The University of Oklahoma (Norman campus)
Regular session - December 9, 2002 - 3:30 p.m. - Jacobson Faculty Hall 102
office: Jacobson Faculty Hall 206   phone: 325-6789
e-mail:   web site:


The Faculty Senate was called to order by Professor Ed Cline, Chair.


PRESENT:       Abraham, Baldwin, Beach, Bozorgi, Bradford, Brady, Carnevale, Cline, Cuccia, Davis, Dhall, Frech, Gensler, Gottesman, Hanson, Havlicek, Huseman, Kauffman, Knapp, Lee, London, Madland, Magid, Maiden, McInerney, Milton, Morrissey, Newman, Pender, Ransom, Rodriguez, Rupp-Serrano, Striz, Tarhule, Taylor, Wheeler, Whitely, Wieder, Willinger, Wyckoff

Provost's office representative:  Mergler
ISA representatives:  Lauterbach
UOSA representatives:  Haigh, McFayden


ABSENT:        Devenport, Ferreira, Fincke, Hart, Hartel, Henderson, Robertson, Russell, Scherman, Sievers, Thulasiraman, Vale






Status of issues for 2002-03

Student assessment report

Remarks by benefits manager and employment benefits committee chair

Senate Chair's Report:  budget cuts

Computer policies

Faculty Compensation Committee report






The Senate Journal for the regular session of November 11, 2002 was approved.





The status of issues brought to the Faculty Senate for 2002-03 is attached.  Prof. Cline reviewed the changes since last month.  The revised research compliance policy approved by the Senate in November was approved by the OU regents December 2-3.  The cost of the emergency red phones, which departments have had to pay, will be billed to the central administration.


A copy of the 2001-02 student assessment report, which includes a summary as well as the full data, is available in the Faculty Senate office. 





Prof. David Carnevale, a member of the Faculty Senate and in his third year as chair of the Employment Benefits Committee (EBC), said he has had to come before the Faculty Senate each year with news of how we are going to address the health care plan.  The situation this year is no different.  Health care trends are the same here as they are nationwide.  Health care cost is going up and utilization by members is high.  The burden is shared between employers and employees.  What we have done every year to arrive at an acceptable plan is a short-term approach of managing the plan by adjusting benefits and co-pays.  We live year to year, hand to mouth.  We have no reserves.  It is short term and always discouraging.  The good news is this approach to managing health care may be on its way out.  In other words, there will be long-term thinking about health care management at OU.  The university is in the process of engaging consultants to help us manage health care strategy.  The regents appropriated about $225,000 to engage consultants who have in-depth experience working with university health care.  The candidates have been narrowed down to two—Ernst & Young and Mercer.  Mercer is the firm presently conducting the retirement study at OU.  The reason we are getting consultants is that providers should not be responsible for providing strategic advice about the provider or options.  By-and-large, people are satisfied with Schaller-Anderson, our health care provider.  Using a consulting firm is not a comment on Schaller's integrity.  It is just good business and should improve long-term strategy.  The consultants can think about a way to provide health care without having to make changes in the pharmacy co-pay every year.  What we do is plan management, but we need to think beyond the next year.  We will get help this year in squeezing it one more time and then help with the longer term.  Prof. Carnevale said he had a preference for Mercer because he would like the same company that is handling retirement to handle health care too.  He would also like to see the same company engage in compensation.  He said benefits manager Nick Kelly thinks we might be about $3.5-4.5 million in deficit.  The Employment Benefits Committee consults with governance groups and administrators and then gives a recommendation to the president.  The EBC members try to negotiate with everyone they can in order to come up with a consensus document.  This year, our new human resources director Julius Hilburn has been a great help. 


Benefits manager Nick Kelly said he wanted to add that we will struggle with the inflation trend next year.  One thing that drives the planning is we need to maintain competitive benefits.  He said some suggestions last year by the Faculty Senate--buying drugs from Canada and using Goddard as a specialty pharmacy--did not work out, but he appreciated ideas for making health care manageable. 


Human Resources director Julius Hilburn said he had been at OU since August.  He had a long career at Kerr-McGee, heading up the human resources function, in particular compensation and benefits.  He said the challenges are not unique to the university.  Health care is important to our employees but is growing in cost much faster than other benefits.  What is expected nationally is double digit inflation for the foreseeable future.  It will be important this next year and in the future to keep benefits affordable for the employee and for the university.  He assured the group that he will involve various constituencies in the dialog. 

Prof. Watts asked whether the consulting would be on a one-time basis.  Mr. Hilburn said it was important to have an ongoing relationship with the consultants in order to get help with actuarial projections, setting rates, and negotiating with vendors.  He wants them to help develop an overall benefits strategy that we will start implementing this year.  We do not expect to pay that much every year, though.


Prof. Magid asked whether there was any distinction between employees who are paid from E&G accounts and employees who are paid from auxiliary and service units.  Mr. Hilburn replied that there is no difference in the benefits offered right now.  The focus is on one benefit plan for all employees. 





The projected budget cuts for next year for higher education, as published in the Norman Transcript, are 10-20 percent.  Cuts at that level would be catastrophic, and serious damage would be done to the educational mission of the university.  Governor-elect Henry said he was not in favor of a one percent tax increase.  Tuition deregulation may be the only remedy likely to provide relief quickly.





The proposed computer policies, which were introduced last month, will be deferred until January.  Prof. Cline reported that a number of changes were inserted in the document.  Two areas of concern have to do with due process when e-mail is monitored and with password protection.  One revision would require authorization from the department chair to share passwords.  It is an attempt to provide some sort of audit trail.  There are, however, innocuous reasons for giving out a password.  The Senate Executive Committee decided to wait for the approval of the Information Technology Council before bringing the document to the Faculty Senate again.  He hopes a document will be ready to present at the next meeting. 





Prof. Fred Striz, chair of the Faculty Compensation Committee (FCC), explained that in light of what is going on with the budget, the FCC decided to lay out some responses to the budget shortfall (attached).  The document was based on single-digit shortfalls.  He said it was not clear whether the new figure of 10-20 percent was the total cut or in addition to the previous cuts.  Provost Mergler said a lot of information was coming out and that the exact details might not be as important as the message that we cannot sustain business as usual if we have any additional cuts.  An article in the December 13 Chronicle of Higher Education discussed the decline in state support for higher education nationally and the negative impact that has had.  We are trying to make it clear to our legislators that higher education and OU in particular cannot sustain any additional reduction in state allocations and continue to deliver to our students the quality of education that they deserve.


Prof. Striz asked for information about the effect on Oklahoma versus other states.  Provost Mergler said that in the Big 12, it appears that Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri are in very bad shape, in part because their tuition rates are above the average of the Big 12, so it is harder for them to increase that source of revenue.  There is a growing challenge in higher education across the country.  A number of institutions are not doing faculty searches, are relying more on instructional faculty, and do not have sufficient sections of courses available to meet student demand.  A few schools are growing faculty, but the norm is discouraging.  We are trying to find alternative, additional sources of revenue to sustain the excellence that we and our students all aspire to. 


Prof. Striz discussed some of the points in the document.  Adjunct faculty teach large numbers of students, so laying them off would mean we could not offer all of the sections we want to offer.  The problem with eliminating open positions is that a department with a large number of open positions is more likely to be targeted for elimination.  Other options include voluntary retirement, phased retirement, leaves of absence without pay, and full-year sabbaticals at half pay.  If teaching loads are increased, faculty could bank them against future better times, that is, teach less once things get better.  Any furloughs should be progressive with income, such that people at the lower pay scale would be protected.  If we have a shortfall larger than five percent, it would affect the whole operation seriously, and we probably would have to abandon some new initiatives.  If something like that does happen, since most economic cycles are short term, the FCC would prefer across-the-board horizontal cuts.  Terminating programs could only provide fiscal relief on a longer time scale. 


Prof. Magid said the Budget Council sent a similar document to the president.  The Budget Council decided that temporary salary reductions were better than furloughs.  People who work for auxiliary and service units think they are exempt from furloughs.  If we all get identical fringe benefits, it is probably not a good idea to make a distinction between E&G and auxiliaries/service units.  With temporary salary reductions, all university employees would share the responsibility.  Prof. Striz said he agreed.


Prof. Wieder asked how the budget problems compared to the last time we had furloughs, in 1984.  Provost Mergler answered that we are about where we were then in terms of the percentage cut in E&G, but now we have a substantial endowment, and a more substantial portion of our revenue comes from grants and contracts.  She said she was concerned about the suggestion of increased teaching loads.  That could deflect faculty away from the research portion of our mission and have a negative impact on that portion of our revenue.  She said we should make decisions that will do the least amount of damage so that we can rebound from any cuts we make.  She said she welcomed thoughts through councils or by direct e-mail.  Our goal is to sustain our momentum and not make choices that get us off the track. 


Prof. Wieder pointed out that one alternative was to increase the size of classes, although that was difficult to do because of the lack of large classrooms.  Provost Mergler explained that one of our crises is the over-utilization of the physical plant.  As the new buildings and additions come on board, we will have a net gain in classroom space.  Prof. Taylor said she had been asked by faculty whether the university's restriction on outside employment would be rescinded if we had furloughs.  Provost Mergler said the policy probably would not be changed if there was a temporary reduction in compensation because the work is still there to be done.


Prof. Lee said the administration was really trying hard not to discuss furloughs, so the Faculty Senate should be the last body to entertain that as an option.  Provost Mergler said everybody was seeking ideas and solutions.  The last time we went through a tough budget situation, there was internal animosity.  The more openly we talk about ideas, the better off we will be.  It is important for us to collectively discuss ways to proceed.  Prof. Cline said he did not think that avoiding contemplating unpleasant actions would prepare us to handle them in the best way.  We do not have control over the state appropriation.  The thoughts of the FCC should not be taken as approval or desirability.  It is not a pleasant task, but it is prudent to attempt to minimize the problem. 


A senator suggested that we explore the possibility of having the Athletic Department bail out the academic portion of the university, just as the university bailed out the Athletic Department.  Prof. Cline said that certainly was an idea.  Prof. Striz encouraged the senators to send ideas to him at, and he would try to incorporate them. 


Prof. Carnevale noted that Oklahoma tends to look at one public policy issue at a time, for example, roads or prisons.  Discussions about education usually refer to K-12.  When money is appropriated, higher education does not get its share.  Second, we need to talk about what happens when the disaster is over.  We should have a study of faculty wages to determine how bad the problem is.  We could be doing something about the compression and inversion problems.  The Senate ought to have some discussion about what to do to make up for the disaster when this cycle is over.  Referring to the second paragraph concerning compensatory teaching underloads, Prof. Rupp-Serrano suggested that since untenured faculty would not be given the same kinds of resources as normal, perhaps their tenure clock should be extended a year.  For tenured faculty, perhaps their weightings should reflect the fact that they will have to do more teaching, and they should be given some leeway.


Prof. Madland asked whether the Faculty Senate was involved in discussions about a tuition increase.  Prof. Cline said the Executive Committee meets regularly with the administration but is not monitoring the issue day to day.  Prof. Striz commented that one of the priorities of the president was to remove the cap on tuition.  Prof. Cline said the Faculty Senate would continue to bring legislators to campus to thank them for their support but also make the case for relief.  Prof. Taylor asked whether discussions with legislators included the point that state appropriated funds should not be diminished if tuition is uncapped.  Provost Mergler said President Boren had scheduled a series of meetings with legislators to see what their concerns and issues were.  The final meeting of the state equalization board is in February.  Legislators are looking at an increasingly challenged environment.  The Faculty Senate program has been showing legislators how valuable OU is to the state economy.  We are trying to make sure they understand what a tough position we are in.  Prof. Cline pointed out that the legislators who toured the genome lab last year were enthusiastic about the economic impact of our enterprises on campus.


Prof. Morrissey commented that given the cap on tuition and the increasing enrollment, teaching requirements would go up even without a budget crisis.  He asked whether enrollment could be limited if the cap cannot be lifted so that teaching is not increased.  Provost Mergler answered that we now have a waiting list for freshmen, which will give us more flexibility to manage enrollment than we have had in prior years.  Student tuition and fees only pay 26-27 percent of the cost of what we deliver to them.  Prof. Cline mentioned that our quality of students has improved, at least by the ACT measure.  Prof. Striz noted that we have to work with legislators whose constituents are students here.


Prof. Bradford suggested adding a preamble to explain that the document was a desperate measure of severe consequences for students, faculty, and the state.  Prof. Davis said he was uncomfortable with the document and did not think he could get endorsement from his college.  He said that given the points of contention, he was uneasy saying this was how the faculty felt.  Prof. Rupp-Serrano said a revised document could be drafted that the Faculty Senate would feel comfortable with.  She contended that the administration should hear something from the Faculty Senate on this issue so that the Senate had a say in the process.  Prof. Striz said he thought the faculty should participate in the process.  Prof. Cline asked the senators to make it clear to their constituents that this should not be regarded as an official document of the Faculty Senate.  It was put out for discussion, and the Senate has taken no vote.  The document will be modified.


Prof. Taylor contended that anything that mentioned furloughs would be interpreted as having the support of the Faculty Senate.  This group should indicate that we should avoid salary cuts at all cost.  Prof. Striz said he thought we had to discuss alternatives somewhere along the line.  Prof. Taylor replied that salary cuts should not be presented as an option that is acceptable to the Senate.  Prof. Whitely commented that the inversion problem began after the furloughs in 1984.  Increasingly, the university will be in a more desperate position in terms of retaining senior faculty and attracting faculty because of the inversion problem.  A second round of salary cuts would exacerbate the problem.  Prof. Knapp said the guiding principles should be that faculty are responsible for instruction and scholarship.  They ought to play a role in saying what is going to do minimal damage and give us the greatest opportunity to move ahead when we can. 


Prof. Madland said she would like to see what other universities had done.  Provost Mergler said that information was not easy to get, and it was not reliable.  Other universities hesitate to speak frankly because it causes internal problems.  Prof. Wheeler said we should consider all options but make clear the consequences of temporary salary reductions.  He suggested that data from 1984 could be used to show what happens.  Prof. Carnevale remarked that a lot of ideas had been put forward, but that does not mean a specific idea had been adopted.  Something should be pulled together that shows what the Senate thinks about this problem.  Prof. Cline said the FCC would go back to the drawing board.  Prof. Magid said it was a mistake to say all our good faculty left after the cuts of 1984 or that we would see massive defections because of this problem.  Prof. Taylor commented that those who are invested in the retirement system here would feel like they have to stay.





The meeting adjourned at 5:00 p.m.  The next regular session of the Senate will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, January 13, 2003, in Jacobson Faculty Hall 102.


Sonya Fallgatter, Administrative Coordinator


Valerie Watts Secretary