Oct. 22, 2009

Budget is focus of senate discussion

by Erin Rosacker

The Faculty Senate set aside the bulk of its Oct. 20 meeting to discuss ISU's mid-year $24.5 million budget reversion. Executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman, senate president Arnold van der Valk and Gregory Palermo, chair of the senate's resource policies and allocations (RPA) council, delivered brief remarks prior to opening the floor for questions and discussion.

Palermo said the RPA council does not favor temporary salary reductions for all faculty and staff, or benefits cuts. Temporary furloughs, reducing expenses and using carry-forward funds were the "strongest" short-term options, he said.

"The trenches are going to be in our colleges -- as we really take a look at the programs we're offering, the levels of administration that we have, and the intensity of the administration with which they are led, advised or overseen," Palermo said.

Hoffman said administrators have been using various estimates to run a mix of budget-cutting scenarios. For example, she said a $100 tuition surcharge would generate about $2.4 million, one furlough day would save more than $2 million, and a benefits reduction of one percentage point for the rest of the year would cut around $1.3 million.

"We have been talking about graduated [furloughs], so lower-income people would take fewer days," she said.

Other answers Hoffman provided during the discussion:

  • ISU assets, such as farms and land, generate income or are used for research and education
  • A partial shutdown over the winter break would save $64,000 in electricity
  • The vice president for research and economic development is doing a cost/benefit analysis of the centers and institutes that report to that office, and deans have been asked to do the same
  • Employee salaries and benefits make up 75 percent of the budget
  • The three regent universities are communicating almost daily
  • If temporary reductions are implemented in the university's contributions to retirement accounts, employees could increase their individual contributions
  • One recommendation is to limit ISU's cost increase for medical benefits to 5 percent
  • Administrators are looking at ways to lessen the impact on ISU Extension, which underwent a major reorganization after taking a 14 percent budget cut last spring
  • Faculty would be expected to continue to teach despite temporary layoffs, especially since student tuition comprises more than half the operating budget

Although the discussion centered primarily on the short-term decisions for this year's budget reversion, FY11 budget concerns were noted. van der Valk said strategic decisions need to "enhance and preserve" ISU's land-grant mission of teaching and research.

"Business can't go on as usual," van der Valk said. "There has to be some major adjustment somewhere, in the programs that we're offering -- both academic and non-academic. We're going to have to trim, we're going to have to refocus. How we're going to do that is very important."

Instruction percentages

Hoffman presented her annual report on non-tenure eligible (NTE) instructors. The Faculty Senate uses the yearly data to examine the amount of teaching done by non-tenure eligible instructors (including graduate students and professional and scientific staff), which the Faculty Handbook states should not exceed more than 15 percent of the teaching university-wide, or 25 percent within any department.

The 2008 fall semester figures showed more than 24 percent of the overall teaching was done by NTE instructors, whether broken down by section credits (25.6 percent), student credit hours (26.4 percent) or course sections (24.3 percent).

Hoffman said the good news is that the percentage of NTE instruction hasn't risen much. "The bad news is we're not making a lot of progress toward the goal that we set about 10 years ago."

Measuring with section credits, 32 of 55 departments fell below the Faculty Handbook's 25 percent limit, and nine were under 10 percent. Music, world languages and cultures, computer science and the Greenlee School topped the list of 23 departments over the mark, with 53.2, 46.5, 43.3 and 42.9 percent NTE instruction, respectively.

Overall, the percentage was slightly higher last fall (25.6 percent) than in 2007 (25.3 percent), but the amount of teaching done by P&S staff in 2008 (4.5 percent) fell off a fraction from the previous year (4.7 percent).

Hoffman said partner accommodations and introductory courses are some of the reasons NTE instructors are hired. Some departments also use professionals in their field to "enhance the instruction," she said, particularly in the Greenlee School.

"We get extraordinarily good teaching from our non-tenure eligible faculty," she said. "Sadly, we are losing a lot of our non-tenure eligible faculty because that is one of the ways departments are cutting budgets. So my suspicion is that when we compile the data for 2009, we will actually see a reduction in the direction we want to, and you might ask yourself if that is what you really want to see happen."