Senate Minutes 6/02

University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Faculty Senate

Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting of 9 July 2002


Business-Engineering Complex, Room 355


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, Jeffrey A. Engler, Daniel A. Givan, Ellen M. Griffin, Jeanne S. Hutchison, Jack E. Lemons, George O. Liber, James C. Martin, Warren S. Martin, Bruce T. McComiskey, Jiri Mestecky, Stephen A. Moser, Beverly A. Mulvihill, William K. Ogard, Linda F. Reed, Gary L. Sapp, Marie Weaver, Bettye G. Wilson

Alternate Senators: Lucy G. Andrews, Madelyn Coar, Mark E. Lockhart, Heather Martin, Jay M. Meythaler, Thomas T. Norton, William G. Ryan, Jay A. Smith, Joseph Telfair


  1. Call to Order

    The chair called the meeting to order at 7:40 a.m.

  2. Recognition of Visitors

    The following visitors were present: John Gill, Pat Greenup, Gene Hines, Rose Scripa, Howard Walthall, Michael Wyss.

  3. Adoption of Minutes of June 11, 2002

    The minutes of the meeting of June 11, 2002 were approved as distributed.

  4. New Business

    1. Constitutional Reform

      Howard Walthall, professor at Cumberland School of Law, spoke about the need for constitutional reform. (Prof. Walthall replaced Dr. Ernest Stokely, who was scheduled to address the Senate but was out of town.) He observed that the present constitution was adopted in 1901, has been amended 708 times, and is the longest constitution in the world. Professor Walthall characterized the constitution as a 19th century document designed to prevent reconstruction-era practices, particularly regarding finances, many of which are desirable today and can't be implemented without amendments. Professor Walthall outlined the two approaches being proposed for dealing with the constitution-repair vs. replacement.

      Mr. John Gill, a guest who is a member of Alabama Constitutional Reform, noted that the faculty senates at the University of Alabama and at Samford University have passed resolutions in favor of constitutional reform and suggested that the UAB faculty senate might do likewise.

      Past-chair Mark Hickson asked whether there is an association of municipalities in Alabama. Mr. Walthall said that there is, and also a league of counties, and that both support constitutional reform.

      Senator Jack Lemons (Dentistry) asked whether Mr. Walthall thought that the Alabama constitution looks more like a book of rules than a constitution, and whether it matters. Mr. Walthall said he agreed, and that it does matter because the constitution requires a statewide vote to make changes.

      Chair-elect John Smith asked Mr. Walthall what those who oppose a new constitution see as the risks. Mr. Walthall offered some opinions as to which interests in the state might stand to lose under a new constitution.

      A senator asked how a constitutional convention, if that were the means chosen for constitutional reform, could be limited in what it might undertake. Mr. Walthall said that that was a difficult question and that there is no model available for how to achieve this.

      President Tim Heaven asked how the process would go forward. Mr. Walthall said that it depends on the election outcome. In January a commission will make a recommendation to the next governor regarding whether to repair or replace the constitution.

    2. (b) Research and Billing Compliance

      Dr. Sarah Morgan (Associate Dean of UASOM for Clinical Research Compliance), Dr. Samuel Tilden (Research Compliance Officer), and Carolyn McDowell (Clinical Trials Compliance Billing Officer) gave presentations on various aspects of research and billing compliance and UAB's approaches to meeting federal standards. Dr. Morgan gave an overview of the subject.

      Dr. Tilden identified the major areas of potential liability, as follows: misuse of funds, unallowable costs, allocation of costs, accelerated expenditures, unobligated balances, cost transfers, effort reporting, financial conflict of interest, human research subject protections, compliance with FDA GCP guidelines, and animal care and use. He indicated that the law in this area is based on the model of the Department of Defense and is very punitive, including triple damages and fines. Dr. Tilden pointed out that a university can limit its exposure if it fulfills the seven required elements of an effective compliance program, which he outlined.

      Dr. Jay Meythaler raised a problem he has observed regarding billing-that if an error is made and both a research grant and Medicare are billed for the same thing, there is no way for the researcher, nor the departmental financial manager, to catch the double billing. This is particularly true for interdepartmental studies where another department (other than the PI) may bill inappropriately for its part of the study. Health Services Foundation does not make this information available across departmental lines. Ms. McDowell responded by stating that they have done six random audits (no results given) and that there are now (since October, 2001) identifiers attached to the patient account that indicate participation in a clinical study. Dr. Meythaler questioned why the computer systems for the Hospital, HSF, and University grants and contracts are not compatible to catch these problems, as the identifiers do not assure that a billing clerk at HSF will not mistakenly bill Medicare for a patient on a research study.

      Dr. John Smith identified the following issues which he thinks need to be addressed:

      1. The software systems used for tracking expenses in the Hospital, Health Services Foundation, and the University (FAS) are incompatible. This makes it difficult to do compliance planning.
      2. Is there a problem with certain physicians privately owning substantial pieces of equipment used in the clinics and receiving revenues from tests? If so, there might be issues regarding which physicians are permitted to do this and on what terms.
      3. Was it a good idea to continue with the same auditing firm when we are concerned about double billing? Is using the same firm the best way to get a handle on whatever problems might exist?
      4. If the UAB health care plans offered to employees are covered by ERISA (a Federal program that allows entities to self-insure) and if UAB moves to a single health plan, which it owns and is itself regulated the State Insurance Board, will there be a conflict between ERISA and the State's requirement for regulation?

    3. Chair's Report

      Dr. Tim Heaven (Dentistry) reported on the meeting of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee with Dr. Portera, referring senators to the minutes of that meeting available in a handout (attached).

      The chair's report was abbreviated owing to time spent on other agenda items.

    4. Finance Committee Report - Senator Reed

      Dr. Linda Reed (Nursing), committee chair, reported on the recent meeting of the University Fringe Benefits Committee, which concerned health care plans and rates. Rates are expected to go up by about 15% for VIVA UAB, VIVA Health, and United Health, and about 25% for BCBS. There is a proposal from VIVA Health to extend its network of providers to the Baptist Systems, and to lower VIVA UAB rates by about $14 monthly, if UAB would drop United Health as an option. A decision will be made by August 1.

      Several questions and issues were raised in discussion. (1) Is there a conflict of interest in that the employer, who should be shopping for the best rates, is the primary owner and is collecting the premiums? (2) Who benefits from VIVA UAB? We hear that the 'customers' are not happy with the service, that the physicians complain that too much effort is being asked of them without additional compensation, and that the rate of reimbursement to the hospital is low. So, who is benefiting? (3) Is VIVA making money? And if so, what happens to it. Dr. Reed said in response to this that she has asked for VIVA's annual report but has not received it.

      Dr. Jay Smith (Business) asked whether there is any possibility for the university, out of its state appropriation, to cover more of the individual's portion of health care costs.

    5. Faculty Policies and Procedures Committee Report - Dr. Pat Greenup

      Dr. Pat Greenup (Health Related Professions), chair of the Faculty Policies and Procedures Committee, reported on progress in revising portions of the UAB Faculty Handbook. The committee has been working on the parts of the handbook concerning faculty appointments, promotions, tenure, resignation, termination, and grievance, and on the appendices concerning procedures for faculty grievances and for termination. Among the proposals passed by the FPPC on July 1 are: composition of personnel committees, requirement of annual faculty evaluations and maintenance of activity files, requirement that there be grievance policies within each school and that they be disseminated to faculty, and the right of a member of the faculty to a grievance panel if the problem cannot otherwise be resolved.

      Dr. Greenup urged senators and alternate senators to study the revisions, to take the proposals to their schools, and especially to their faculty affairs committees, and to forward suggestions and responses to the Senate prior to its next meeting.

      Dr. Rose Scripa (Associate Provost for Undergraduate Programs) urged anyone not understanding the proposed changes to contact their school's FPPC representative.

      Senator Daniel Givan (Dentistry) asked what steps will follow. Dr. Greenup said that recommendations will come to the FPPC for review, then its proposals will go to the senate to be voted on, and the senate will move it forward.

      There was some general discussion of whether there are inconsistencies in various sections of the handbook.

    6. Open Forum

      There was no time for open discussion.

    7. Adjournment

      The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 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.