has met with the Senate Executive Committee.


President Milliken stated that he thought it would be helpful if he told the Committee what principles are driving his agenda.  He stated that when he meets with people throughout the state one of the things he discusses is the special place public universities occupy in this country’s history and in relation to the citizens.  He noted that there is a contract between the public and the university and this contract always needs to be refreshed and renewed.  He pointed out that he does not want to trade the university’s funding for additional flexibility and autonomy.  He stated that he believes the states need to help financially support public universities and part of his job is to educate the public about how the university benefits the state but the university needs to realize that it exists for the benefit of the people of the state.  He pointed out that the citizens of Nebraska have been supportive of the university as he has traveled across the state.


President Milliken stated that he believes public universities should provide affordable access to higher education.  He noted that this is not just about tuition being kept at a reasonable level although it does play a part in the affordability of higher education.  He stated that he believes the state needs to provide more adequate need based financial aid.  He stated that it is important not to create a barrier between those who can and those who cannot afford higher education.  He pointed out that in a recent report it was noted that many students who come from the low income families do not even apply to four year public universities. 


President Milliken reported that the number of graduating high school students is fairly stable but he pointed out that the number of Hispanic high school students is increasing and these are students that need to be recruited.  He stated that we need to think differently about how many people go on to getting a four year degree.  He stated that he believes Nebraska has an inadequate level of people planning to attend a four year college.  He noted that Nebraska is below the U.S. average in the number of adults who have college degrees. 


President Milliken stated that it is important to attract a more diverse student body.  He noted one of the things that must be done in order to do this is to address the concerns students of color may have from the pre-kindergarten level through college.  He stated that this again returns in part to the area of providing an affordable education. 


President Milliken stated that it is important to increase the number of out-of-state students.  He pointed out that this is not only important to the university but to the state.  He noted that bringing students from out-of-state not only can increase the population growth of the state but can also increase the talent of the state. 


President Milliken stated that another important principle to him is the quality of the institution.  He stated that the principal distinguishing feature of a top university is the quality of the faculty.  He noted that the university needs to invest in the quality of the faculty. He pointed out that only gaining business efficiencies will not lead to greatness.  He stated that efficiency should be done with the business and operations component of the university so that investments can be made in academic programs. 


President Milliken stated that he supports the emphasis of the university on research.  He noted that UNL and UNMC have been moving in a positive direction with the increase in the number of external research grants received.  He pointed out that increasing the external research grants is not only important to the quality of the university but to the state as well. 


President Milliken reported that he has asked the Chancellors and Vice Chancellors to think about what challenges exist to the university increasing the number of external research grants.  He pointed out that one of the areas that will need to be improved in order to obtain more external funds is new or renovated research facilities.  He pointed out that the Beadle Center was the last major investment in research facilities and this was nearly ten years ago.  He noted that the state needs to invest more in the facilities of the university.  The university cannot do this strictly on its own whether through private donations or external grants.


President Milliken stated that we need to continue identifying Programs of Excellence.  He noted that it is important to make investments in these programs because they will eventually gain a national and international reputation of excellence.  He pointed out that this he considers the Programs of Excellence to be strategic investments. 


President Milliken noted that there is a great tradition with public university and the land grant mission.  He stated that the land grant mission engages the citizens of the state and it is the tradition of the land grant mission that has helped to transform this country and, in the case of agriculture, lead the world.  He pointed out that in the 21st century we live in a global economy where knowledge and innovation are the key competitive advantages.  In such an environment universities play an even more important role than ever.  He stated that one of the important things to think about in regards to the land grant mission is how do we share the resources and knowledge with the citizens of the state. 


Professor Beck agreed that the needs of the state are important to the land grant mission and strategic investments need to be made.  She asked how the President plans on achieving a balance between the Programs of Excellence and the other academic programs which are essential to a student’s education.  She pointed out that there is the feeling that if a department or unit is in a field where outside grants are limited that they will not be looked on favorably by the administration.  President Milliken stated that the Board of Regents’ number one mission is teaching and he does not expect that to change.  He stated that he hopes to achieve a balance or appropriate level of support for academic programs.  He noted that the federal agenda and funding for federal departments such as NIH and NSF play an important role in how much support is available.  He stated that he hopes the economy and the state’s fiscal condition will permit us to look at investing in areas of excellence, not just limiting cuts to those areas. 


Peterson stated that while most of the faculty members understand the strategy in creating the Programs of Excellence consideration needs to be given to the cost of this strategy.  He pointed out that a number of faculty members put a great deal of work and effort into submitting applications for Programs of Excellence and then faculty members on the Academic Planning Committee spent many hours reviewing the applications.  He noted that members of the APC had to make decisions on grants in fields that they had little or no expertise in.  He stated that the selection process consumed a lot of faculty time and lowered morale among some faculty members whose work was not chosen as a program of excellence.  He pointed out that the administration needs to be mindful of the costs that some of these processes produce. 


President Milliken stated that he appreciated the comment.  He stated that he is not fully familiar with how the Programs of Excellence were selected.  He stated that he plans on looking at the processes.  He pointed out that the priorities have been campus driven and that this will probably continue.


Shea stated that faculty members have been dissatisfied with the Programs of Excellence in part because the selection process has been such a mystery.  He stated that a clearer mechanism is needed that will engage the faculty.  He pointed out that it is important that the faculty feel that they have had input into the process.  Stock stated that he has run into a lot of cynicism from faculty members regarding the Programs of Excellence. 


President Milliken pointed out that certain programs were selected in part because of federal priorities.  He noted that the availability of federal grants in specific areas has somewhat controlled the agenda of the Programs of Excellence.  Shea stated that it would be helpful if faculty members were made aware and reminded of this influence. 


Peterson stated that one of the issues that the Committee wanted to discuss with the President is the relation of the campus with central administration.  He pointed out that there is real concern with the lack of input from faculty members with regards to benefits.  He noted that an important issue that the Senate has supported is the issue of domestic partner benefits.  President Milliken stated that he believes the Chancellor’s comments regarding how competitive the university will be if it does not offer domestic partner benefits will be important.  He noted that if our peer institutions and business corporations are offering the benefit that this will have a direct impact in our ability to recruit quality faculty members.  Peterson stated that he thinks an article he recently read in the Chronicle of Higher Education stated that nearly three quarters of public universities now offer domestic partner benefits.  He noted that besides us, only two other institutions in our peer group do not offer this benefit.  President Milliken asked if an analysis has been done on campus regarding this benefit.  Peterson stated that he is unsure but that he will contact Professor Wolf to see if this has been done. 


Bradford stated that letting domestic partners buy into the health care program at full cost was suggested by the Committee to the Chancellor in a list of possible informal benefits.  He noted that this would at least be a step in the direction of offering domestic partner benefits.  President Milliken asked if the Board considered this proposal.  Bradford stated that it was presented to the Chancellor as something that could possibly be done at the campus level.  Peterson noted that Past President Wunder researched what informal benefits could be provided at the campus level that would not require the Regents’ approval.  He stated that most of the benefits related to leave policies.   Bradford stated that it is not apparent in the leave policies that they can pertain to people with domestic partners. 


Bradford stated that there is a real problem beyond the domestic partner benefits issue in regards to employee benefits.  He stated that as former chair of the UNL Employee Benefits Committee he was to be a member of the University-wide Benefits Committee but it rarely met.  He stated that someone in Central Administration indicated a need to meet only to give information about changes in benefits to the various campus representatives so that they could distribute the information to their campuses.  He stated that there was no input from the faculty members and other representatives from the campuses into the decisions on employee benefits.  He pointed out that this lack of a process has upset many employees on the campuses.  President Milliken stated that he will look into this.


Fech stated that he did not want the President to assume that everyone on campus supports the domestic partner benefit.  He stated that he did a survey of the faculty members in all four of the research and extension centers and they were 2 – 1 against the benefit.  He noted that many of the people responding thanked him for being able to provide their input.  He pointed out that the university does not do enough to get input from the faculty members and employees, especially on matters that directly impact them. 


President Milliken stated that he wants to learn more about the adequacy and opportunities that are in place for input from the faculty members and other employees.  He stated that it sounds as if existing opportunities are not being used effectively.  Bradford stated that many faculty members feel that they are not being heard at all.  He stated that there is a general feeling that Varner Hall does not care about faculty input.  He noted that this may have been attributed to the previous administration. 


Peterson stated that another concern of the Committee is the handling of grievance procedures, particularly in regards to the termination of tenured faculty members.  He noted that the Academic Rights & Responsibilities Committee and faculty members of the Academic Planning Committee have written suggestions on changing the procedures that are used in dealing with the termination of tenured faculty members because it is not clear how responsive the administration has been to the current sent of procedures.  He pointed out that Past President Wunder believes that both the Academic Senate and ASUN must approve changes to procedures dealing with reduction in force.


Peterson noted that the faculty members who were scheduled to be terminated received letters notifying them of their termination prior to the initiation of the process whereby the Academic Planning Committee reviews the proposed elimination of programs.  He pointed out that the letters stated that the faculty member’s termination would be contingent on the completion of the process but if the decision to eliminate the program was approved, the date of termination would be one year from the date of the letter, regardless of how long the process took to approve the decision. 


Peterson stated that the administration did make an effort to place the affected faculty members in other academic programs but the process of this varied from professor to professor.  President Milliken asked if the departments made the final decision to accept these faculty members.  Beck stated that not all departments were given that opportunity and some were pressured into accepting the faculty members. 


Peterson stated that some faculty members felt coerced into accepting early retirement.  He noted that what made this more difficult for some people was that in accepting the early retirement they had to agree not to file a grievance against the administration.  He stated that once again procedures varied in these cases. 


Beck stated that she is chairing a committee to look at the procedures.  She stated that the committee is working on making revisions to the procedures that will enable the university to make budget cuts in a civil manner.  She noted that the committee hopes to propose procedures that will enable the university to make long term budget decisions in an organized way.  President Milliken stated that he is pleased to hear that the committee is looking at both dimensions of the issue. 


Scholz asked if the President has any sense what the legislators are thinking in regards to the university and the budget.  President Milliken stated that the elected officials are cautious about the economic outlook.  He noted that while the national economy seems to be picking up steam the legislators are not sure how it will impact Nebraska.  He pointed out that the legislature is getting pressure from all of the state agencies who all suffered budget cuts.  He stated that the community colleges are putting a case forward to get more funding.  He noted that another factor which will have an impact on the state’s economy is the low level nuclear waste fine.  He stated that he is concerned with what all of this means for the university.  He noted that he does not need to convince people that the fate of the university is intertwined with the state. 


President Milliken stated that there are some differences in the level of support in North Carolina from which he just came in terms of supporting the university as compared to Nebraska.  He noted that the business community in North Carolina is enormously supportive of the university.  He stated that he would like to see that happen here in Nebraska.  He pointed out that when the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce decided to lead support for passing a bond that provided $3 billion for higher education facilities, it was unanimously passed by the legislature.  He stated that what needs to be done better in Nebraska is to communicate to businesses and the citizens how the university benefits them.  He noted that it is important to have third parties advocating for the university.


The Committee thanked President Milliken for his time and stated that they hoped they could meet with him again in the spring semester.


3.0       Announcements

            3.1       Dual Career Information

Peterson noted that he sent the Committee an email from Bruce Currin, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Human Resources, with information on dual spouse/partner employment assistance.  Peterson pointed out that the email contained a list of references of employment/placement firms.  The Committee wondered whether this list is the dual career program that Chancellor Perlman mentioned at an earlier meeting.  The Committee agreed to discuss the issue further with the Chancellor on September 29th.


3.2       Email From Faculty Member on Purchasing Program

Peterson stated that he received an email message from a faculty member who is upset over the university’s purchasing program for buying computers.  The faculty member stated that he would have been able to get a better computer for less money had he not been restricted to the purchase program.  Bradford suggested that an ad hoc committee should be created to look into the university’s purchasing policies and other administrative practices to determine if they are really saving the university money.  The Committee agreed to put this on the agenda for the Chancellor. 


4.0       Approval of 9/15/04 Minutes

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


5.0       Unfinished Business

            5.1       Discussion on “Bona Fide Discontinuance of a Program” Language

Shea stated that after the meeting with Professors McGarvey, Keown, and Mayo about the ARRC recommendations he had questions regarding the definition of “bona fide discontinuance of a program” as stated in the Regents Bylaws.  He stated that “bona fide” means genuine and wondered how this applied to the definition that Beck had stated at the September 15th meeting.  Beck stated that the language refers to a general review of programs and that a program was found to be lacking if it is discontinued for bona fide reasons. 


Shea asked if this is clearly stated in the Bylaws.  Bradford pointed out that the language is being used to distinguish eliminating a program versus eliminating an individual. 


Beck stated that in the AAUP red book there is an expansion of the language that deals with the review of programs.  She noted the AAUP refers to eliminating a program because it is obsolete or no longer relevant.  Shea asked if the Regents interpreted the Bylaws in the same way.  Beck pointed out that the Bylaws follow the AAUP guidelines closely.  Bradford noted that the university has publicly stated that it tries to follow the AAUP guidelines. 


Stock stated that in 1992 when the Classics and Communication Studies programs were scheduled to be eliminated the decision was not based on the quality of the programs.  He stated that the decision to eliminate these programs came from an administrator who felt that these programs were no longer needed at UNL. 


Shea asked if the administration was in violation of Bylaw 4.4.3 with the recent program eliminations.  Peterson pointed out that the Chancellor stated that those programs were found to be no longer relevant to UNL.  He stated that the Chancellor did not cut the programs based on quality.  Shea asked if it is possible for the Senate to claim that the administration’s actions were in violation of the Bylaw.  Beck stated that the Executive Committee has already made that claim.  Peterson pointed out that the language is such that it would allow the elimination of programs because they are no longer relevant.  Bradford stated that under the language of the bylaws, a program could be cut as long as it was not being done solely to circumvent an individual’s tenure based protection.  Beck pointed out that academic programs are privy of the faculty.  She stated that reviews of academic programs are supposed to be faculty driven. 


5.2       ASUN Resolution on Academic Freedom

The Committee had concerns regarding the ASUN resolution on academic freedom.  They questioned the driving force behind this resolution.  The Committee had problems with the language throughout the resolution and agreed to address their concerns with the ASUN when they meet with them on October 6th.


6.0       New Business

            6.1       Amendment 3

Peterson reported that he was visited by Chris Longly, a campaign consultant, on Amendment 3, one of the gambling amendments.  Peterson stated that Longly seemed to be seeking endorsement of the amendment based on the theory that gambling would be a revenue maker and the university would be one of the beneficiaries.  Peterson stated that he told Longly that he would not ask either the Executive Committee or the Senate to endorse the amendment. 



6.2       Faculty Representative to Pepsi Student Events Fund

Peterson stated that a faculty member is needed to review applications for funding from the Pepsi Student Events Fund.  The Committee agreed that an email should be sent to the Senate asking if they or anyone they know would be interested in serving on this committee.  Beck stated she previously served on the committee and noted that there is very little work to do on the committee.


6.3       Reception for SVCAA Couture

Peterson stated that he received an email message on September 25th confirming that there would be a reception to welcome new SVCAA Couture on September 29th.  He stated that this date has not been confirmed.  The Committee pointed out that there has not been enough time to notify faculty members of the reception and that there are many other events already scheduled for that day.  Peterson stated that he would contact the Chancellor to express their concerns and to see when the reception can be held.  It was suggested that the reception be held after the October 5th Senate meeting but that might not work because the Chancellor will be out of town.


6.4       Open Forum Topic for October Senate Meeting

Peterson asked for ideas for the open forum discussion at the October 5th Senate meeting.  Shea suggested the problem of declining enrollment at UNL.  All agreed that the topic would be a good one and Peterson indicated it would be put on the October agenda.


The meeting was adjourned at 4:55 p.m.  The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, September 29th at 3:00 pm.  The meeting will be held in 201 Canfield Administration Building.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator and Pat Shea, Secretary.