Senate Minutes 6/02

University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Faculty Senate

Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting of 11 June 2002


Honors House


Officers: Tim Heaven (Chair), John A. Smith (Chair-Elect), Mark L. Hickson (Past Chair), Ted Benditt (Secretary), John W. Wittig (Parliamentarian), Arol Augsburger (Provost)

Senators: Peter G. Anderson, Craig W. Beard, James Davidson, Susan L. Davies, Kurt R. Denninghoff, Evangelos Eleftherious, Jeffrey A. Engler, Daniel A. Givan, Ellen M. Griffin, Timothy W. Kraft, Jack E. Lemons, George O. Liber, James C. Martin, Bruce T. McComiskey, Jiri Mestecky, Stephen A. Moser, Beverly A. Mulvihill, William K. Ogard, Linda F. Reed, Gary L. Sapp, Tammy P. Than, Ken B. Waites, Marie Weaver

Alternate Senators: Lucy G. Andrews, Thelma M. Coar, Charles N. Falany, Gerald L. Glandon, David D. Ku, Debra E. Laken, Mark E. Lockhart, Heather Martin, Jay M. Meythaler, Thomas T. Norton, William G. Ryan, William R. Self, Jay A. Smith, Murat M. Tanik, Joseph Telfair, Marth Verchot

Guests: Pat Greenup, Leon Jololian, Mark Portera, Rose Scripa


  1. Call to Order

    The chair called the meeting to order at 7:35 a.m.

  2. Recognition of Visitors

    No visitors were present.

  3. Adoption of Minutes of May 14, 2002

    The minutes of the meeting of May 14, 2002 were approved as distributed.

  4. New Business

    1. Recognition of Dr. Marcus Hickson's service as Chair of the Faculty Senate

      The chair recognized the service of Dr. Mark Hickson as chair during the past year and presented him with a gift. Dr. Hickson expressed his thanks.

    2. Nomination of At-large members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee

      The chair opened the floor for nominations for two senators to serve as at-large members of the Senate Executive Committee. Drs. Kurt Denninghoff and Bettye Wilson were nominated, seconded, and approved by the Senate.

    3. Resolution commending Secretary Schnorrenberg

      Dr. John Wittig read a resolution (see attachment) commending Dr. John Schnorrenberg, who has recently retired, on his service to the university and to the senate. The resolution was approved. Dr. Benditt conveyed to the senate Dr. Schnorrenberg's thanks for the gift that was presented to him at his last meeting before retiring.

  5. Chancellor Malcolm Portera

    The chair introduced Dr. Malcolm Portera (Chancellor and Interim President), who spoke on several issues regarding UAB and then answered questions from members of the Senate.

    Dr. Portera first identified what he believes are the noteworthy characteristics of UAB -- its complexity, its entrepreneurial spirit (he mentioned specifically the number of business start-ups at UAB and a recent multi-campus proposal for a venture capital fund), and the pride and commitment of UAB's faculty and staff. He also mentioned the new buildings for medicine and biomedical research, and noted that a student recreational center will be proposed to the Board of Trustees this month.

    Dr. Portera identified five problem areas at UAB:

    1. Faculty and staff salaries. Dr. Portera said that faculty and staff salaries at UAB are not competitive. He said that a plan for addressing the salary issue will be presented to the Board of Trustees in June. The initial goal for faculty salaries will be the average of salaries of the Southern Universities Group (SUG).
    2. There needs to be continued improvement of physical facilities. In addressing this, the first step will be to look at the worst buildings on campus.
    3. The new computer information system is behind schedule and over budget. In particular, the Human Resources system is six months behind schedule and the financial system is a year behind. Dr. Portera attributed these problems to the complexity of UAB -- that is, to UAB's being more complex than anticipated at the start of the program.
    4. The problems with double billing and effort reporting. Dr. Portera indicated that great progress is being made on these problems and that they should soon be under control. He said that studies of data have shown that there has been some under-billing as well as double billing.
    5. Relationship of UAB with the Health System. Without indicating specifically what the nature of the problem is, Dr. Portera said that the relationship will be strengthened through steps to be taken over the next few months.

    Dr. Portera listed his priorities over the new few months.

    1. Budget, especially salaries.
    2. Transition to the new President. Dr. Portera expects the new president to be in place by September 1.
    3. Implementation of the computer software system.
    4. Proposals for new building and renovation projects will be presented to the Board of Trustees. The new student recreation center is a high priority. This will be funded from student fees and memberships.
    5. Athletics: there is a need to close the gap between revenues and expenditures to $2.5m. At present there is a $7.6m investment in intercollegiate athletics. This will be reduced to $2.5m by raising private money, increased ticket sales, and a larger allocation from Conference USA. Dr. Portera reported that the presidents of the schools in Conference USA have voted to distribute revenues equally rather then the existing distribution which favors Cincinnati and Louisville.
    6. Final phases of the capital campaign. The goal for the capital campaign was raised from $250m to $350m. There are commitments at the present time for between $305m and $310m, with a year remaining in the campaign. Dr. Portera said that the capital campaign expects to meet and exceed the goal.
    7. State budget: there is a need to work at improving the state budget for higher education. The higher education PAC supported 28 state senatorial candidates in the recent primary election, 21 of whom won. There will be more activity to try to improve funding for higher education. Reform of the tax system will be an important issue. Dr. Portera reported that one of the candidates for the UAB presidency was dismayed that in her own state, public support for higher education had declined to 44% of the university budget. In Alabama it is 19%.
    8. Listening. Dr. Portera said that he plans to do a lot of listening.

    Dr. Portera listed his basic operating principles.

    1. To do what is right (rather than what is politically expedient).
    2. To tell the truth.
    3. To continue to raise the bar.
    4. To work hard.
    5. To be a good steward of the people's money.
    6. To respect faculty, staff, and students.
    7. To extend the universities in the state to help the people of the state.

    Dr. Portera entertained questions from various senators.

    Senator Jay Smith (Business) asked about articulation with junior colleges and about distance education. Dr. Portera said that there is a meeting scheduled the next day [June 12] at 10:00 to discuss articulation.

    Senator Norton (Optometry) suggested that Dr. Portera prevent the School of Medicine from "poaching" on other schools by taking credit for the NIH research funds secured by schools outside of Medicine. He suggested that this happened (or at least was threatened) because of the School of Medicine's goals of being in the top 10 in NIH funding by 2010. Dr. Portera commented that he understood the issue and would be paying attention to it, and that he supports this initiative by the School of Medicine as well as initiatives in other areas of UAB.

    Senator Lemons (Dentistry) asked whether there are plans to improve contact, especially in instruction, between the east and west ends of campus. Dr. Portera commented that there was considerable cooperation across disciplines at UAB and that will be more and more cross-disciplinary activity.

    Senator Reed reminded Dr. Portera that not all salaries are included in SUG studies. Dr. Portera said he was aware of this and that salaries in non-SUG schools would not be overlooked.

    Senator Greenup (Health Related Professions) asked whether there were plans for new faculty development opportunities, particularly related to teaching effectiveness. Dr. Portera acknowledged that we are here to teach and provide a quality education and that these matters will be addressed.

    Senator Weaver (Arts & Humanities) asked about the building program, noting especially that the Alys Stephens Center is not yet complete. Dr. Portera said that completion of the Alys Stephens Center is the first priority for the capital campaign and there is at present the prospect of a donation for this purpose.

    Senator Craft (Optometry) asked about continuity of leadership at UAB, noting that in his nine years at UAB there have been five presidents or interim presidents. In the course of his comments Dr. Portera observed that a university presidency is a difficult job and that the average university presidency in the United States has declined to five years. Dr. Portera noted that there will be greater coherence among the universities in the system because campus presidents will assume some system-wide responsibilities. Furthermore, the trustees will be asked to do more to promote the universities in the state.

    Senator Telfair (Public Health) asked about UAB's plans with regard to community relations. Dr. Portera said that there is a system-wide initiative that will be presented shortly and that it will be a system-wide responsibility of one of the campus presidents.

    Senator Waites (Medicine) asked whether Dr. Portera supports the idea of a lottery to provide revenue for education. Dr. Portera said that he does support it.

    Senator Smith (Medicine) asked about plans for monitoring the Health System Board, especially with respect to executive salaries; knowing what it takes to be, and remain, in the top ten in NIH funding; and "rolling up" revenues of Health Services Foundation and the UAB Hospital. Dr. Portera said, with respect particularly to the latter part of this question, that investigation of the double-billing problem shows that it had not been as great as it could have been and that there had been some underbilling also.

  6. Open Forum

    There was no discussion.

  7. Adjournment

    The meeting was adjourned at 8:55 a.m.


Theodore M. Benditt, Secretary of the Faculty

NOTE: Documents referred to in the text of the minutes are attached to the original of these minutes. If you wish to have a copy of an attached document, e-mail your request to Stephanie Belcher. Please specify the date of the Senate meeting and the number of the document you desire. They will be sent by campus mail.