Senate votes to create committee to advise on budget

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The Faculty Senate narrowly approved a motion April 2 to create the Faculty Budget Committee, which will advise the administration on budget matters and expand faculty access to and knowledge of campus budgeting processes.

Sarah Zuckerman, an associate professor of education administration, introduced the motion at the March 5 Senate meeting. The discussion that followed the introduction of the motion showed some senators were skeptical about the practicality of Zuckerman’s proposal. That skepticism surfaced again in the discussion at the April meeting. The final vote was 28 in favor, 26 opposed and three abstaining.

Zuckerman’s motion was trimmed at the March meeting from five paragraphs to one. The motion the Senate approved reads:

The Faculty Senate shall create a Faculty Budget Committee (FBC) to advise the administration on all budget-related matters. In addition to its ongoing advisory role, the FBC would be charged with working with the APC (Academic Planning Committee) in all matters related to budget reductions that affect the academic mission directly or indirectly, as well as working with administrators to provide access to and knowledge of campus budgeting processes.

Zuckerman and senators who supported the creation of a budget committee argued that it would make the budgeting process more transparent and give the faculty a stronger voice in budget decisions.

L.J. McElravy, an associate professor in the department of agricultural leadership, education and communication, said the Academic Planning Committee reacts to budget problems, but the Faculty Budget Committee could be proactive.

Susan VanderPlas, an assistant professor of statistics and extension specialist, said the committee could make budget data more accessible to faculty. In some departments, she said, faculty have no idea what the budget looks like or what it is—until they are told what cuts are going to be made.

Karen Griffin, the faculty governance coordinator, was concerned that it might be difficult to recruit people to serve on a committee that would require a substantial commitment of time. Zuckerman, however, said if the committee has a charge from the Senate that gives it teeth, it will attract faculty members who want to play a role in the governance of the university.

Others wondered how the Faculty Budget Committee would work with the Academic Planning Committee and whether the two would be redundant.

Wendy Katz, professor of art, art history and design, said the APC is not a faculty committee. It is created by UNL Bylaws as an advisory committee to the chancellor. The FBC, however, would report to the Faculty Senate.

Tim Gay, professor of physics, said the APC meetings are confidential. The administration, he said, prefers to develop its budget cuts in secret and present them to the faculty as a fait accompli. A faculty committee would be a step toward making shared governance of the university more a reality.

At the start of the meeting, Chancellor Rodney Bennett gave some brief remarks and answered a few questions. One question was about the likely fate of the Schorr Center for the School of Computing in light of plans to renovate Memorial Stadium. Bennett said he had no new information on the renovation plans, but because of the resignation of Trev Alberts as athletic director and the hiring of Troy Dannen, the plans for any renovations were on hold. He said it was unlikely anything would be done to the Schorr Center soon.

Bennett also urged faculty members to participate in the question-and-answer sessions for Dr. Jeffrey Gold, who is the Regents’ preferred candidate for the position of system president. Gold has been chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Bennett said he has already has some discussions with Gold about the support needed for UNL as the R1 flagship university of the system.

The senators also heard reports from four committees: the Graduate Council, the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, the Information Technologies and Services Committee and the Parking Advisory Committee.