AAUP Report: Fall 2016
Our TTU AAUP chapter met several times on and off campus during fall semester 2016. We invited several administrators (Dr. Stinson, Dr. Hodum, Dr. Stephens), Faculty Senate president Christy Killman, and the three finalists (Dr. O’Connor, Dr. Timmerman and Dr. Geist, who was elected) for the faculty position on the board that will govern TTU starting in 2017. The topics discussed at each meeting can be found in the meeting minutes on our website.
Throughout the semester, AAUP was contacted by faculty and staff, who pointed out issues and concerns. Below, we are providing a summary of these reported items to make them transparent and open for discussion. It is important to note that we did not investigate all the problems brought to us. Some items are based on perceptions. However, we believe that this document will be helpful for the administration to learn how faculty and staff experience their work environment. We are bringing the following observations and questions to the administration’s attention, so that they can be addressed adequately.
On that note, it seems necessary to mention that faculty never received a report summarizing the issues brought to President Oldham’s attention over the summer. When asked whether he could give us an idea of what had been discussed, he said there had been too many different issues. Meetings are good and necessary if we want to ensure that faculty is included in the discussion, i.e. in how we share governance of our university. Meetings without follow up reports that state what was discussed and how the issues brought to the President’s attention were addressed and/or resolved are not productive.
An overarching theme of our discussion with faculty and staff members was the perception that there seems to be a lot of waste of resources and money.
- One example is the mulching and maintenance of the grounds of our campus. Grass is removed, mulch is spread, trees and plants are planted, but no one waters or tends to them, so they wither and die. Speaking of the grounds, Governor Haslam is extending his credo of outsourcing to universities and other state facilities, like Fall Creek Falls Lodge. It is not proving popular at Fall Creek Falls and citizens are rising up to oppose it. We should oppose the outsourcing and also speak up against the proposed outsourcing of grounds employees and possibly other groups. In the Jan. 15th Herald Citizen, p. A3 is an AP report “Lawmakers question Haslam’s [privatizing/ outsourcing maintenance work] Plan for UT. “Haslam has left it up to the leaders of each institution to decide if they want to participate in the outsourcing plan.” We would like urge Pres. Oldham NOT to participate in outsourcing.
- Our student population has decreased to the level of 2010. Tuition has increased. The question that is asked over and over again: Why do we need so many more top administrators (that are paid top salaries) when we have the same amount of students as seven years ago? Faculty members report that their departments are in dire need of faculty positions. Offices are not able to hire staff to do the lower level administrative work that we all depend on. However, concerns are largely ignored and it seems like the TTU leadership is putting its ostrich head into the omnipresent mulch.
1) Administrators cost the university over $5 million annually
The list of administrators in the 2016-17 Graduate Catalog is so out of date that it lists Brian O’Connor as the Faculty Senate President. Someone needs to look at the Graduate Catalog and fix that. Added up, top administrators cost the university $5.5 million dollars annually. If we add up the 30 highest paid individuals on campus, we find that their average salary is 185k. How do these people improve TTU–more students? more revenue? better teaching? better retention? (International Students are leaving, faculty positions are not filled, and we just have more administrators administering exactly – what? AAUP looked at hiring scenarios and salary increases since 2012. Since we have had no growth (see below), it seems odd and strategically wrong that we have more administrators.
Higher Administration 2010-11 and 2016-17 per undergraduate catalog + Patrick Wilson who was not listed.
No Asst. VP
6 Associate VPs: Jeff Young, Mike Nivens (Facilities), Francis Otounye (Research), Reese (ITS), Stephens (Academic Aff), Grippin (Public Affairs)
4 VPs Stinson, Elkins, Armistead (Academic Affairs), Hutchins (Univ. Advancement)
7 Deans: Elkins, Bagley, Semmes, Peach, Huddleston, Boucher, Jordan-Wagner
11 Directors: Cowen, Glenn James, Mark Wilson, Camuti (Career Services) McKenzie (Fin. Aid), Metts (Internal Audit),Rachel Rader, Doubet (Craft Center), Nipp Kientz (library), Hodum (Executive Director Enrollment Management), Barry Stein (University Planning)
3 Asst. VPs: Boucher, Owens, Irvine (Student Success)
7 Associate VPs– Young, Hodum, Butler, Brewer, Crickenburger, Lykins, Wilson
6 VPs: Braswell (University Advancement), Burnett, Claire, Huo (Academic Affairs) Stephens (Academic Affairs), Soni
10 Deans: Library, Interdisciplinary, Payne, Rencis, Mullens, Semmes, Shank, Stephens (Grad school), Tzeng, Williams (Interim Dean of Students)
1 Interim Associate Dean– Bedelia Russell
10 Directors: Smith (Counseling Center), Laura Cruz, Goad, Haley (Career Services), James, McKenzie, Metts, Nelson (police), Winkle (Craft Center), Cobb
Saltsman – Personal Assistant to President
2) Enrollment, Tuition and Research Activity
If the numbers pulled are accurate and correctly interpreted, it would appear that the cost to our students has significantly increased which would imply that TTU is spending a lot more in 2016 relative to 2012 to do nominally the same job or less. How is that justified?
Total student FTE and university research activations are gross indicators of university activity. From fall 2012 to fall 2016, total student FTE has declined slightly from 9,586 to 9,125. Total research activations remained flat at $13.1 million. The aggregate didn’t change much.
AY2015 is the most recent financial audit posted online. From 2012 to 2015, university appropriation revenues increased slightly from $39.9 million to $42.2 million while tuition and fee revenues increased from $41.4 million to $61.6 million.
2012 through 2016 were a good economic environment for higher education in Tennessee and nationally.
As reflected above from 2012 to 2015, the state appropriation remained relatively flat which reflects the relatively flat measures of TTU activity noted above. However, tuition and fee revenue appears to have increased by 46% from 2012 to 2015.
From 2012 to 2015, the TTU undergraduate tuition rate increased from $6,996 to $8,551 which is a 22% increase.
These figures raise several questions with the first, most basic question being justification of the $20 million increase in tuition and fees during a period when university activity was stable? Since the instruction load measured by student FTE slightly declined and the level of effort measured by university research activations remained constant, what are the consumers of our services receiving today that they did not receive in 2012? How is the $20 million increase justified in this activity environment? Why is it better for our students to place that additional $20 million in the university rather than in their own pocket? How did out-of-state tuition increase?
3) On recent budget cuts
From President Oldham’s message: “The instructional budget, which includes the university’s colleges and school, will be responsible for $1.24 million, or 50.7 percent, of the cuts needed; the non-instructional budget will be responsible for $1.2 million, or 49.3 percent. An additional $1.08 million in cuts have been assigned to non-instructional units, bringing the total non-instructional cuts to $2.29 million.”
$1.24M + $1.2M=$2.44 M around the amount of 329 students not coming to TTU.
The additional $1.08M isn’t as much as the international students would cost us, but, it’s somewhere in the ball park–a few $100,000 short. Why did President Oldham change “responsible” in the case of instruction and non-instructional budgets to “assigned” for non-instructional units with the $1.08M? There is something strange about the wording.
What is the basis for a 50% to 50% budget split between administration and academics? How are services classified?
Why did the administration split the budget cuts 50-50? Why did higher administration not get cut more than instruction? After all, what is more important? There are only two people in Dr. Hodum’s office now who are responsible to prepare students’ paperwork for graduation. Obviously, we need more administrators to do that kind of work but we do NOT need more in the 140-305k range. In the AAUP meeting Dr. Hodum attended, he said that it was not feasible to only have two staff members process all the paperwork. Many departments have not been able to hire new faculty. The searches are announced, but then stalled and canceled. Many positions remain “interim” for years.
A 50-50 split would yield about $90 million to each side.
If admin were restricted to 48%, the split would be $88.2 million for admin and $91.8 million for academics.
What could academic departments do with that $3.6 million? How many faculty members could be hired for that amount?
4) The new budget model
Several times statistics have been presented showing how much the budget has grown since 2012, number of positions added. Dr. Stinson’s statement in the Herald Citizen about basing the budget on the prior year is questionable. Prior year should be a starting point but nothing more.
* To meet budget reduction numbers several positions went unfilled between 2008-2011 including force reduction. How much of the touted increase is just a recovery from an abnormally low base?
* We haven’t seen details that show how the appointments were distributed between regular faculty, non-tenure track instructors, and administrators who hold tenure.
The new budget model will provide cover for administration to reallocate funds under the guise that “the model made me do it”.
We suspect that it is too late to stop the budget model implementation. The academic deans and faculty senate should have insisted on being involved in establishing the broad model parameters that would guide outcomes. Any budget model should support the activities that are viewed as high priority by the organization and the values used to establish the model base must be grounded in reality.
5) Lack of planning, focusing, leadership/fiscal responsibility
Our administration seems infatuated with fads. Our new budget model is one of the fads. Budgeting that heavily emphasizes the revenue stream and revenue growth is not effective for public bureaucracies, such as higher education. We can always spend more money and we can always raise more revenue by increasing tuition and fees to a captive market.
The more appropriate focus should be on good stewardship of public funds and trust to achieve the objectives that the public wants in a cost-effective manner. If we followed the approach outlined above, we would find that TTU has plenty of funding to achieve our mission tasks, faculty compensation would be more competitive with the market, and we would provide better service to our students and regional constituents.
Consider the efforts to grow a research enterprise. TTU has not taken the fundamental steps to analyze the workforce and workforce commitments which means that no one has a grasp on the number of faculty equivalents available and the areas of expertise represented to bring to bear on any specific research area. The approach has been to assume that excess capacity exists in the various units and that it will magically transfer into production.
At minimum, you must quantify the resources available to bring to bear on the tasks and compare that to the desired outcomes. Then you can begin to make a meaningful estimate of a timeline on which progress towards the objective can be made. This would have to be iterative until the resources available and resources required match up with the implementation timeline and desired outcomes based upon an agreed upon definition of success.
The intellectually lazy approach of skipping these minimal steps will pretty much guarantee failure. Success would only result from blind luck whereby one of President Oldham’s probing ventures randomly struck oil. To remedy the current lack of planning, focusing, and good leadership and to take fiscal responsibility, we recommend to:
- Honestly evaluate conditions and identify desired accomplishments. The desired accomplishments must be well understood and hopefully embraced by employees and constituents. Buy-in is critical for a service organization.
- Develop a viable tactical strategy to achieve the desired accomplishments. This is the step that converts “wishes” into “wants. This must identify the timeline; resources required; resources available; how to identify success; how to decide when to change directions; etc. Repeat the statement about the importance of everyone understanding what is to be done and how it will be done. Buy-in is critical.
- Focus on building an organization that supports success. Basically, start doing things that are productive and work with faculty who can help the administration (in many cases for FREE) rather than hire consultants that cost a ton of money.
During fall semester, AAUP received many photographs of empty parking lots. People complained about the silly entrance and exit construction on the parking lot behind Henderson Hall. It takes forever to get out of that parking lot. Why is there a lottery that gives away parking tags for the gold area to graduate students? Why not include staff in that lottery, if there is a lottery at all. Why are we giving away parking places that faculty and others are paying for?
7) TTU is discussing opening a Satellite campus in Lawrenceburg, TN
Is this true, and if so, what are the objectives? Could we possibly be lowering the profile of TTU which, after much hard work on the part of faculty, finally achieved the status of a Carnegie Mellon Designation.
8) Questionable initiatives and methods
Several faculty members have reported a pattern: Initiatives pop up, such as the Center for Health Administration, which vanished together with its director Thad Perry (after AAUP pointed out that he was producing “a suite of products” at TTU that he was selling to one of his own companies), or the Center of Caregiving. These initiatives are not discussed with faculty. Instead they are implemented without appropriate discussion. Faculty is told what to do to make these initiatives happen, rather than consulted to discuss feasible ways to make them work. It is not that these initiatives are necessarily bad ideas, but faculty members report that the ways these initiatives are executed are less than ideal. There are not any plans ahead of time; initiatives and centers pop up from nowhere. AAUP is told that there is usually a lot of money involved as well. How much do these centers and running them cost? Can we really afford to work this inefficiently in times when other centers on campus work well, but are in need of funding?
AAUP has also been informed that the Office of Research has approached (untenured) faculty to review (tenured) faculty’s research. Is it possible that someone does not know how academia and the tenure system work? It is very uncomfortable for an untenured faculty member to review a tenured colleague’s work and to provide feedback. Let’s also make sure that only names of researchers with adequate research background are included on research proposals that are submitted for funding within and outside of TTU.
How much money is spent on consultant firms? Is it true that TTU has plans to hire a consultant firm to oversee safety (gun-safety related) but plans have stalled because there is … no money? How much will this cost? How much money is spent on the consultant firm that is recruiting international students? How much money does it cost to run the golf course? Is there any revenue? How much do the banners cost that hang all around campus? How much is the branding, the Flight Plan?
10) (Online) student population?
How many students are enrolled in online programs? In-state/out of state? How many students are currently enrolled in Dr. Saltsman’s public safety course? Out of the 300+ international students, how many were enrolled online? How many of the 10k students at TTU are international students?
11) Controlling the message
On at least two occasions, the Office of Marketing and Communication called the Herald Citizen to request that reporter Tracey Hackett should not attend a meeting at TTU. The reason given was that she cannot objectively report because she is a personal friend of AAUP officers. Is it safe to say that TTU is trying to control the message? This allegation of Hackett’s bias is first of all untrue (she is NOT a personal friend of anyone in AAUP but has a professional relationship with all) and it is also an insult to her status as a professional journalist. Since she is a product of TTU’s journalism, this is particularly offensive. The person alleging this should be disciplined, since this is possibly a case of harassment as well.
12) International, minority and marginalized students at TTU
Faculty has observed that TTU is “cheating” international students out of their education. TTU happily accepts these students’ out of state tuition money, yet TTU is NOT providing them with the extra service they need to succeed. Therefore, they leave. They also left because they were not treated respectfully and/or kindly. In light of the recent increase in hate-related crimes (as reported by sources such as this: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/29/trump-related-hate-crimes-report-southern-poverty-law-center), it would make sense to focus on how we treat minority and marginalized groups on campus and to improve their experience at TTU. This includes addressing the problem instead of acting as though it does not exist. How will President Trump’s recent ban on Muslims impact TTU in the future? We doubt that Dr. Stinson’s plan to continue to kick the ball down the road, as she told the Faculty Senate when asked about how she will manage TTU’s finances, will work to the institution’s benefit. We urge top administrators to approach the legislature about appropriate state funding instead of relying on international students’ out of state tuition.
13) A VERY Brief History of Temporary Full Time Faculty in Tennessee
The category of Lecturer has been discussed for several years, and some Tennessee universities, like UT Knoxville, have been using the category of “Lecturer” for years. Others, like MTSU, have had full time temporary faculty on 1 to 3 year contracts for years as well. Bumps along the road have included whether temporary full time faculty have rank at all — i.e. with a Ph.D. are they assistant professors as temporary full time? They are not.
More and more departments on campus are hiring Lecturer positions or contract instructor positions. There is a debate about whether Lecturers should be considered temporary employees or not. By the definition of TBR, they were very definitely temporary faculty. See https://policies.tbr.edu/policies/faculty-appointments-universities
President Oldham in a recent e-mail exchange with a couple of AAUP officers on these matters stated that such things as voting rights for lecturers should be decided by each department and asserted that, although he supports tenure, he also believes in “optional” supplementation of tenure track positions by temporary or permanent non-tenure track faculty (e-mail of Dec. 6, 2016). Other administrators also say that it is necessary to hire lecturer positons and not tenure track positions. Several tenure track searches that were propose had to be ditched after the Fall 2016 budget crisis.
A lot of colleagues think that a set of guidelines for advertising lecturer positions and guidelines for hiring as well as a university-wide agreed upon treatment of contingent workers would be better for each department and for the institution overall.
Why are we being compelled to hire adjunct instructors (albeit in a “part time, temporary category) and lecturers (ditto) when the institution is hiring expensive and perhaps extraneous administrators in positions that seem redundant or unnecessary?
FACULTY WORKING CONDITIONS ARE STUDENT LEARNING CONDITIONS
14) General Faculty Meetings
Many faculty members find it disturbing and disconcerting that general faculty meetings continue to be canceled at the end of the semester.
15) Construction at RUC
What is up with the construction site at the RUC? Why isn’t there any progress? The building has been fenced in for over two years. Have we run out of money?
16) Due dates for grants
Due dates for grants, such as the non-instructional grant, are listed incorrectly on the TTU webpage. (February; proposals were actually due in January). In general, information is very difficult to locate or impossible to provide on proposals. For example, for the Track 1 research proposal, faculty members, who want to apply for a course reduction, are required to indicate in detail and monetary terms for what they are asking. However, no one (including some chairs) knows or can tell faculty members what the $ equivalent for the credit hours/course are. This information must become available and visibly available online, so that faculty members can propose their research appropriately and effectively.