Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Budget Process as of February, 09

It is understandable that the severity of our current financial situation would lead many faculty and staff to wonder what kind of measures are being considered and what role is played by the Senate and other instruments of shared governance in decision-making.  While planning at the school and college level is by far the most important part of this painful process, at least in its early stages, several more general issues have come up. I’d like to address three issues here:

·         Participation in decision-making in schools and colleges;

·         Furloughs, salary reductions, and layoffs;

·         The Faculty Code and annual 2% minimum raises.


Budget Cutting Plans in Schools and Colleges.  The initial decisions and plans for coping with the current predicament have been developed within each school and college, in response to the Provost’s request to model cuts at the 8%, 10% and 12% levels and describe their effects and the rationale for the choices.  In this process, we reminded the Deans and the elected faculty council chairs of the provisions of the Faculty Code that the faculty councils shall advise the Deans on budgetary decisions.  We have met with faculty council chairs to monitor this process and will be requesting their review of the plans proposed by the Deans.  Please understand that we have many weeks to go before the budget is completed, and that it's worthwhile to keep pushing for what you think is important.


Furloughs, Salary Reductions, and layoffs of faculty.  The Faculty Code is clear that the UW cannot impose furloughs, salary reductions, layoffs of tenure-track faculty (including Assistant Professors), or dismissal of other non-tenure-track faculty before their contracts expire, unless a financial emergency is declared.  This the UW is loath to do for a number of reasons, including an immediate drop in our bond ratings and long-term damage to our reputation and ability to recruit faculty.  The circumstances under which declaring a financial emergency would be considered are part of the discussion agenda at the Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting. 

·         If the President wishes to declare a financial emergency, the Chair of the Faculty Senate will preside over a financial emergency committee which is required to come to a determination on the need for such a declaration before the Regents can make the declaration. 

·         As in most faculty governance procedures, the Senate has no veto power but it is a required part of the process. 

The rules and procedures for declaring a financial emergency can be found at


Provisions for an annual 2% pay increase.  In 2002, the administration failed include a minimum pay increase for meritorious faculty in its budget, although this provision is part of an Executive Order (#64) negotiated between administrators and faculty senate leadership, and the Executive Order is incorporated into the salary policy portion of the Faculty Code.  As most of us know, Duane Storti won a summary judgment, and a settlement was later reached requiring the UW to raise salaries and make partial restitution for past salary deficits. 


·         The court acknowledged that the Executive Order allows for a re-evaluation when funding is tight;

·         The court held, however, that without such a re-evaluation, the contractual agreement between the UW and its faculty did not allow the administration simply to withhold the stipulated salary increase for fiscal reasons;

·         The court hypothesized that such a re-evaluation would involve both faculty and administration but did not declare what form a re-evaluation should take.


Nevertheless, if the legislature passes a bill stating that there will be no general raises for state employees, it will supersede the faculty code and the executive order with the 2% stipulation.  Meanwhile, our concern has been to maintain the commitment to predictable salary increases along with other principles embodied in the salary policy.  At the same time, however, we have detected very little interest on the part of the faculty to push for a 2% increase this year; many of us believe it would almost surely come at the expense of additional layoffs of lecturers, teaching assistants, and staff, would likely cause the legislature to decrease further the funds available to the university, and would constitute a strategic blunder in faculty relations with the legislature, which have been improving over the last few years.


The Senate leaders raised the issue with the President and Provost.  Then, after consultation with the Advisory Council on Faculty Code and Regulations and the Senate chair’s cabinet, I as Senate Chair appointed faculty representatives and the President appointed administrators to a joint committee to re-evaluate Executive Order #64.  These are the members of the committee:

·         David Lovell, Senate Chair          Provost Phyllis Wise

·         Bruce Balick, Senate Vice Chair     Vice-Provost Doug Wadden

·         Lea Vaughn, School of Law           Vice-Provost Cheryl Cameron

·         Gerry Philipsen, Dept of Communication   


The committee’s re-evaluation has resulted in a new executive order, temporarily suspending the 2% provision but leaving the principles and priorities of the salary policy otherwise intact.  The order expires at the end of the 2009-11 biennium.  The wording of this order was reviewed by the joint faculty-administration committee.  The new order will be reviewed by the Senate Executive Committee on February 23, and by the full Senate on March 12, before it is issued by the President.