The Faculty Senate met Jan. 10, where they were provided with a budget update from interim president Dr. Greg Postel.
Postel opened his report with a story from his time in Florida for the TaxSlayer Bowl game, where the chairman of the game said the UofL team was “the most courteous, focused and team-like team – hands down – of any bowl game in his memory.”
“This was a very welcome unsolicited comment and it shows that we’re more than just teaching our students in the classroom and on the field, but also teaching good citizens,” Postel said.
Postel said the Campus Climate Survey results will be released soon, as will the results from the 2014 survey, which were not previously released because “the results weren’t good.”
“We’re releasing both surveys so we can then have a wholesome conversation about what’s wrong and what’s not – the good and the bad. This will be a very useful tool for us,” he said.
Postel discussed the university’s goal of increasing the graduation rate, which is currently around 53 percent. He said one of the major reasons our rate is lower than both UK and other ACC schools is because of student preparedness.
“We’re proud that we have a lot of first-generation students, but they need a lot of mentoring,” he said. “The answer to that is related to the resources we have in place to help the students we admit, whether financial, counseling, career needs or something else. We need to understand their issues. It’s a worthy but expensive goal.”
Postel pointed to UofL’s student-athlete graduation numbers, which are about 20 percent higher, and noted that the success can be attributed to the comprehensive resources in place for this specific demographic.
“Their lives are closely managed. They have dedicated advisers. The resources are poured onto these students and it works. We look at it kind of like a test kitchen,” he said. “The challenge is resources.”
Postel brought this issue up during the Board of Overseers meeting last week and said the response was positive. Members of the board expressed interest in raising money specifically for the purpose of getting more resources earmarked for students.
“It’s an early report and some of these projects are three-to-four-year projects, but we have to start somewhere,” he said.
Postel provided an update on the sale of Jewish and Frazier hospitals. Blue Mountain Capital, a New York City investment group, has moved into the negotiation phase to purchase the properties. The partnership will allow the group to work with UofL to revitalize UofL’s programmatic engagement on those properties.
“This is the kind of partner that is the best case for us. They take the financial risk, but we’d still have a say in governance,” Postel said. The purchasing process is still underway, but he expects completion by the end of February.
Postel brought up the latest on the budget, shifting gears from UofL’s specific deficit to the state of Kentucky’s issues that are expected to affect the university.
“The state of Kentucky is in trouble. A lot of issues have been kicked down the road. Kentucky’s revenue is about $11 billion, but the amount of deferred funding for the state pension program is between $40 and $80 billion,” Postel said. “This program goes back decades and it has to be incrementally fixed.”
Since 2008, there has been a 26-percent drop in UofL’s state appropriations to help remedy this issue.
There has been discussion about the state’s budget and UofL is preparing for the worst, which would be a 17-percent cut* (*Governor Matt Bevin has since provided his projections, which include a 6.6 percent budget cut). A campus survey was sent out asking all employees for input on ideas to help with the budget preparation.
“We’re going to have to be creative. The state of Kentucky is not going to solve our problems. The worst case scenario is wholesale cuts,” Postel said. “This place has always historically been resilient and to get through this, we’ll have to have a lot of conversations and a lot of buy in from the faculty, staff and community.”
There are two decanal searches underway, including the Speed School of Engineers and the School of Nursing. Speed is in the final phase, with four candidates remaining, and the School of Nursing is hoping to fill its leadership position by July.
UofL has also hired a COO and a VP of Enterprise and Risk Management. Bill Pierce, UofL’s EVP of Research and Innovation, announced his retirement. The role will be filled temporarily by Dr. Rob Keynton from the Speed School.
Postel also noted that the search for a new athletics director will be brisk to help with recruiting. He hopes to have the role filled by April 1.
Finally, the new CFO who was supposed to start this week, has backed out of the position due to family issues. Postel said we will start the search over again immediately.
Report: Dr. Dale Billingsley
Interim Provost Dale Billingsley provided a report, noting that the faculty and the students need to collaborate to come up with a new process for releasing midterm grades.
He also asked senators to pay attention to junior faculty who may be thinking about leaving.
“We really need to be worried about faculty retention. I’ve asked the deans to let me know if they see any signs of hemorrhaging. I’m very concerned about this, especially with our junior faculty,” he said.
Finally, Billingsley urged senators to attend the presidential search listening tour.
Action Item: Academic Programs Committee
The meeting opened with two action items from the Academic Programs Committee, including the approval of an MS in Health Data Analytics and an MS in Health Administration, both housed at the School of Public Health and Information Sciences. Presentations were delivered from SPHIS representatives, including Dean Craig Blakely.
The MS in Health Data Analytics is 41 total credit hours and there are no comparable programs at other schools of public health. The closest such program is at IU-Bloomington. Other similar programs are facilitated through colleges of business. Dean Blakely has discussed collaboration opportunities with College of Business Dean Todd Mooridian, including potential shared marketing initiatives.
The MS in Health Administration is both for students who have no or limited health care experience, and for those on an executive track, with an executive training component. The goal for the 56-credit-hour course is to have 20 students enrolled by 2022. The program will replace Population Health Management. Currently, there is only one accredited program in the area, at the University of Kentucky. Western Kentucky has an unaccredited program.
Both of these programs were approved by the Faculty Senate.
The Student Government Association report is available online.
The Staff Senate approved a resolution on the presidential search process. The agenda also included reports from Mordean Taylor-Archer, Patty Payette, Keith Sherman and Lee Smith. More information is available online.
Enid Trucios-Haynes provided the Faculty Senate Chair report, including an update on the presidential search process. She expressed a need to include more input in the vetting process and reported there will be more representation in the search. The presidential search website is now live, including a portal for feedback. Trucios-Haynes encouraged senators to provide constructive feedback. The website is available here.
“This is an opportunity for you to engage the board,” she said.
A discussion was held about the level of openness in the search. The finalists will all be invited to campus for an open forum, but some senators expressed concern that some may choose not to come, which could skew the process.
Trucios-Haynes asked for feedback on the presidential forums that have been held sporadically, and a discussion ensued about whether or not UofL can take a fast-growth enrollment approach and improve academic excellence.
“I content that a larger student body goes against the educational excellence goal,” one senator stated.
Another stated concern about becoming “just a diploma mill,” while others opined that the concepts are not mutually exclusive.
The next Faculty Senate meeting is February 7 in Chao Auditorium.