November 3, 2003
University of Illinois
HE.04.03 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, October 7, 2003.
The FAC met in conjunction with the Illinois Board of Higher Education at SIU-E. Several Board members including James Kaplan, chair, joined the FAC for lunch and a discussion of current issues that involved statements by IBHE members and a discussion of issues raised by the FAC.
Robert English, a long-time IBHE member, opened the session by stressing that "We (the IBHE) are not cheerleaders for higher education. We are agents of the governor and legislators." Higher ed is not communicating effectively. Faculty need to address productivity. The public perception is that we do not teach very much. We must remember that faculty salaries are far above the average salary of workers in Illinois. (He then departed for another commitment.) IBHE member Gove said that he disagreed with that definition of the Board's role: rather it is one of working to balance the public interest and the interests of all parties involved.
Board Chair Kaplan said, "We need to deal with the problems as they are." He kept reiterating that we face a $5B deficit and the Governor is not going to raise taxes. The Governor had asked administrations to cut administrative costs 25% over the next three years and a plan had been worked out to do so. For example, a plan is being developed to buy all energy and commodities from single vendors and consolidate payroll functions to reduce costs. It is now time for the faculty to take cuts in turn.
When told that "administrative cuts" had hit faculty and the educational mission he seemed to challenge this in saying a definition of administrative costs determined in negotiations with the Office of Management and Budget was available for our study. He refused to accept the statement that we had asked for that definition and it was not forthcoming. If we could not find it on a website, he would get it for us.
He said we needed to cooperate in developing new measures of faculty productivity for the old ones were not sufficient. It turned out that any measure of productivity improvement had to result in relatively immediate cost savings given the $5B deficit. If we did not provide ways to cut faculty costs and improve productivity, it would be done for us. We must find new and creative ways to deliver education at less cost.
The revival of the PQP program is part of the effort. One board member suggested we simply needed to cut programs with low enrollments just as we would in business.
Director LaVista said, "Faculty are on the bubble for reduction. We need to talk about recasting the faculty role in ways that increase productivity and demonstrate savings." Inevitably this year we must generate additional savings.
Attempts to raise questions as to the value of higher education, the central mission of higher education, cuts already taken, and past history were treated as irrelevant. We face a $5B deficit and the Governor does not see education as one of his top three priorities, let alone higher education. We need immediate cost cutting freeing up money.
We were told that if FAC as a representative of the faculty wanted to have any input we should meet again with the IBHE at its December meeting and provide a plan to achieve cost savings in terms of faculty.
Needless to say the 12 representatives from the 4-year public institutions felt they bear the burden of response. Private institutions are not affected in any significant manner although grants may be curtailed. The emphasis on the MAP assures them of a continued stream of income as they set tuition at levels they choose. Limitations on the ability of some public institutions to raise tuition undercut one means of responding to cuts in state support.
The 12 public representatives agreed to meet later in October to discuss a response strategy in preparation for the November FAC meeting. While the immediate pressure is for cutting costs and dealing with a possible recision, any meaningful changes will necessarily involve a long-term plan of action. In the short term, money must come from currently available sources while a future-oriented policy is implemented. Changes in the economic environment of the state or in public perception will not happen overnight. Redefining productivity measures will not result in cost savings although they might better represent what faculty actually do. Further, the many existing reports documenting faculty productivity and workload are ignored.
Dilemmas abound: Proposed changes must balance threats to the educational quality, risks in increasing non-tenure track faculty, long-term impact of program discontinuance, difference of institutional missions, differing student bodies and student needs. There is tremendous danger in treating all institutions as if they are alike in mission and students served. An early retirement program of some utility at one institution might be counterproductive for another. Reducing enrollment or canceling programs threatens the ability to achieve several of the goals of
The Illinois Commitment
: goals such as improving educational quality; economic development; and access to higher education including students limited by location, preparation, age, employment, disabilities, etc.
UIUC Senate FAC Representative