Summary of Senate Meeting, March 11, 2003
State Revenue Forecast. Senate Chair Tim Heaven (Dentistry) outlined the condition of state revenues with particular reference to higher education. The current forecast for the Education Trust Fund is a shortfall of $300M - $500M for FY 2004. The state will deal with the financial crisis by some combination of increased taxes, decreased services, and borrowing. At the same time the crisis provides the occasion for fundamental reform of the educational system as well as the tax structure that supports it.
Alabama Tax Structure. Mr. James Williams, Jr., Executive Director of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, gave an overview of the Alabama tax situation and the need for reform, including reform in higher education. The problem, he said, is not simply the poor economy: the Education Trust Fund has been flat for five years, while expenditures have risen. A more significant factor is that per capita tax revenue in Alabama is the lowest in the United States. Reform is needed, but the governor must first be sure that there are proper fiscal controls and that higher education is performing appropriately. Some of the issues to be examined are: Alabama has great accessibility to higher education (there are more places available per capita than in most other states), but expenditures per student are low. There is a higher proportion of out-of-state students than in most states, and no studies have been done to learn how many of these students remain in Alabama. There is considerable duplication of programs in the state, and no studies showing how many students educated in Alabama remain in the state. There is a problem in the state regarding admission standards and graduation rates, and whether the two-year system is being properly utilized. Earmarking of funds is higher in Alabama than in other states, and there are a number of non-education programs funded from the Education Trust Fund.
Initiative for Life Sciences Entrepreneurship. Dean Robert Holmes (Business) and Mr. David Anthony (Interim Executive Director, ILSE) explained the Initiative for Life Sciences Entrepreneurship, which is designed to educate scientists, engineers, and others developing marketable and patentable ideas about how to position them for the market and secure investment capital. The program involves academic course development (especially the course “Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital”), an internship program, advanced education seminars and conferences, and new venture development. ILSE will interact with the UAB Research Foundation.
Revision of Faculty Handbook and Revision of Sick Leave Policy. The Senate received from its Faculty Affairs Committee proposed revisions relating to faculty termination and grievances and will consider them at a future meeting; they are available on the Senate website. The Senate approved a change in the sick leave policy.
Changes to Academic Calendar. Senator Charles Falany (Pharmacology; Chair, Curriculum and Research Committee) presented proposed changes to the 2003-04 academic calendar. In the proposal there are no classes held on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving. In the spring term there are two study days between the end of classes and the beginning of finals; there was no space in the fall calendar to have study days, though there will be a weekend between classes and exams. Spring break will be moved back a week in an attempt to coincide with local school systems and other universities.
For a more complete report see the Senate website: www.uab.edu/fsenate/home.html