Senate Minutes 5/01

University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Faculty Senate
Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting of 11 May 2001



The UAB Faculty Senate met on 11 May 2001 in 410-411 University Center. The agenda adopted by the Executive Committee was distributed (Document 1).

Those present were: Officers: Wyss (Chair), Hickson (Chair Elect), Jannett, Past Chair), Schnorrenberg (Secretary). Senators: Ball, Basilico, Brown, Capper, Cheung, Culver, Eberhardt, Filler, Fullard, Greenup, Gunther-Canada, Harris, Heaven, Hutchison, Mercado, Pfeiffer, Price, Reed, Rigney, Sapp, Telfair, Ward. Alternates: Beard, Chapman, Givan, Hogan-Smith, Jackson, Laken (for Knowles). Ex-Officio: Augsburger (Interim Provost), Reynolds (President). Guests: Echols, Scripa, Tatum.

The Chair of the Faculty called the meeting to order at 8:13 a.m. He asked if there were any corrections to the minutes of the meeting of 13 April 2001 as distributed to senators (Document 2). Hearing none, he ordered the minutes approved as distributed.

The Chair of the Faculty made his report. He referred to the article in the morning paper about how the K-12 teaching staff were being drawn to other states by higher salaries outside Alabama. He said that the dome taxes just passed by the legislature would provide a domed stadium for the XFL team that had just died. He was pleased to report that the university had made some progress in the budget for 2002. There is a small amount of new money, just $180,000, and it is divided according to the recommendation of the Council of Presidents. The faculty elections had gone well. The health benefits survey of faculty also went well. It took only three weeks to produce results and statistics. The cost was only 20% of the cost usual for that kind of survey. Early registration by students for Fall 2001 looks encouraging as does the current economic impact report for UAB, which has just appeared. The Chair reminded senators and the faculty of the importance of funds which Blazer PAC provides in support of university positions. The chair commented on the news story about how seldom there were no votes in meetings of the Auburn University Board of Trustees. The trustees of the University of Alabama are 15 committed individuals. Sometimes some of them do vote no. They are for the university as a whole. They welcome faculty input.

The chair introduced the President Pro Tempore of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, Sid McDonald, to address the senate.

Mr. McDonald said that Wayne Echols' work for UAB with the legislature was good for the university system and for education in general.

He said that board members need to do some things that keep them in contact with faculty and students. Maybe faculty should also reach out to the board.

He said that Paul Finebaum alleges that the board is just rich country club Republicans. Mr. McDonald pointed out that board members are entitled to file for reimbursements of expenses. None do.

He said that he did not have a magic plan for the mess we are in, the chaos. Much has been done in Alabama to remedy things only when chaos is with us. We are to the chaos stage in funding higher education. We need to rethink why we are doing as we are. The two-thirds-one-third division makes no sense nor does 70%-30%. All the difficulties come from the failure of Alabama to have adequate property taxes and use them rightly. This would enable the state to use income and sales taxes for other needs. The 1978 constitutional change to redo the property tax requires a vote of the people and proposed changes have seldom received this approval.

Some of us are frightened by the drift in higher education. The professi0nal skills and gifts of faculty are marketable. Our present economic plight is a dangerous position for us to be in. Greatness costs. We will not have great programs unless we are properly funded.

The board opposes the bond issue fix now before the legislature. It is not prudent financially, and it is dangerous politically because it will be easier to do it a second or third time.

The image of our side, of the universities, has been improved and we may get more attention next year.

Mr. McDonald said that the board is supportive of the UAB community and it remains committed to its determination to appoint a new board member with an undergraduate UAB degree. The self-electing system of the board serves us well. The board has used its judgement to put good people in vacant seats. Reality is reality. Ms. Shaia removed her name from consideration in order to prevent the Alabama senate making its own appointment.

What part in the future of the university does UAB have? It is not an accident that President Reynolds is not a physician or other medical professional. There is a growing notion in the board that the non medical side of UAB needed more emphasis. The board wanted an urban university professional as president.

What will next year bring? Influencing political affairs is a bare knuckle fight. Mr. McDonald hoped and expected that all of higher education would have a keener eye on the forthcoming election.

Do not believe that any new constitution will help everybody. If the legislature writes it, it will favor those who are in the legislature today. A constitutional convention will have the Alabama Education Association and the Farm Bureau running candidates for every seat.

Our problems are not going to go away. Good citizens have got to stand up in the political arena next year. Politics has become an unsavory word. But it is what we have to do to make change.

The chair thanked Mr. McDonald for his remarks. The chair said that the board had taken a lot of heat over the single time a board member had flown to a meeting. The chair pointed out that two trustees have made recent major gifts to the university system.

The chair introduced Roger McCullough, Assistant Vice President for Human Resource Management.

Mr. McCullough distributed a preliminary report on the new Faculty Toolkit (Document 3). All faculty will have passwords by June to this new web site for faculty orientation and information.

The chair recognized Senator Greenup to give the report of the Committee on Faculty Affairs (Document 4). She referred to the distributed report of the committee and announced its next meeting on 18 May,

The chair recognized Senator Reed to give the report of the Committee on Finance (Document 5). She said that the ad hoc committee on employee insurance had had its last meeting. Its report is being worked on by Mr. Margisson and will then go to the president. Mr. Margisson hopes to have all the information prepared in two months. The report will be available by the next senate meeting. The health benefits survey will shortly be on the listserv and senate web page. The cost of the survey was only $400 and there was a 65% return rate.

The chair recognized Senator Hutchison to give the report of the Committee on Governance and Operations (Document 6). She referred to the recommendation made by the committee to the Senate Executive Committee, which is embodied in the report.

The chair recognized Senator Schnorrenberg to give the report of the Committee on Elections (Document 7). He stressed the paucity of candidates for some vacancies and the closeness of the vote in some elections.

The chair recognized Senator Basilico to give the report of the Committee on Curriculum and Research (Document 8). The committee reported on the resolution to change to a plus-minus grading system. It made no recommendation.

Senator Hickson asked how complicated it would be to implement such a system. Senator Telfair said that he favored such a system. Senator Cheung said that Dean Lorden of the Graduate School had communicated to the committee the debate over the years about this system. The Graduate Council had no enthusiasm for the change. Senator Culver said that she had made informal polls of her colleagues in the School of Business and had found a number of faculty in favor of the change. Senator Ward said that he had made the proposal for the change and was still in favor of it. He had polled his colleagues in mathematics and two thirds of the twenty responding were in favor of the change. Senator Schnorrenberg was troubled that the committee had taken no action on the resolution referred to it. Senator Price was familiar with the arguments for the plus-minus system and would like to see the change.

The chair called for new business.

A discussion of the health care issue followed.

The chair said that the cost of joining PEEHIP would greatly exceed current costs paid by UAB. PEEHIP costs would be about $59,000,000; current costs are about $34,000,000. Even with a 17% increase of these costs, the costs for PEEHIP would be much more. The alternative is to improve present systems. There are access problems for VIVA users. Access for obstetrics and gynecology services are being improved and thee may be improved access for Family Medicine.

Senator Capper observed that we are getting ready to have a train wreck. VIVA is not a real HMO because you cannot negotiate with it.

A discussion followed about the probable increase in health care costs.

Senator Capper wished to float an idea, not make a proposal. It may be best to sell VIVA so we can negotiate with the independent organization which would result.

Senator Capper moved:

The University should seriously consider divesting its ownership of VIVA and be prepared to enter into negotiations with this divested entity.

The chair called for a standing vote. The motion carried, 17 aye, 4 no.

Senator Jannett spoke about the probable higher costs and loss of revenue for health care. He urged that PEEHIP be a choice. He observed that health insurance is another way that college and university employees are treated as second class employees.

Senator Sapp said that he would like to see the senate come up with some logical possibility about what to do. If we have a fixed pot of money, who are we going to pay?

The chair observed that he had looked for middle ground for two years. We do have some options in mid-level HMOs.

Senator Capper said that health care costs are likely to be going up in the next few years. When we can't negotiate with our organization, then we can't work on adjustments.

Senator Reed addressed her comments to Senator Sapp. How are we to reach middle ground? We cannot react until the administration has prepared its report. Costs are up, but are we paying too much at UAB? There is no established percentage here at UAB of health care costs to be paid. Here at UAB the percentage paid is 8.1% of salary. Other universities pay 10% of salary. Mid-priced plans are under financed to get people to go into VIVA. Base care is established as the cost of caring for healthier people

The chair observed that the university provides low health care benefits but a high pension pool.

The chair recognized Senator Hutchison. She moved:

Whereas, The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees is charged by the Constitution of the State of Alabama to manage and control the system, and

Whereas, the fifteen members of the Board are responsible for three comprehensive research universities that employ over 20,000 people and have total budgets exceeding one billion dollars, and

Whereas, the faithful execution of their duties for which they are not paid, requires that they attend five, two-day Board meetings each year, and

Whereas, their preparation for these meetings involves the review of almost 400 pounds of written reports and legal documents each year, and

Whereas, the trustees are invited to over forty meetings and scheduled campus events each year and travel sometimes hundreds of miles to attend such events, and

Whereas, the trustees are philanthropic individuals, having contributed over $15 million to the three campuses over the past five years, and

Whereas, the trustees are committed to including a graduate from a UAB undergraduate program amongst their number,

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the UAB Faculty Senate fully supports the trustees in their efforts to move the UA system, in general, and the UAB campus, in particular, to a place of excellence in higher education.

The chair put the question and the motion carried.

The chair recognized Senator Schnorrenberg. He moved:

The UAB Faculty Senate urges the legislature and governor of Alabama not to adopt the bond issue currently before the House Ways and Means Committee to provide support of either K-12 or higher education depending on the outcome of the case now before the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Faculty Senate believes it is poor public policy to incur long-term debt in order to manage a short-term budget problem and therefore encourages the members of the legislature to defeat this proposal.

The chair put the question and the motion carried.

The chair announced the annual meeting of the faculty on 4 June to hear the president report on the state of the university.

There being no further business, the chair adjourned the senate.


Respectfully submitted,

John M. Schnorrenberg
Secretary of the Faculty



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