12/22/2010: That would be the new President of UVa.
Jack Stripling of Insidehighered.com has an interesting article on her efforts to involve faculty in financial decision-making:
The 13-member crew, whose membership is weighted toward those with some business or finance acumen, is charged to serve as an informal advisory group to Teresa A. Sullivan, the university’s recently minted president. But Sullivan says the committee is also designed to bring transparency to the institution’s often-mystifying budgeting process, connecting the university’s administrators with a diverse pool of faculty …
Virginia has faced budget cuts, like most institutions, but the fact that the university is less dependent upon the state than many other public colleges has proven something of an advantage. Only about 10 percent of the university’s $1.4 billion budget — excluding the medical center — comes from taxpayer dollars, so the university’s fate is not so intimately tied to the state’s own financial struggles. But the portion of the university’s budget that is linked to the state has taken a beating. Virginia has already lost about $32 million in appropriations in the last three years, and officials expect that total reduction to reach $50 million by the end of next year.
UO has two similar committees: the Senate Budget Committee, and the Faculty Advisory Council, elected by the faculty. Our FAC meets weekly with the president and provost. The article writes about the UVa committee:
… Members are likely to share what they’ve seen of the university’s inner financial workings with their colleagues, and those discussions could potentially shield Sullivan’s administration from the kind of suspicion and mistrust that can permeate a campus when difficult budget decisions are made.
“By drawing a group of faculty into reasonably intense discussions, that’s one way to make clear there’s no smoke and mirrors here, that people are acting responsibly as stewards of the university’s finances,” says Sarah Turner, a committee member and professor of education and economics.
Here at UO, FAC members are explicitly prohibited from sharing what they learn about UO with their colleagues. This code of secrecy is not published on the committee website – double secret! – but here it is:
The Faculty Advisory Council is responsible for providing the President and other Administration officials with faculty opinion and counsel on the wide range of university affairs. In its relations with the President, the Administration, and with the faculty, the Faculty Advisory Council shall act either on request or on its own initiative. To fulfill its mission, members of the committee recognize that its deliberations must remain confidential. The quality and the effectiveness of the advice we give depend on a free and frank discussion of issues, in which all participants can voice their opinions about advantages and drawbacks without fear that their positions will be divulged or attributed to them.
Furthermore, the FAC often treats issues that are in the public domain. Any information presented at a FAC meeting that is not in the public record will remain confidential. All discussion about information that is in the public record will also remain confidential. Participants in the FAC will not use what they hear in committee meetings in discharging their obligations as faculty, administrators, or staff.
By pledging to adhere to the confidentiality of its proceedings, the participants in the FAC commit to fulfilling their charge by the Senate. The committee shall be the forum where the President and other Administration officials seek faculty advice on all important decisions that affect the university before they are implemented, and where the issues that inform these decisions will be considered thoroughly and with respect.
Is this secrecy a good idea, or bad? I can see arguments both ways. And note that the UVa committee is appointed by the president, not elected as at UO. But it’s interesting that UVa has come down on the side of more openness than UO has, arguing this will avoid mistrust and suspicion and foster transparency.