Minutes for 09/2/09
Members present: Senators Feakes, Caldwell, Furney, Bond, Brown, Martin, Hazlewood, Conroy, Fleming (for Melzer), Shah, Stone, Morey, Wilson, Warms.
Guests: Moore, Trauth, Cassidy, Sigler, Hohensee, Rey, Wallace.
Meeting called to order at 4:00.
1. Enrollment and future growth: The President noted that only a handful of similar universities in the US are in the good financial situation we find at Texas State, with many other institutions instituting such budget cuts as faculty furloughs. Growth at Texas State has allowed the university to avoid such cuts: class size, per-course faculty issues and parking must be judged against the above solutions proffered by other universities to face the nation's financial crisis. The President anticipates budget cuts in the 2011 Legislative cycle as stimulus money dries up and there is a decline in sales tax revenue, and she is planning for a budget reduction of 10%. She further noted that Texas State growth is in the right places – retention and graduate enrollments. There is no target for controlling growth, and the President believes that setting limits would be harmful both as it would affect our service to a growing Texas population; and as it would affect state legislators' perception of the University, since growth aids in obtaining state support for building and tuition increases.
The Provost offered additional comments:
a. It is hard to know actual enrollment until the final weeks before a semester begins. He encourages annual growth of some 2 to 3%; while this semester's larger increase was a surprise, he feels it is a good situation to be in, and far better than a shrinking population. He noted that tuition money funds new faculty hires.
b. The Provost agreed that class size, and space issues, are pressing concerns. There is need for new labs and research facilities. There are talks with the city to create a research park in San Marcos, a move that would at once shift some people and programs off campus and allow for quicker as well as cheaper building. The Provost also is looking for places on campus that can be renovated to establish space for offices. For the Provost, future needs have lower priority than immediate needs.
c. New hires will most likely be to fill tenure-track positions. However, the Provost prefers to leave such decisions to chairs and deans as they work to confront their particular needs. The Provost will not fire temporary faculty in two years when we face the expected budget cuts from the state legislature.
d. Although student / teacher ratio has weakened in recent semesters, the Provost expects us to again see reductions as we hire more full-time faculty.
e. The University is exploring several options to face the parking difficulties on a growing campus, among them designating a lot for faculty and staff, supported by a van that shuttles to campus at specific and frequent times; using parking gates effectively to reduce abuse of parking in garages and gated lots; and recalculating the number of red permit spaces.
f. The Coordinating Board has expressed particular interest in Masters programs, as the President noted in her convocation speech, and the University is exploring where best to encourage such growth. Seeking new doctoral programs, however, is still especially difficult.
2. Start-up Funds Clause: The Provost reminded the Senate that offering start-up funds at Texas State is a fairly new process, and as such is still developing. Funds are needed for the University to be competitive in hiring and research. What makes our version unusual is the expectation, stated in contracts, that faculty must obtain grants that match the amounts they receive in start-up funds; the Provost feels that all universities have such expectations, but ours are merely made explicit rather than left implicit. The Provost agrees with the Senate that it might be helpful to set a minimum amount for start-up funds beneath which the clause would not be needed in contracts. Regarding a plan to end including the clause in contracts for new faculty hired with tenure, the Senate argued that we either need to trust that the hiring process will bring productive faculty to campus and thus there is no need for the clause, or treat all new hires equally by including the clause in all contracts when start-up funds above a specified minimum are awarded. The Provost agreed and will explore making the situation more equitable. The Senate also urged the Provost to investigate ways to standardize what elements should be designated as start-up funding, so that there is some uniformity across the campus.
Honor Council Nominations: Schmidt, Spellmann and Mooney have been nominated and will be contacted by the Chair to ascertain their willingness to serve.
Travel Management Improvement Project report: Sergio Rey, from the Accounting Office, visited with the Senate to outline the new Travel Management system that the University hopes to institute by March 2010: TravelTracks. The system will end the need for paper travel request forms, as well as for submitting paper copies of receipts. All processes, from initial requests for travel funds to reimbursement, will be processed through the new system. Training for faculty and staff will be offered beginning in January 2010. The Senate urged Mr. Rey to investigate if faculty could have Administrative Assistants submit faculty materials, so that those trained in using the SAP system (housing TravelTracks) will be the ones submitting information.
Mr. Rey also noted three changes to travel policy:
a. Travelers can now be reimbursed for any lodging five miles outside their primary work headquarters.
b. Travelers can now request a meal allowance for trips that do not involve overnight stays.
c. The University will follow federal guidelines for per diem amounts to reimburse travelers for meals, rather than reimbursing for actual expenses.
1. A computer projector will be installed in the Senate meeting room.
2. Dr. Carranco will come to the Senate's 9/9 meeting to discuss the H1N1 virus and related campus plans.
3. The Provost will visit the Senate on 9/23 to discuss campus space allocations.