Executive Committee Minutes - February 23, 2005




Present:          Alexander, Beck, Bradford, Fech, Flowers, Hoffman, Peterson, Shea, Signal, Stock


Absent:           Bolin, Scholz


Date:               Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Location:        Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace


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 3:01 p.m.


2.0       Deb Thomas, Director of Special Projects and Vice President for External Affairs

Thomas reported that for the last four years Central Administration had to concentrate on the University’s budget with the legislature.  She stated that this year the economic situation is looking better and the Appropriations Committee has suggested a University preliminary budget increase of 14.2% for the next biennium.  She noted that the Governor’s suggested budget increase is only 3.1% for the first year and 3.2% for the second year of the biennium.  She stated that the Appropriations Committee based their decision on wanting to bring faculty salaries to the mid-point of our peers using state funds rather than using tuition.  She stated that the first hearing for the University budget will be on March 15th.


Thomas stated that there are two legislative bills that the University is supporting that still need to be heard.  She reported that LB 593 – Biomedical Research Funding from the Health Care Cash Fund asks for an increase in the percent of funding that the University receives.  She noted that the funding given to the University is divided between UNL, UNMC, and Boys Town.  Originally the University was to receive 14% of the funds but the budget crisis prevented this.  She stated that the money that has been given to the University has been successfully used to parlay more funding.  For instance the $9 million that UNMC received has been parlayed into matching research funding of approximately $90 million. 


Thomas reported that the other bill that will be heard is LB 605 the Deferred Maintenance Funding bill.  She noted that in 1998 the legislature passed LB 1100 which allowed the University to issue revenue bonds to renovate or replace aging buildings on all four campuses.  She pointed out that the University has a lot of buildings that need to be renovated.  She stated that at UNL these buildings are the physical science buildings:  Brace, Behlen, and Ferguson, Keim Hall, Sheldon Art Gallery, and the heating and air conditioning system of the Animal Science building needs to be replaced. 


Thomas reported that the state economic forecasting board will be meeting soon and it is believed that state revenue is up approximately $50 million.  She pointed out that there is a lot of pent up demand for the funding from a number of different agencies. 


Thomas stated that in 1984 Senator Landis introduced a bill to support the Nebraska Distinguished Professorship Program but it was vetoed by then Governor Kerry.  Thomas stated that the bill has once again been introduced and a hearing has been held on it.  She noted that the bill would require a $3 million annual investment.  Thomas pointed out that it is still too early to tell what the outcome will be for any of the three bills. 


Peterson stated that it was encouraging to hear some positive news on the budget.  He pointed out that the Board of Regent’s presentation on the budget was much gloomier but he noted that this was the Governor’s proposed budget for the University. 


Peterson asked about funding for the programs of excellence.  Thomas stated that in the past the University has asked the legislature to fund the programs of excellence, $1 million for student aid, and $1 million for diversity with general funds but the University was denied.  She stated that funding came through funds earned through tuition because the Board of Regents and the President felt that these were three priority programs. 


Bradford asked how solid the proposed 14% increase is.  Thomas stated that the forecasting board will be meeting two more times this semester.  She noted that if the state income continues to look good the University could stand a good chance of getting the proposed increase.  She pointed out that K-12 education could be a factor if they decide to push for $25 million for special education. 


Thomas stated that another factor is the Omaha Development Incentive.  She stated that if it is approved as currently written it could create problems for the University.  Peterson asked if this bill is to provide tax incentives for corporations.  Thomas stated that this is correct.  Bradford pointed out that there seems to be opposition to the bill and questioned whether it could be voted down.  Thomas stated that there is some opposition but 17 state senators are from the Omaha area and it could be difficult to vote it down.


Bradford asked about the bill on increasing the retirement cap for the University.  Thomas stated that the hearing on the bill was on Tuesday and Professor Bryant spoke in favor of it.  She noted that the hearing went well but the Retirement Committee is not a standing committee and bills usually do not move fast from it.  She stated that the bills are usually packaged with other bills.  Bradford pointed out that the bill currently has no funding effects.  Thomas stated that the University will go to 8% contribution to retirement funds in 2005-06 because it has been negotiated with the unionized campuses.  Peterson asked if this amount is competitive with our peers.  Thomas stated that she is not familiar with this issue.  She stated that Ron Withem, Director of Government Relations and Associate Vice President for External Affairs, works on this issue. 


Beck stated that if the Distinguished Professorship bill passes there should be a review of the distribution of the professorships given.  She noted that nearly all of the recent professorships have gone to men, as is evident by looking at the website list.


Thomas stated that she will keep in contact with Peterson and keep him informed of when action is coming up on University matters.  Peterson stated that she should let him know if she needs the Committee’s participation in any way.  Thomas pointed out that University Day at the legislature will be in May.


3.0       Announcements

            3.1       Chronicle of Higher Education Article on

Peterson reported that an article in the Chronicle on freshmen merit scholars indicated that UNL ranked 31 out of 95 colleges and universities.  He noted that UNL finished ahead of some of the top-tier schools and some very large universities in populous states. 


            3.2       Coordination with Lincoln Public School Schedule

Beck reported that there is a window of opportunity currently available with the Lincoln Public Schools to discuss the possibility of coordinating the LPS schedule with the University schedule.  She stated that anyone interested should contact David Myers of LPS to express their opinion (phone number for Myers is 436-1610).  The Committee agreed to send an email message to the Senators to inform them about this opportunity.


3.3       New On Line Journal

Bradford reported that former editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education are starting a new on-line journal that will report on higher education issues.  He stated that he will get the url address to the Committee.  Hoffman wondered why the former editors were starting a new journal.  Bradford stated that he has heard criticisms that the Chronicle is becoming too conservative.


4.0       Approval of 2/16/05 Minutes

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


5.0       Unfinished Business

            5.1       Revising 15th Week Policy and Exam Week Scheduling

The Committee discussed making some revisions to the policy.  Peterson noted that he received an email message from a faculty member who teaches a lab course twice a week who felt that he should be allowed to give his lab final on Thursday of the 15th week of class.  The Committee discussed the issue and felt that the instructor should adhere to the policy which requires all exams to be finished on the Wednesday of exam week.  Bradford wondered how many lab courses are taught twice a week.  Shea noted that it depends on the subject matter. 


Hoffman pointed out that televised courses can only give exams during the time that the television hook-up is available.  Bradford pointed out that it is only a concern if the exam is not being given at its regularly scheduled time.


Fech asked who would need to approve the policy after the Senate.  Peterson stated that the 15th week policy is a Senate policy and if the Senate approves it then it will be put in place for the fall semester.  He noted that SVCAA Couture has agreed to disseminate the information about the policy if it is approved. 


Peterson pointed out that the final exam week motion is a recommendation to Academic Affairs.  He noted that Academic Affairs will have to agree to the recommendations before changes can be made and implemented. 


6.0       New Business

            6.1       Letter from President Milliken

Peterson reported that he received a letter from President Milliken thanking the Senate for expressing its concern on the draft Conflict of Interest policy.  As a result of the Senate and other’s concerns President Milliken has asked the University’s Vice President and General Counsel to prepare a new draft policy.  Peterson reported that the President stated in the letter that the new draft policy will take into consideration the concerns raised.  When the draft is completed the President will share it with each campus Senate. 


6.2       Apportionments, Post-Tenure Review, and Definition of Unsatisfactory Performance

Peterson reported that he spoke with members of the Academic Rights & Responsibilities Committee who have concerns that there may be a lot of grievances filed over post-tenure reviews.  He stated that there seems to be a problem with consistency across the campus in how people are being evaluated.  He asked if a post tenure review can be triggered if part of the apportionment of responsibilities is found to be unsatisfactory but the other responsibilities are found to be satisfactory.  Beck, Flowers, and Shea each stated that a faculty member’s performance would have to be evaluated as unsatisfactory for their overall work for a post tenure review to be conducted. 


Peterson questioned what the precise definition of apportionment is.  He asked if a faculty member’s apportionment is 40% research does this imply a certain number of publications a year.  Beck noted that not all departments base their evaluations on apportionment of duties.  Shea stated that there needs to be consistency across units in how evaluations are conducted.  Bradford stated that former SVCAA Edwards could not state whether apportionments were equivalent to percent of time.  Stock noted that the problem of evaluations lies within the departments and departments need to think responsibly when evaluations are conducted. 


Alexander stated that he does not like the notion of apportionment of time at all.  He pointed out that it can change from year to year and that often a faculty member does not know how much of their time is going to be devoted to any particular area until they are actually doing it.  Fech noted that although everyone has the same apportionment in Extension Education, not everyone is doing the same work. 


The Committee agreed to discuss the issue with the Chancellor at its next meeting with him.


Peterson stated that another issue of concern is student credit hour production and its relation to department budgets.  He noted that tuition goes into a pot and is not distributed to departments but he questioned whether student hour production influences department budgets.  Beck stated that it is unclear but student hour production might be used as leverage in determining unit budgets.  Hoffman stated that it seems to have changed over time.  He noted that in the past if you taught full time you were supposed to produce at least a specific number of student credit hours.  Flowers pointed out that historically student credit hour production has been used to justify requests for additional faculty lines. 


6.3       Outliers

Peterson stated that the Faculty Compensation Advisory Committee will be meeting sometime in early April.  He stated that the Committee typically looks at three reports that are generated by Institutional Research and Planning.  He noted that these reports are on gender, salary changes, and outliers.  Peterson stated that the outliers report indicates faculty members whose salaries are not in the norm for their unit.  He noted that the Chancellor has a policy that unit administrators must justify the reasoning behind the difference in the salaries. 


Flowers asked if chairs and department faculty salary committees get these reports.  Peterson stated that he did not know but he could have it put on the FCAC agenda to discuss.  Flowers stated that it should also be broken down to departments because some departments receive a higher allocation of faculty salary increases than others. 


Bradford asked if the department is a variable in the reports.  Peterson stated that it was.  He noted that there is a report that looks at UNL peers comparing UNL as a whole to the average of the peers and comparing departments at UNL with comparable departments at the peer institutions. 


Shea noted that salary disparity within and among departments is an issue that needs attention.  He pointed out that it causes real problems among faculty and in morale.


6.4       Possible Need for Faculty/Staff Ombudsperson

Beck stated that she received an inquiry from several staff women who felt that they were being discriminated against for advancement in their unit.  She stated that these women are unsure of where to go for help on this matter.  She noted that the women just want to get the problem resolved but do not necessarily want to file a formal grievance.  She pointed out that years ago there was an ombudsperson on campus but that position was eliminated.  She stated that it would be helpful to have someone in this position to resolve issues like this and that President Smith promised several years ago to reinstate the position on the UNL campus but this did not happen.  The mechanisms that were put into place to take over this function (Academic Rights & Responsibilities Committee and Mediation) are not effective in helping people with difficulties that are below the formal grievance level. 


Signal suggested that the women should contact the Office of Equity, Access, & Diversity (EAD).  Beck stated that she suggested this but the women did not feel comfortable with going to this office.  Signal stated that she has concerns with their reluctance to go to the EAD.


Griffin suggested that they contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  Bradford pointed out that the EAP has done a lot of work with supervisors and employees to resolve issues similar to this. 


The Committee agreed to discuss the possibility of hiring an ombudsperson with the Chancellor.


Alexander pointed out that the reclassification of some managerial/professional employees is causing real hardship for these people.  He stated that these people who were originally paid monthly have been changed to being paid bi-weekly.  As a result the University is withholding their first two weeks of pay.  He pointed out that faculty members would not stand for it if they were not to receive half of their paycheck for the month. 


Bradford wondered if the EAP emergency loan provision might be able to help.  The Committee agreed to discuss the issue with the Chancellor.


The meeting was adjourned at 4:50 p.m.  The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, March 2nd at 3:00 pm.  The meeting will be held in the Academic Senate Office.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator and Pat Shea, Secretary.