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HE.05.10
April 25, 2005

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate
Final;Information

HE.05.10 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, March 25, 2005.

The FAC meeting at Illinois Wesleyan University was welcomed by its President, Richard Wilson, who left UIUC July 2004 to assume the position.  Wesleyan has 2100 students with a target class of 500 freshmen. Largely a residential liberal arts college, it also has programs in music, theatre, business and education.  It features a “gateway colloquium” in the freshman year stressing writing and thinking.  It offers a May term with intensive academic courses in one area with students essentially guaranteed at least one May term travel abroad.  Students want increased opportunities to utilize the May term every year.  Teaching excellence is the major stress but all faculty are expected to have a research program. Wilson said the issues on his campus are different in scope than at UIUC but the concerns are similar: diversity, affordability, civic involvement, globalization of the curriculum, adequate faculty numbers and student alcohol abuse.  There is a great stress on writing across the curriculum and very active internships with local businesses and non-profit entities.

In response to questions, Wilson said we need to stress the value that higher education brings to the state and its citizens but expects the decline in state support will continue.  He is concerned about legislative intrusions on academic freedom nationally and that federal financial aid may link to burdensome reporting requirements.  He believes we will be forced to charge high tuition for those who can afford it and use some of that money to help the less advantaged. Increasingly heavy faculty workloads are a significant concern.

FAC member David Bardack of UIC expressed concern about the loss of a sense of community within the academy and erosion of shared governance due to lack of faculty participation. The faculty voice needs to be heard on a variety of issues and too often is not. He urged the FAC to develop a position paper on the issue to be shared widely with the faculty and administration.  After extensive discussion the matter was referred to the Academic Quality Committee.

The FAC reviewed the report of Subcommittee B of the IBHE Priorities, Productivity and
Accountability Committee. The FAC endorsed recommendations calling for less burdensome state reporting requirements, urged continuation of the senior surveys because they provide useful information for the institution and for accreditation and called for less involvement by the Capital Development Board in some building projects in the interest of efficiency and cost savings.  The report for Subcommittee A focused on issues of faculty workload, institutional mission and on-line education is being drafted.

The various committees met briefly before lunch.

Elliot Regenstein, Director of Education Reform, Office of the Governor, met with the group after lunch.  His role is as the liaison of the Governor for educational policy issues at all levels from elementary through higher education.  He works with the person in OMB that develops the actual numbers in the educational budgets.  Much of the discussion focused on possible revisions in pensions. He said people in the state house caused the shortfall in funding of pensions and thus have the obligation to solve it.  The public will not support a tax increase to deal with the pension problems. He believes changes will be made in the pension systems. One concern is that the SURS level of interest being credited is excessive although the FAC argued it was earned due to the quality of the SURS management of funds. The Council stressed that difficulties in recruiting faculty will be compounded by any lessening of benefits since these already lag those of other states in terms of salary percentages.

Regenstein said with the difficult budget situation, everyone is unhappy. The state is struggling to stay even.  Revenue sources and amounts are in dispute. He hopes there will not be a cut in the higher education budget but that is uncertain.  “Lots of players have not shown their true cards yet” as it is very early in the process.  He labels HB/SB 750 proposing a significant shift in funding of education from property taxes to income taxes as tax reform and not a “tax swap.”  The bills involve tax increases—someone will have to pay more—and the case has not been made to the public that more spending on education is needed.

He said he recognizes the important work faculty do but also knows it is very difficult to explain to the public the work of higher education faculty. 

The discussion period was quite contentious. Responding to a comment that the governor seems “very hostile” to higher education, he said that was not the case.  Given the budget shortfall, everyone is taking cuts; no group believes it is being funded adequately.  Many did not realize how committed the Governor was when he said during the election campaign that he would not raise income and sales taxes. 

Regenstein said he would transmit the concerns expressed to the deputy governor, the individual to whom he reports. Noting that the BHE is stressing the need to strengthen the quality of the high school curriculum he said the Governor agrees. Regenstein is interested in having input and feedback and urged contact via his email at elliot_regenstein@gov.state.il.us.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative