Chair Stone, Senators Brennan, Conroy, Davidson, Feakes, Hazlewood, Hindson, Homeyer, McKinney, Montondon, Sorensen, Warms, Winek
Guests: President Trauth, Provost Moore, Assoc. Prov. Bourgeois, AVPEM Heintze, Dr. Pat Cassidy, Dr. E. Swinney, Dr. Marianne Reese
Meeting called to order at 4:00.
PAAG: President Trauth and Provost Moore addressed the following issues raised by the Senate:
1 Reducing Benefits for Retired Faculty: The Senate believes that the proposed revisions to UPPS 04.04.53 are by and large poorly conceived and short sighted. These cutbacks insult men and women who have given their time, energy, and talents to this university in the past and who continue to support it with significant monetary donations today. Last year, retirees donated over $70,000 to the University. While we believe that all of the benefits should be retained the most troubling are:
a. Removal of Free Retired Parking Stickers: There are currently about 230 parking stickers issued to retired faculty and staff. Most of these people rarely come to campus and their use of parking spaces is minimal. An exceptionally active retiree that we contacted reported coming to campus about once a month, normally for about 2-3 hours per trip. Most retirees that we have talked to come to campus about twice a year for a visit of about 2-3 hours. If we do our calculations based on the most active retiree and project it out based on all reported retired stickers it would come to 8,280 parking hours per year or 345 parking days per year or slightly less than one parking space used for the year. This projection is actually ridiculously high since it is based on the most active retiree we could identify and it included a number of modified retirees who were given free stickers in violation of the existing university policy. The Senate does agree that the modified retirees should be paying for their parking as specified in the current version of UPPS 04.04.53. The issuance of free permits in violation of the UPPS is not a policy problem; it is an administrative failure and the Senate would be supportive of appropriate disciplinary action to correct this problem.
b. Removal of the 2 Free Season Tickets to Athletic Events: As in the case above, these are infrequently used. Moreover, the administration has presented no evidence that these tickets are displacing other fans at popular games. If free tickets are prohibited under NCAA rules, the University Advancement Officer, who collects $ 70,000 per year from these retirees, could buy a token block of tickets to cover the estimated number of seats used by retirees.
c. Miscellaneous: Most of the other benefits being removed are also of no significant cost to the University. For example, the removal of the small allocation of computer space for a personal website. The cost of the memory and bandwidth is so low that all the retirees combined probably don’t cost the university $ 5 per year. The Senate does wish to acknowledge that removal of the Recreation Center Membership benefit is appropriate because of the way the Recreation Center is funded. Free membership in the “wellness program” and a free locker in Strahan would be a reasonable low cost substitution.
President Trauth indicated that the revision of UPPS 04.04.53 was on hold in order to reevaluate the proposed removal of benefits to retired faculty at Texas State. Two issues seem to be the most prominent: free parking permits to retired faculty and free tickets to athletic events. From the discussion, tickets to athletic events in general are not a problem. Free tickets to football games are the sticking point. Although the administration is still undecided, the Senate encouraged the President to continue the benefits.
2 Status of the Faculty Handbook: On 10/28/2005 the Senate sent to the Provost’s office a draft of the new faculty handbook. We discussed the status of the handbook with you at PAAG on 4/5/2006 and we were assured that the handbook would be ready for the new faculty in the fall semester. The new faculty are here and the handbook has not even made it back to the Senate for our review of the changes. Do you know when the new handbook will be ready for distribution?
A draft of the new Faculty Handbook is available on line at http://www.txstate.edu/academicaffairs/ The posted version is still considered a draft due to the many administrative changes compared to the version forwarded by the Senate back in October, 2005. The Provost’s office will provide the Senate with a version highlighting the changes and a subcommittee will review revisions before giving the document Senate endorsement.
3 Rolling Course Fees into Tuition: The Senate is aware of the Regents interest in rolling course fees into a “flat” tuition. Could you please update the Senate on the status of this proposal and what you see as the pros and cons of the issue?
The Provost discussed the current plan to roll departmental course fees into tuition. Currently, expenses of a class dictate the course fees for that class. The expenses should be based on the actual cost, but it is difficult to monitor and justify that current course fees do that. The Provost believes that collecting the fees through tuition is a more manageable way to pay for course costs. His office is currently working on a matrix on how to distribute the new tuition funds at the departmental level. While the Provost admits that it will be difficult to come up with a methodology, departments will be funded at least at the level that they are currently funded and fluctuations in enrollment should cause departmental funds to be adjusted proportionally.
4 Status of the Modified Retirement Policy: The Senate continues to get feedback from faculty that while the modified retirement policy still exists, there is a “reluctance” to actually grant a modified retirement. We recognize that modified retirements are only granted when they provide significant benefit to the university and that is not at issue. Our question is, what do you see the future of the modified retirement program to be here at Texas State? Also, what funds will be used to pay the 6% re-hire fee now being charged by TRS?
The President’s response is that the policy for modified retirement is still in effect. The Provost concurred, he indicated he did not encourage or discourage the policy. Regarding the departmental expense of a 6% re-hire fee for those faculty on modified retirement with TRS benefits, the Provost stated that if a department needs help meeting that expense, it should come to him and he will provide additional support on a case-by-case basis.
5 Supplemental Funding for Faculty Searches: We are naturally supportive of and thankful for the allocation of new faculty positions. However, the additional funding to departments in support of these searches ($1,000 per position) is simply not adequate to ensure that the best search procedures are employed. To obtain the highest quality faculty available, strategies that limit the number of interviews or reduce advertising may be short sighted. Is it possible to provide additional financial support for these searches when it is needed?
The Provost indicated that the administration is aware that recruitment puts a terrible strain on departmental budgets. He mentioned that the $1000 supplement is paid out of one-time funds, meaning there is no guarantee that the support will continue, but he will try to increase the support in the future.
6 Other Items: President Trauth talked about the up-coming legislative session. Budget Board hearings are now taking place and it looks like Higher Education will be under the microscope. This can be good and bad. The good part is that the future of Texas is tied to Higher Education in that there is a continuing need for a highly educated work force. The bad is related to how the Legislature will find money to fund things. An example is related to faculty raises. President Trauth has been committed to faculty raises of at least 3%, but since she came to Texas State, the Legislature has provided no money for raises. We have to be rigidly disciplined to put the money up front into raises and recruitment. In this sense, Texas State is viewed by the Legislature very favorably. A big issue this session may be to keep deregulated tuition. Two new buildings have been approved but we don’t have funding for the debt-service on tuition revenue bonds. Amounts are $47.7 million locally and $36 million for Round Rock. Even with the needs at Round Rock, the President insisted that she would not take dollars generated here to fund the campus at Round Rock. The new Performing Arts Center is in the process of being phased in with $45-50 million for the first phase and a large debt for phase 2. Ultimately, there will have to be some other way to fund building for state Universities. The Performing Arts Center commitment comes from the Campus Master Plan. Currently, the University does not have a recital hall, which is not fair to the faculty and the students. There is a theatre, but it is woefully inadequate for an institution of this size.
PAAG Follow-up: The Senate was pleased with the support of the Performing Arts Center although there is mixed feelings about what is going on with the handbook and the benefits for retired faculty. When seeking information, it was decided that the Chair should ask about who gets free tickets to football games generally, not just the tickets that might go to retired faculty. It was decided to invite Dr. Paul Gowins to talk about the Texas State football program and its relationship to the faculty. It was also decided to request the revisions to draft handbook that was sent to the Provost in October of last year so that a group of Senators could look over the administrative alterations. Senators Conroy, Hindson, and Hazlewood will look into the changes. The Chair will draft a thank-you note to the President.
Senate Budget Committee: The Senate Budget Committee is interested in a charge to the committee so that it will know what it should be looking at during the semester. It was decided that M&O allocations to departments might be an interesting topic to consider along with course fee monies that are generated in each department.
Background Check PPS: It was decided to recommend that Section 4 of draft PPS 7.20 be amended to say: “All selected applicants for teaching positions shall be required to have a criminal background check for a felony conviction or a deferred adjudication of a felony offense at the age of 17 or older conducted prior to the first day of employment…” The underlined section is the Senate’s suggested wording addition.
· Senate Committee Rosters: The Senate’s suggestions for Senate Committees was forwarded to the Provost’s office.
· Texas Council of Faculty Senates Meeting: The Texas Council of Faculty Senates is meeting beginning October 20th. The Chair will attend. One more Senator is needed to attend.
· Faculty Office Hours: A question was raised about how often and when is a faculty member required to hold office hours. It was decided to make office hours an agenda item for the next Senate meeting.