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Faculty Senate discusses budget concerns, OU Global at first meeting of the semester

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Faculty Senate Meeting

Senate Chair Joshua Nelson deliberates with the faculty senate on priorities for the upcoming year. 

The Faculty Senate called to order its first meeting for the 2019-2020 academic year on Monday, with discussions involving a financial assessment committee, a revised conflict of interest policy and faculty priorities for the academic year.

After a busy year of transition, controversy and financial deficits, The Faculty Senate discussed the formation of a new dynamic committee, which focuses on assessing the financial future of the university while also working with academic departments.

The senate first discussed the founding and duties of the President’s Academic Program and Budget Advisory Committee. Committee Co-chairs Provost Kyle Harper and professor Sarah Ellis presented the committee’s mission and answered questions.

Sen. Tom Burns questioned PAPBAC about the current state of the budget and if it is still in an “emergency state,” while Sen. Ulli Nollert asked how they will come to deliver in the future and what PAPBAC will bring to the university.

“We’ve done two faculty raise programs and one staff raise program in the last year,” Harper said. “We have to keep being creative and grow revenue while we continue to invest. We’re stable, but not healthy.”

Professor Sarah Ellis touched on the need for input from different communities and departments within the university regarding PAPBAC. The committee plans to deliver an official report in October or November so that in January there will be a more concrete plan for how PAPBAC will proceed.

The senate also revised the conflict of interest policy. Only a draft of the revision has been released, but OU Legal Counsel Anil Gollahalli opened the floor for questions regarding the policy.

Gollahalli plans on deliberating with his team on their next moves so a finalized copy can be brought up in both the next Faculty Senate meeting and Board of Regents meeting.

The meeting ended with an open discussion among the senate about priorities for the coming year, specifically talking about salary compression and inversion funds within multiple departments.

Senators Wayne Riggs, Hunter Heyck and Tom Burns all touched on the creation of online education program OU Global. Riggs said he was concerned that the initiative’s creation was very rushed, and that the executive committee needs to look into the issue.

“We need to have an ongoing discussion on what it means to be a research institution in an online world,” Heyck said.

The largest concern about OU Global was the fear of over centralization and that nothing significant comes from the new service.

“It would be a tragedy for (OU Global) to not add anything new (in regards to other online services),” said Burns.

The meeting was Senate Chair Joshua Nelson’s first meeting as Senate Chair. According to the Senate Chair’s Report, Nelson previously discussed with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee about the impending presidential transition on May 14, connecting with former HR director Jackie Wolf on May 16 about filling senior administrative vacancies.

Nelson also met the following day, May 15, meeting with Interim President Harroz about resourcing the Title IX office and Gender Equality Center.

“The meeting itself ran very tightly. In some ways, it’s a carryover days, years past when the faculty senate did not do a lot of deliberating,” Nelson said. “Opening up the space at the end of the meeting today to hear what’s on the senators’ minds, we really thought was critical.”

Opening announcements for the senate included the election of W. Murray Tabb as Parliamentarian for the faculty senate and regular faculty, the future meeting dates, and the reported deaths of retired faculty Karl Bergey, Arn Henderson and Judith Maute.

The next faculty senate meeting will be on Oct. 14 and the senate will meet on the second Monday of every month up until May 4.


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