The Faculty Compensation Committee met on November 8 and again on January 3 to discuss the issue of potential additional budget cuts due to further revenue shortfalls. The present document also contains input from other faculty members and from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.
Alfred G. Striz, Chair, Faculty Compensation Committee
How to Deal with Additional Budget Shortfalls
It should be understood that all parties, the taxpayers of Oklahoma as well as the students and employees of the University, will have to share the pain of solutions to the present budget situation. As faculty members we are part of these groups and expect to do our part in this crisis. We do not believe retrenchment in any form is desirable and sharing the pain should not be considered as approval.
The missions of the University are instruction, scholarship, and service. As faculty members, those missions are our preeminent responsibility. No other group has the same insight to the missions and the same sustained interest in them as the faculty. We must participate in identifying responses to the current crisis so damage to the University’s instruction, scholarship, and service roles is held to a minimum. Further, the faculty must implement any responses such that, when budgets resume their growth, the University can repair itself and its missions as quickly as possible. It will be challenging to design budgetary responses so there will be a framework for expansion of the teaching, scholarship, and service missions when the quest can finally be resumed, allowing the University to continue its progress relative to its peers.
Laying off faculty to meet budget shortfalls, even on a temporary basis, risks severe damage to the university. Laying off tenure-track faculty would be catastrophic, severely impacting hiring and retention for many years to come. On the other hand, adjunct faculty teach large numbers of students in important service courses, for small salaries. Reductions in this teaching resource would lead either to insufficient enrollment space in essential courses, or to increased regular faculty teaching loads and rapid loss of credibility as a research institution. If faculty members have to teach more courses for the same number of students, their research productivity will necessarily decrease. Since research funding ($60,153,000 without CCE and instruction) and tuition/fees ($56,856,000 without CCE and Tulsa) make up about the same amounts in the budget, the non-State provided income to the university would invariably drop, aggravating the budget situation.
Increased class sizes are known to decrease the quality of instruction. To avoid this, admissions standards should be tightened, rather than enrollment limited. At the same time, minimum class enrollment should be strictly enforced and under-enrolled non-essential courses should be dropped. Any temporary increases in teaching loads of regular faculty should be made with the commitment that relief - and if possible compensatory temporary teaching reductions - will be provided as soon as the budget crisis is alleviated. Temporary loans of faculty from other departments and/or external organizations could help relieve overload. Units should consider the impact of increased faculty teaching loads in their annual evaluations.
Eliminating open positions should be done equitably. Departments with a large number of open positions should not have to take the brunt of the budget cuts. This should be decided at the College level.
Attractive voluntary retirement could be offered. Some universities have developed options for phased retirement of senior faculty. Such innovations could help both with the short-term budget crisis and with longer-term fiscal concerns. Leaves of absence and sabbaticals should be encouraged. However, these have to be balanced against the resulting increase in teaching load and loss of financial research productivity in the department.
In general, furloughs would be preferable to salary reductions to deal with additional budget shortfalls of up to another 5%. Furloughs should apply to the whole University, including auxiliary services. They should be progressive with income, to protect low salary TA, RA, faculty, and staff. If furloughs seem to become necessary, open searches should be closed first. Then, furloughs for faculty could take place during pre-finals week for minimal effect on teaching and research.
As an alternative to furloughs, faculty should be allowed to take reductions in non-OTRS University retirement contributions.
Although compression and inversion are known problems at most academic institutions, their solution is better addressed in solid economic times than in times of hardship. At this point in time, we should manage the crisis and minimize the losses. Starting in 1982, the budget crisis with associated furloughs abruptly ended the solid growth of the previous years for the University. The resulting loss of faculty by 16% from 1982 to 1986 led to increased student-faculty ratios and a drop in research productivity. It is essential that damage to the University be held to a minimum at this juncture.
For budget shortfalls in excess of another 5%, new initiatives would have to be abandoned and the size of the institution would have to be reduced. This should be done by horizontal across-the-board reductions. In general, vertical cuts in the form of eliminating obsolete or duplicate programs is an on-going task and should not be accelerated due to budget shortfalls. These actions are on a different time scale, i.e., they take, in general, longer than the standard economic cycle.
Finally, any unavoidable reduction in force should be done according to AAUP guidelines.