Joint Committee Report Inspires Beginnings of Progress

The Faculty Senate/AAUP-UC Joint Budget Committee was formed in Spring 2020 to analyze the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the UC budget, evaluate the extent of shared sacrifice across colleges and non-academic units, and identify strategies to preserve the core academic mission of instruction and research. After months of collecting information, conducting analysis, determining recommendations, and crafting all of this work into a presentable form, the Committee released its report in November 2020.

The report’s key short-term recommendation was for the current 8% across-the-board budget cut mandated of all colleges to be reduced to a cut of 3%. Longer-term recommendations centered on 1. challenging the idea that permanent budget adjustments are the way to improve the quality and growth of every UC college and 2. questioning the university’s increasing tendency of outsized spending on activities not central to our mission.

In order to ensure continued collaboration with University administration, Faculty Senate and AAUP have outlined clear goals and next-steps. For example, along with directly emailing the report to university leadership upon its release, hard copies were also printed, bound, and mailed in January 2021 to President Pinto, Provost Nelson, the Deans of all UC colleges, and all members of the Board of Trustees. Additionally, the delivery of the report was accompanied by an immediate request for regular meetings between the AAUP-UC Budget and Compensation Committee and the Vice President of Finance to facilitate in-depth budget discussions.

AAUP-UC and Faculty Senate were thus pleased to receive a response in late January, with an invitation from Provost Nelson, Senior VP for Administration & Finance Robert Ambach, and VP for Finance Pat Kowalski to meet on February 11 to discuss issues raised by the report. On that date, Amber Peplow (Chair of AAUP-UC Budget and Priorities Committee), Erwin Erhardt (Chair of Faculty Senate Budget and Priorities Committee), and Greg Loving (Chair of Faculty Senate) spoke with this group to determine first steps in creating a more transparent budgeting process that more significantly incorporates faculty voices.

In this productive meeting, members decided:

  •  the administration would provide training on UC’s budgeting practices to the Senate and AAUP Budget committees in order to help alleviate the steep learning curve that all members, especially newer ones, face in analyzing and interpreting UC’s budget documents
  •  the administration would assist the AAUP and Senate Budget committees in conducting “deep dives” on topics of budgetary concern as they arise for each group
  •  the Chair of the AAUP-UC Budget and Priorities committee will now join the university Fiscal Coordinating Committee, a committee containing representatives of multiple constituencies from across the university where budgeting information and decisions are communicated
  •  the Chairs of the AAUP and Senate Budget committees have met with the administration to talk about how to improve the ways that UC budget information is communicated to the AAUP.

The Faculty Senate/AAUP-UC Joint Budget Committee report has hopefully, then, provided an impetus for needed changes in the way UC determines how to allocate its all-too-finite resources. We only need to look at fellow public Ohio universities like Wright State and Akron that have been devastated by financial mismanagement to understand that UC cannot afford to eliminate faculty input into how its money should be spent. AAUP-UC and Faculty Senate look forward to continue moving from these early steps towards a more truly shared budge