Educational Policy Council

Minutes of the Meeting of July 16, 2003


Present: K. Hitchcock, M. Carpenter, N. Claiborne, F. Hauser, F. Henderson, T. Hoff,
  J. Logan, D. McCaffrey, J. Mumpower, C. Pearce, S. Stern, E. Wulfert (Chair), K. Lowrey, M. Pryse, M. Santhanam (Mumford Center)

Chair's Report:

Chair Wulfert welcomed members of the Council and thanked them for taking time to attend a summer meeting.

URPAC Report:

Professor Logan reviewed the efforts that he, Professor McCaffrey, Vice President Lowery and Associate Director of Institutional Research Szelest have been working on to make budgetary information more accessible to the faculty. He presented a prototype of the Office of Institutional Research's website which included a database of recent year SAT scores, grades, enrollment information and departmental budget profiles, and showed how data can be sorted and compiled.

Professor Logan asked that the membership review the website, and recommend which web pages should be linked to it, what data should be included and publicized, and whether the current format should be revised. Vice President Lowery added that the Provost is in the process of asking the deans what information they believe should be accessible on the web.

President's Report:

President Hitchcock thanked the membership for the presentation and looks forward to working with them on this project. She believes that it is clearly important to work together on this serious matter, and the tracking of the quality indices of students and enrollment numbers is critical. She reinforced the concept that the more quality data available to the faculty, the more faculty are likely to be engaged in working on these issues. She reinforced the possibility of having this information available on the Institutional Research website, and will explore this option through her staff.

Finance and Business Report:

Vice President Lowery passed out packets containing a compilation of general information for all funding sources on campus. She used data from the year 2001-2002 and explained the relevance of the various budget categories. There was a lengthy discussion with many questions asked about the charts and data contained therein.

Suggestions were made as to what else might be included in the data, including breaking down or spelling out funds or expenses in departments/schools, identifying state funds, and possibly adding HRI Organization funds, so that the sources of various funding are displayed and explained. The Budget Allocation Process (BAP) also was explained and discussed.

Tuition Increase:

The new tuition increase was discussed, noting that graduate centers are facing very real pressure for next year because of the increase.

Faculty Salary Increase:

Professor Pryse questioned faculty salary increases and the President responded that
faculty salary increases are negotiated by the Governor's Office of Employee Relations, and not by SUNY. She also stated that UAlbany simply cannot fall behind in faculty salaries, and pledged every effort to ensure that this does not happen.

Research Fund:

The matter of looking at the ratio of graduate students and professionals to faculty was discussed. In response to Dean of Graduate Studies Mumpower's statement that the ratio at UAlbany is really quite unique, Professor Hauser suggested EPC should explore that ratio. However, Chair Wulfert suggested that the ratio of both graduate and undergraduate students to faculty was higher than in our sister institutions; the challenge therefore is not that there are too many GA's, which are critical to conducting research, but rather it seems that there are too few faculty. The President suggested that the University must consider reserving more GA stipends, but Professor Pryse voiced her concern that there might result a negative impact on programs that do not have graduate programs.

Professor Hoff suggested that EPC should have more trend data in more detail, and suggested further that EPC should look at benchmarks of faculty to student ratios. He asked further whether it is within the charge of EPC to explore an appropriate ratio, i.e., whether the membership should expend this effort until their charge to do so is clarified. President Hitchcock responded that the need for benchmarks and quantitative measures is critical, and that she very much wants to discuss such benchmarks over the year. Provost Santiago will be working with the deans on these benchmarks and President Hitchcock asked that any involvement of EPC with these benchmarks be discussed with the deans before such a process begins.

Target Reductions:

Vice President Lowery spoke about the 6% reduction plan put into place this year in each department, college or school. All took a 6% reduction, except Advancement. She explained that within Finance and Business, there will be less mail delivery, less custodial staff, less courier service, etc., and that the campus will surely feel the impact. A major strategy within the reductions was to avoid items that might impact enrollment. The University did not solve the entire problem with base reduction; a one-time campus reserve will be used that we have been building for 6-8 years, which will afford us the ability to generate a cash balance.

Professor Pryse asked if URPAC has talked about directions to arrive at solutions for reductions/cash issues. The President and Professor McCaffrey concurred that URPAC did indeed discuss what fundamental changes might happen on campus and it is planned that the committee will continue to raise such issues systematically this year. Professor McCaffrey asked if EPC wanted to discuss establishing a subcommittee on these issues.

Meeting Conclusion:

Chair Wulfert presented the question as to where EPC will go from here. Specifically, will the two EPC representatives to URPAC continue to work with Vice President Lowery on finding a suitable way to make general budget data available to the faculty? Professor Logan said yes, the two URPAC representatives would work on whatever role evolves for EPC to publicize such data. He suggested that EPC look at trends and decide how data should be organized to best provide timely and accurate information to the faculty. Professor Hauser suggested that EPC might simply present the raw data to the faculty and let them make up their own minds. President Hitchcock voiced her concern that simply supplying raw data would only prompt more questions than provide answers; she again suggested an Institutional Research website for disseminating the information. She also suggested that the membership might want to hear a presentation on incentive based budgeting, and stated that, since the Provost is working on this strategy now with the deans, such a presentation might be beneficial to the Council.

Chair Wulfert suggested that making the website information useful to faculty will require providing extensive explanations on their meaning, and that raw data alone will not be sufficient, as many of the faculty might not fully understand them without additional information. The President asked the council to explore and recommend which data should be publicized, and in what manner, but that before making any recommendations, the membership consult with the deans.

Chair Wulfert suggested that before making any specific decisions, the Council should decide on what purpose needs to be accomplished with the information provided; data should then be selected that meet this purpose. In other words, the council might first decide on a specific rationale, i.e., what aspects of the budget are relevant to educate the University community, and in what level of detail. Once this decision is made, EPC's role in this process is defined.

Discussion centered on what questions needed to be answered before data can be publicized, including, essentially, what the council needs to know to fulfill its mission, and what should be disseminated to the general faculty. Professor Hauser reiterated that since the role of EPC is overseeing programs on campus, the Council needs to decide what information is important for the membership to have in order to make decisions relevant to this work.

The President asked if the Council was going to then consider two levels of discussion:
1) information that all faculty need to see, and 2) data for the Council membership in fulfilling its charge to the Senate. She recommended again, and most strongly, that the membership consult with the deans before any in-depth discussions take place on what budget data should be disseminated, and she suggested that the membership meet with the deans to discuss this issue.

Chair Wulfert suggested the Council should have another meeting to address these issues more specifically. She asked if the group wanted to meet as a whole or whether a subgroup should first deal with these questions and report back to the Council. Professor Hauser suggested that the Council not form a subgroup, i.e., he thinks there is a much broader spectrum with a larger group. All agreed to address these issues in the Council as a whole.

Meeting adjourned 4:20 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Jayne VanDenburgh, Recorder