UNH Faculty Senate

Summary Minutes from 28 November, 2005

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UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
2005/06 FACULTY SENATE

NOVEMBER 28, 2005 - MINUTES SUMMARY 

 

I.  Roll – The following senators were absent:  Ament, Burger, Deem, Frankel, Kallianpur, Macieski, Morgan, Smith, Tenczar, and Vangundy.  Excused were Brown, Haskins, Jolley, Kistler, Schlentrich and Thomas.  Guests were Bruce Mallory, Bill McDowell, Chris Shea, Elliott Gruner, and Jess Enoch.  Sean Kelly was a guest observer. 

II.  Remarks by and questions to the provost – The provost expressed his support for the intent of the proposed motion on shared governance but added that he hoped that prior consultation and discussion would happen on such motions in the future.  The 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by the AAUP, American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, emphasizes the importance of joint effort in the areas of general educational policy; internal operations including planning, management of physical resources, budget practices, and selection of the campus’ chief executive officer; the selection, promotion, and tenuring of faculty; and external communications by members of the faculty and administration.  The statement also makes important distinctions regarding the primary duties and authority of the administration and faculty.  The administration, through the president, is responsible for institutional planning, the reform of academic units that have become obsolete, the alignment of institutional practices and policies with governing board policies, and maintaining and growing institutional resources, including ultimate responsibility for nonacademic activities.  The faculty, through its various governance structures, has primary responsibility for curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and the student experience as it relates to the educational process.  The Faculty Senate’s Constitution quotes from the 1966 joint statement when defining the senate’s responsibilities.

Item (1) of the motion under consideration by the senate asserts a responsibility for the senate relative to the assessment and revision of Responsibility Center Management “as a tool for maintaining and improving teaching and learning and to meet the goals of the Academic Plan”.  However, the provost said that RCM was never intended to be a tool for maintaining and improving teaching and learning.  He said that nothing in the RCM materials, such as the implementation statement, RCM manual or PowerPoint slides, claims that RCM can maintain and improve teaching.  The purpose of RCM is to decentralize budget authority, increase incentives for planning, create more cost-effective processes, match revenues with expenses, track financial activity at all levels, increase managerial accountability, decrease outdated resource allocation practices, decrease micromanagement of unit budgets, increase the community’s understanding of our fiscal resources, and foster more effective reserve practices.  To ascribe to RCM the power to maintain and improve teaching and learning goes beyond the intent or capacity of what RCM should be.  Although at a general level the budget management system should support the goals of the Academic Plan, the provost said that to assert that RCM should affect the quality of teaching and learning raises the specter that all of us resist—that our budget processes will drive academic activity.  RCM is an analytic tool, nothing more and nothing less.  As the Joint Statement implies, it is the faculty who must maintain and improve teaching and learning, not a mechanistic administrative accounting tool.  The rules of RCM can indirectly affect teaching and learning as a function of how resources are allocated to the academic units, but we should be careful to distinguish between the role of faculty as the curriculum decision-makers and the role of a budget management process which was never intended to drive curriculum decisions.  As the motion itself states, “a good budget system serves academic priorities; it does not define them.”

Regarding item (2) of the motion, any restructuring of colleges, to the extent that this results in a change in department affiliation for a faculty member, may be subject to the contractual requirements of Article 14 in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  This is a good example of the need for the shared governance process to include all three legs of the stool:  administration, Faculty Senate, and AAUP.  No discussion of shared governance can be genuine without all three of these components present.  Also, the reference to centers and institutes is likely to involve research and clinical faculty.  However, the 120 or so members of the research and clinical faculty have no governance voice on this campus, being excluded from both the Faculty Senate and the AAUP with respect to representation or even informal input.  The provost hopes that in the future the senate can generate legitimate ways to recognize and include these faculty in shared governance.

Item (4) of the motion calls for a senate role in the periodic review of key administrators; and that item should refer only to those senior administrators with direct responsibility for teaching and learning at UNH.  Certainly the provost and the vice president for research and public service would be included but not those administrators with clearly nonacademic areas of responsibility.  The provost said that we all would benefit greatly from a more sustained dialogue on shared governance at UNH, because this is a complex and dynamic process that requires continuous assessment and adjustment.  UNH has three components of collegial governance:  the representative democracy manifest in the Faculty Senate, the managerial authority vested in the administration, and the collective bargaining agreements negotiated under the auspices of the AAUP.  Each of these parts plays a critical role; and shared governance is a function of all three, not any two of the parts.  The provost would like an inclusive dialogue on shared governance that draws on the expertise and authorities of all three legs of the stool; and we could even add a fourth leg for extra stability:  the governance processes and voices of the students.

III.  Remarks by and questions to the chair – The senate chair said that he had made available to all faculty on Blackboard a comprehensive, confidential and secure survey of the provost’s job performance.  The Agenda Committee will inform the president of the results and report this to the senate.  Student Senate passed a motion on Study Away Program conduct, after the Faculty Senate did so last year.  The implementation committee recommended by the Faculty Senate is constituted and working, and the Faculty Senate will consider a report from the implementation committee later in the year.

IV.  Minutes – The senate unanimously approved the minutes of the last Faculty Senate meeting.

V.  Writing Program – Elliott Gruner, the director of University Writing Programs, spoke to the senate on behalf of the University Writing Committee along with Jess Enoch, who is the associate director of English 401.  Elliott Gruner said that UNH established a new writing requirement in 1995 and that this initiative had not been comprehensively assessed until now.  The Writing Committee plans to assess the current University Writing Requirement in four dimensions:  a chairs’ survey, a survey of students and faculty in Writing Intensive (WI) courses, a piloted longitudinal study of student writing, and discussions across campus with students, faculty and chairs.  If funding can be found, the longitudinal study will follow a cohort of students, in order to find out how they learn to write.  Elliott Gruner urged the senators to encourage their departmental colleagues to participate in these discussions and surveys.  He will resend the survey on email to faculty members.  The Writing Committee would appreciate any input that faculty can share, and this information may be sent to Dr. Gruner at elliott.gruner@unh.edu

English 401 is the anchor of the university writing requirement.  Jess Enoch said that English 401 has recently been assessed and changed to include a personal paper, an analytical essay and a research paper, in a more uniform format for the many sections taught by different instructors.  A selection of student writings has been published and is used in the 401 classes.  A senator said that his students have difficulty writing essay exam questions in class.  Many English 401 instructors include such writing, but essay questions are not a required part of English 401.  Jess Enoch said that she could suggest that English 401 instructors may want to add that type of writing to their courses.  English 401 is considering using one style handbook for all English 401 courses.

The Writing Center is an independent entity run by graduate students.  The center is part of the Writing Program and reports to the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs.  A senator said that writing is more than grammar and that being able to establish a clear thesis is also important.  Elliott Gruner said that he will make that clear to the Writing Center workers, who walk the fine line of correcting errors while respecting the ownership of the writer’s thoughts.  Dr. Gruner recommended that faculty communicate their assignments to the Writing Center, so that the workers there can see clearly what the assignment is.  In response to a question about a possible comparative assessment of student writing before and after the implementation of the current University Writing Requirement, Elliott Gruner said that the Writing Committee has not planned for such a study.  Although that is a good idea, it might not be doable because of the many variables that exist.  The longitudinal study may give further information on that matter.  Also, the change in the types of writing that English 401 teaches may make it difficult to tell if the teaching of writing is improving.  The senate vice chair suggested doing a dose-response relationship study.  That type of study is inexpensive, and he could share information on how such a study is done.  In response to a question about how the students in the longitudinal study will be selected and how their writing will be selected, Elliott Gruner said that the committee will attempt to gather a representative sample of the curricular and extra-curricular writing electronically at each stage of the students’ studies.

VI.  Central Budget Committee update – Mimi Becker said that the Central Budget Committee has representatives from the responsibility center units and includes most of the senior administrators.  The committee is responsible for tracking the university budget.  The most recent challenge has been the great increase in energy costs.  Dan Reid said that the committee is more than a sounding board and tries to make any needed budget reductions fair to all the units and avoid reductions for just one type of unit.  The committee is advisory to the president.  A professor said that budget reductions should apply to all constituencies, including students, faculty and staff.  The Central Budget Committee deals with tuition, fees and the costs of living on campus.  Faculty are asked to submit any concerns to the committee.  The committee started working on the energy costs situation last year and took steps then which have reduced the size of the problem.  Efforts include many types of conservation and the cogeneration plant, which will come on line in January.  Suggestions have been made which would affect the academic calendar, and any proposed change in the calendar would be brought to the Faculty Senate for review.

VII.  RCM review – Faculty representatives on the RCM review who were present at this senate meeting included Mimi Becker of the Quality and Governance Subcommittee, Bill McDowell of the Research Subcommittee, Chris Shea of the Assessments Subcommittee and the Steering Committee, Curt Givan of the State Appropriations Subcommittee, and Allen Drake of the Facilities Subcommittee.  The Steering Committee has met since October, and there are seven subcommittees which have reviewed their charges and are in the process of reporting to the Steering Committee.  That committee will integrate the subcommittee reports, share the results with the subcommittees, and hold open fora on December 13 and 15 in the Memorial Union Building, to present the recommendations and get input on them.

Bill McDowell represents faculty on the Research Subcommittee chaired by Dean Marilyn Hoskin.  The committee addressed a number of questions.  First, is there any quantitative or qualitative evidence to suggest that research activity has been helped or hindered by the RCM environment?  The allocations appear to provide incentives for research, and the thirteen percent indirect cost return is attractive.  However, do indirect cost returns and assessments discourage research from agencies with low indirect-cost-return rates?  All units subsidize low indirect-cost-recovery research, as they did prior to RCM.  Perhaps pro-rata assessments could be made on grants according to indirect-cost-return rates.

Does the RCM model encourage productive research partnerships among units?  Lack of collaboration across units results in UNH researchers not getting or applying for research funds, if one unit does not have the necessary expertise.  Also, non-academic units do not pay the academic assessment, and this may encourage faculty to run grants through non-academic units.  Should the academic affairs assessment be applied to all units, or should grant funds be removed from the academic affairs assessment for all units?  Could researchers tie a portion of the indirect cost returns to subcontracting units?

Has RCM affected the distribution of research activity relative to academic units and research centers and institutes?  Any assessments on research grants should be applied evenly across all units, and the same incentives should exist for grants in all areas of UNH.  Is the RCM formula for sharing indirect cost recovery among the vice president for research and public service, the Office of Sponsored Research, deans, research centers, the library, and principal investigators fair and rational?  Is the default formula for sharing indirect cost recovery between units that share jointly-appointed principal investigators fair and rational?  Possible solutions might include allocating one to five percent of the PI return to departments, allocating one percent or more to a central pool for graduate students, and/or reducing the thirteen percent PI allocation when a grant does not break even.

How does the RCM model affect grant activity supported by sponsors that provide little or no overhead, for example foundations?  The marginal cost of accepting a grant with zero overhead is significant.  Incentives need to be built into the model to encourage mission critical activities.  Does the model provide sufficient accommodation for faculty start-up funding?  The RCM model does not directly address funding of faculty start-up costs, but some support for start-up costs comes out of general allocations made to the VPRPS and the colleges through RCM formulas.

Is the current funding model for the office of the vice president for research and public service sustainable?  To reduce the dependence of the VPRPS office on revenue from federal earmark projects and also to allow options for the instance in which extraordinarily high indirect cost revenues would allocate unusually high funding to that office, a base budget for managing research and public service activities might be developed which covers essential activities.  Funding for those activities might be built into the allocation formulas for central administration.  An approximate range of additional activities and additional revenues from earmark and other sources might constitute a separate budget; and the growth in VPRPS funds as a direct consequence of increased indirect cost revenues might be capped to prevent distortion of revenues for one area.

Even when inflation is considered, there has been a real gain in research dollars for the university.  A professor said that there is pressure on him to bring in grant money but that it does not affect him directly if the grant does not have indirect cost funds.  However, there will be pressure from colleges when awareness of this increases.  The grant analyzer has complicated features and incentives with some possibly unintended consequences.  For some of the subcommittee charges, there was little or no data that had been collected in a way that would answer them.  Allen Drake said that the Facilities Subcommittee tried to figure out how each square foot of space should be charged for various purposes, such as for academic or other units.

Curt Givan said that the State Appropriations Subcommittee is chaired by Dean Steve Bolander.  There are some funds from the state appropriations that are parceled out to the units on the basis of the number of faculty in that unit, whether they are academic or research faculty.  However, the subcommittee is concerned that the purpose of the state appropriation is to lower tuition; and therefore the appropriation is intended for educational and not research purposes.  EOS for example gets $1,200,000 annually from the state appropriations.  Perhaps the formula should be changed so that research faculty and extension faculty would count half as much as academic faculty in this formula.

Mimi Becker said that the Quality and Governance Subcommittee is chaired by Alan Ray.  The committee initially had eight charges, and one additional charge regarding communication with the Faculty Senate was added.  The draft report put forward findings and recommendations for each of the questions posed to the subcommittee.  I will briefly summarize these.  First, is there qualitative and quantitative evidence to suggest that the RCM model has affected academic quality, outreach and engagement activities, and interdisciplinary collaboration?  Regarding academic quality, probably there is not quantitative evidence at this point in time, though there are qualitative indicators that include a wide variety of incentives or disincentives which bear watching.  Regarding outreach and engagement activities, UNH should find ways to assess the extent and effectiveness of outreach activities and provide clear incentives for faculty to engage in those activities.  There is some evidence that RCM may have a negative impact on interdisciplinary teaching and research.

Second, is there a sufficient level of financial expertise at the unit level to understand the model and the implications of various programmatic and financial decisions; and are managers receiving appropriate financial, human resource, student, research, and endowment information in a timely manner?  There appears to be sufficient financial expertise at the levels of units, but there may be specific soft spots which need additional assessment and training.  Third, have the Central Budget Committee and the University Curriculum and Academic Policies Committee been visible and effective?  The Central Budget Committee is not generally well understood, but those knowledgeable about it view it as effective.  UCAPC may be neither visible nor effective, due in part to confusion under RCM regarding UCAPC’s mission.  That mission does not mention RCM.  The steering committee may ask the Faculty Senate to include RCM aspects in the UCAPC mission and to clarify UCAPC’s role in relation to the Discovery Program, insofar as the program’s potential curriculum reforms entail the systematic cooperation of competing RCM units.

Fourth, is there sufficient input from units into key central decision-making processes for matters such as the Discovery Program, the AAUP contract, financial aid and admissions?  Deans generally agreed that they are sufficiently consulted, but some would like to know how the Discovery Program will be supported.  Fifth, is the policy for governing internal fees and chargebacks effective and widely understood?  Though the policy is sound, it is not widely understood nor evenly applied around the university.  Are policies and practices with respect to reserve levels, usage, and operating deficits working well?  Those policies are generally understood and working well, and any future changes should build on their current strengths.  Perhaps the UNH trustees could be asked to change the current UNH reserves cap, so that no one department that experiences a large deficit can restrict the use of reserves for other units.  RCM problems that are detected should be promptly corrected.

Is the treatment of UNH-Manchester in the RCM model appropriate?  In the short term that seems to be okay.   Is there sufficient and appropriate communication between the Faculty Senate and the central administration regarding policies and practices associated with RCM?  Communication channels seem sufficient but not adequately utilized.  Better and more-timely information such as financial impact statements would help senators understand and analyze the impact of RCM on academic policies.  The senate could inform the administration of upcoming academic projects with RCM implications and state when these projects were likely to come up for senate action.

A senator said that faculty in his department used teaching labs and research labs in another building and that charges for this space were made to the dean’s office.  So now the dean says the space must be vacated.  Mimi Becker responded that the data available does not reveal such situations, which can only be made clear by faculty.  She will bring this issue to the subcommittee.  Examples and details are also needed from faculty on other issues such as whether or not RCM discourages interdisciplinary teaching or research.  A professor said that, if sufficient data is not available to lead to an informed conclusion on any charge, that subcommittee should clearly state that no conclusion is possible.  Also, the subcommittees could say that additional types of data should be gathered.

VIII.  Shared governance – Due to a shortage of time today, this topic will be held until the next senate meeting.  Today’s meeting was adjourned.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

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