Excused: H. Alley, C. Bybee, C. Ellis
Absent: L. Alpert, F. Gearhart, R. Graff, J. Harding, M. Holland, J. Hurwit, L. Lindstrom, A. McLucas, L. Skalnes, J. Wagenknecht
CALL TO ORDER
Senate President Lowell Bowditch called the regular meeting of the University Senate to order at 3:15 p.m. in room 100 Willamette.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES
Minutes from the December 3, 2003 meeting were approved as distributed. President Bowditch reminded senators to sign up for the small group discussions hosted by the President's Task Force on Athletics if they have not already done so. The purpose of the small group discussions it to provide a form of focus group in order to survey faculty perceptions and opinions about collegiate athletics.
STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY
President Bowditch reported that Governor Kulongoski was on campus and visited with UO faculty leadership earlier in the day and talked about his plans for reinvesting in higher education. The governor is convinced that the best way to convince the public to reinvest in higher education is to put more emphasis on the success and future opportunities higher education offers individuals and the state rather than painting a gloomy picture of how past legislatures' disinvestments haves impacted higher education.
Remarks from President Dave Frohnmayer and Senior Vice President and Provost John Moseley. President Frohnmayer began his remarks by introducing and welcoming Gregory Vincent as the new Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity. Mr. Vincent comes to the UO after a distinguished career in similar positions at Louisiana State University and the University of Wisconsin. A former law professor, he will teach an occasional class in the law school and is just completing a doctorate in educational management and administration.
The president went on to mention the upcoming important vote on Measure 30 (a temporary income tax increase), noting that the senate membership is already well aware of the financial issues and consequences of this measure with respect to the UO, the Oregon University System, and the state budget in general. He reported that the governor has indicated that he would not call a special legislative session to deal with budget shortfalls if Measure 30 fails. Consequently, if the measure fails, the plan for budget evolution designed by the legislature last session would be implemented according to law rather than by new legislative intervention.
President Frohnmayer noted, too, that he met briefly with the governor and discussed several issues including the abysmal nature of our faculty salaries and difficulties that higher education faces, especially regarding salary increases. Although President Frohnmayer could make no promises, he assured the senators that salary issues have been broached at the highest levels and included conversation regarding the competitive nature of higher education both nationally and internationally. The president also mentioned that a significant number of new members have been appointed to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, including UO chemistry professor Geraldine Richmond. He noted his pleasure with the appointment of former Governor Goldschmidt to the board, and said that Ms. Richmond already is active in planning for the new board's activities. The first meeting of the new board will be on the UO campus on February 19-20, 2004. President Frohnmayer will address the new board with a reprised presentation about the UO and which will included his comments made at a November meeting outlining eight items that "keep the university president awake at night".
Senior Vice President and Provost John Moseley reported that the Senate Budget Committee, in light of the pending concerns about budget reductions and salary freezes, would provide an interim report to the university community (see http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~uosenate/ dirsen034/SBC-14Jan04.html). Provost Moseley highlighted two or three particular items of interest, beginning with the startling information that the University of Oregon's biennial state appropriation, without any correction for inflation, has declined in actual dollars from $139 million to $121 million in the past biennium, and is now at a level $5 million less than it was in the 1989-1991 biennium. Importantly, tuition increases, high as they have been, have not made up for state appropriation decreases: on an inflation adjusted basis, the UO's educational expenditure per student is actually 11% less this year in available funds (this is a gross number averaged over all students) than it was in 1998. Although tuition increases have made up some of the differences, they have not made up all of the differences, even though the proportion of the UO budget spent on instruction and educational activities versus administration costs, has grown. That is not to say the dollar amount has grown, but rather the proportion of the budget has grown, meaning that the UO has protected, as we are committed to do, classes and instructional programs at the expense of other parts of the university.
Provost Moseley also pointed out the difficulty created if Measure 30 fails on February 3, 2004; the university would loses an additional $2.5 million (approximately), based on the governor's proportion of the total of $800 million that would be lost if the measure fails. Of that, he continued, about $540 million is subject to the immediate disappropriation in the bill, and the governor is left to deal with the rest. The governor is hopeful that with the rise of the economy and the ending budget balance, he will be able to deal with the budget differences without further disappropriation, which would change the $2.5 million budget loss to about $1.7 million. If such a scenario happens, the Senate Budget Committee believes the alternatives facing the UO are (a) to reduce the number of classes and programs available to students -- which in turn would create problems for students to get necessary classes, be able to graduate on time, and avoid the very large additional cost of paying for another term, and (b) further tuition increases. Neither is a good situation; the provost felt that the result may be some combination of these alternatives.
Compounding the budget problems is the current legislative requirement is for OUS to return $14 million dollars in tuition income to the general fund because of a 'suspect' calculation and understanding of how the PERS cutbacks affect us. Such a "give back" represents an unprecedented tax on tuition, but he added that there is hope the situation can be worked out. The UO's share of that $14 million is a fairly large proportion because our proportionately larger number of nonresident students contributes more tuition dollars than other campuses, which would mean a $4.5 to $4.7 million reduction in our budget.
During a question and answer period, Senator Malcolm Wilson, classics, asked about the decrease in the employer contributions to the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) in which many UO faculty are enrolled (instead of PERS). He wondered if the matter is going to be resolved in any way satisfactory to the faculty. Provost Moseley responded that there have been meetings regarding the issue, but that he had no new information. The provost explained that the problem was an unexpected consequence of a previous legislative action designed originally to protect members of the ORP plan so that they would not receive a lower employer retirement contribution than that made to members in PERS. Over a number of years this worked very well because the PERS contributions were high, and the ORP contributions were equally high. However, because of recent PERS reforms, which had lowered the contribution to PERS, and the $2 billion loan, which was way of reducing the PERS obligation, the loan monies that went into the PERS fund were not viewed as legally available for the ORP contributions. (The monies are not direct contributions to PERS member accounts but rather a gross contribution to the PERS fund as a whole.) The UO belief initially was that the different funding sources somehow would be taken into account, and that the effective rate of contribution into the ORP accounts would be the same as what was effectively being done with PERS accounts. That has not happened, and so far the legal interpretation is that we cannot make equal contributions.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Lorraine Davis added that there are currently both short term and long-term initiatives related to the ORP situation. In the short term, an OAR has been repealed so that PERS is no longer setting the rates for ORP for Tier One and Tier Two employees. That change allows a redefinition of the components that will be used to calculate the ORP rate; the Department of Justice is involved actively in those discussions. There is hope there will be some information regarding these discussions by the end of the month for the short-term issue, but in the long term, it is a legislative issue that involves the decoupling PERS from the ORP. And, there is controversy about whether decoupling is the best choice, although that probably will be the recommendation from most parties. She emphasized that it is certainly not a dead issue, and there is regular activity related to how we might make some short-term adjustments.
Report from Interinstitutional Faculty Senate (IFS) Representative Nathan Tublitz. Senator Tublitz, biology, noted that most of his comments had been covered earlier in the remarks by Provost Moseley. IFS President Peter Gilkey, mathematics, then distributed copies of correspondence he had with OUS benefits administrator Denise Yunker. His handout explained the legal issues surrounding the ORP issue, and OUS strategies regarding the ORP issue, including decoupling. Mr. Gilkey commented that it was not obvious to the IFS that it is in the best interest of the ORP faculty members to decouple PERS from ORP. (See http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~ifs/ifs.html and http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~ifs/ORP.html for more information about the IFS and for ORP information).
Senator Keyes, architecture, asked how such unintended consequences with the ORP contributions had happened, suggesting that it made him nervous that no one in state government foresaw such an unfair result. Provost Moseley responded that he did not know that this situation was coming nor did he know of anyone who did -- it was not an intention. Senator Gilkey added that only OUS employees are affected (because they are the only state employees who have the ORP retirement option). At the UO there are approximately 400 employees affected by the lower ORP contributions.
Provost Moseley concluded with the sentiment that he felt that this situation will eventually be solved in some fair way, though there may be some small loss to the ORP employees. He added that everyone who is in the ORP benefited from the PERS connection over a number of years when the contributions to PERS were high; there a balance, and now those who are in PERS are seeing retirement benefits essentially flat lined for some period of time.
Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Revisions to the Student Records Policy. Senator Daniel Pope, history, reported on the ad hoc committee's work since December. The committee was charged with discussing and recommending language (a) to amend the current OAR 571-20, (b) to include relevant language in the faculty handbook, and (c) to look into a possible policy statement on the topic. One outcome of the committee's meeting was that a subcommittee drafted language for publicizing concerns about subpoenas and how to respond to them. Consequently, a substitute motion for the previous tabled US03/04-5 has been drafted. He noted, in particular, the first two bulleted items dealing with responses to subpoenas. Senator Pope indicated that the committee meets later in January and encouraged attendance and comments from interested persons.
Senator Francie Cogan, honors college, asked for clarification concerning whether or not one can inform students if a subpoena was received that involved them. Senator Pope responded that some subpoenas specifically instruct that the person whose records are subpoenaed is not to be informed, which, he opined, raises obvious concerns. However, General Counsel Grier has made it clear that her office is available to review all subpoenas received to determine their validity. Of concern, too, is what might happen if someone who receives a subpoena refuses to comply with it on grounds of conscience, even if it is confirmed as a legal and valid subpoena. This topic will be discussed further by the committee.
Senator Pope gave notice that the ad hoc committee on student records policy plans to introduce a substitute motion for US03/04-5 (see http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~uosenate/dircom/US034-5Doc1c.html)
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Mattie Melton, ASUO president, announced that the ASUO executives are currently educating the students about ballot Measure 30. Nonpartisan presentations are being given in classrooms and invitations to speak at other classes are welcome. The five-minute presentations let the students know what a yes or a no vote means regarding Measure 30.
President Bowditch opened the floor for other announcements and communications. Senator Tublitz, following up on earlier remarks regarding the ORP situation commented that he felt that not much was being done in a profitable way to solve the problem. He said the issue was not a priority for many legislators, but it represents an 8% cut (in retirement benefits) for people who are in this group. He further suggested that there are two ways to deal with the ORP situation: one is to have the Department of Justice make a ruling that allows change, and the second, more likely possibility, would be a legislative "fix". Senator Tublitz encouraged those in the ORP program to write letters and contact legislators with their concerns.
With no other business at hand, President Bowditch adjourned the senate meeting at 3:40 p.m.
Gwen Steigelman Secretary
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