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Board of Regents May meeting highlights

The U Board of Regents held its monthly meeting May 6-8

Adam Overland

Board of Regents meeting stock photo

May 13, 2009

The University Board of Regents held its monthly meeting May 6-8 on the Twin Cities campus. The board considered a range of topics, including the six-year capital improvement plan, proposed changes to the Regents Scholarship, and faculty compensation and salary comparison.

Regents Scholarship Program

As a result of increasing costs, the University has been exploring ways to restructure the financing of the Regents Scholarship program. The proposed restructuring plan allows for an employee contribution toward the cost of tuition for University credit-bearing courses taken under the Regents Scholarship Program. The plan calls for a 10 percent contribution toward the cost of tuition for those employees seeking a first undergraduate degree. Those seeking an additional degree or taking courses for graduate work would be asked to contribute 25 percent of the tuition cost. The original proposal called for a 25 percent across-the-board contribution, but after significant employee feedback the proposed terms were changed.

In a presentation to the board, Vice President Carol Carrier stated that the "greatest assistance" would be given to those seeking a first degree. "Given the economic and career boost a first degree can provide, that is a big point for us," Carrier said. Carrier stated that most universities have some type of limitation on the use of tuition benefits for their employees.

Regent Clyde Allen commented that, "The principle set forward (considering budget realities) was 'everything is on the table.' To take this off the table would have been inconsistent with that principle. If you don’t find this here or some other place, you ultimately are looking at 50 jobs…so it seems to me as difficult as this will be for some, it is one of those hard choices you make in balancing a very difficult budget." Regent Maureen Ramirez, who voted against the measure, acknowledged that "there will be pain, and greater pain for graduate students." Steven Hunter also voted against the measure. The motion ultimately passed with a 10-2 vote.

Faculty compensation

Provost Sullivan presented the annual University Plan, Performance, and Accountability Report, a report on faculty compensation (salary and benefits, including retirement contribution, medical, dental, etc.) and salary (strictly take-home pay) to the board’s Faculty, Staff, and Student Affairs Committee. Sullivan noted that the U's strategy is one of using the combination of benefits and actual pay. The fundamental question is whether the U is competitively positioned to recruit and retain faculty of the quality necessary to become a top public research university.

Sullivan noted that in a UMTC comparison among 11 institutions,* the U’s rank has been relatively stable over the course of the past three years because although the University has been aggressively investing in total compensation, other institutions have been doing the same.

Regent John Frobenius summarized saying, "It seems to me that we’re basically bouncing back and forth with Michigan for the third and fourth place position in compensation, with both California institutions in the lead. Among salary and compensation, we’re basically in the middle among competitive institutions." Sullivan stated that he'd like to see the University perform better regarding salary. 

On the issue of faculty retention, Sullivan noted that 5 percent of University faculty received offers from competitive institutions (2007-08), and 60 percent of those faculty were retained. Sullivan said that retention factors include more than salary and compensation. Family considerations, university reputation, and compensation are generally cited as the three most salient considerations among candidates, with family becoming more important in recent years. “Sometimes it can be more difficult to convince the spouse and children to come to an institution than the faculty member,” said Sullivan.

Promotion and tenure process

Provost Sullivan also presented an annual overview of promotion and tenure at the U for 2008-09. Sullivan noted that 145 cases were evaluated across the University, with 118 tenured or tenure track candidates and 27 non-tenure-track candidates. Of those evaluated, 61 percent were men and 39 percent women. The past two years have had the highest rate of women recommended for promotion or tenure since 2000-01. The overall tenure success rate for incoming cohorts using the most recent data available was 57 percent from 1998-2001.

Technology and research infrastructure planning

Also at the meeting, President Robert Bruininks and vice presidents Steve Cawley and Tim Mulcahy provided the regents with a forward-looking presentation on transforming the U through technology and research infrastructure planning. 

President Bruininks noted that approximately 90 percent of the U's spending is related to people, technology, and facilities and infrastructure. VP Mulcahy said that a guiding principle of future research infrastructure planning will be promoting shared infrastructure among colleges, departments, and even other universities.

"There was a time when the economy was flush, when everyone could have their own infrastructure, but those times have passed," said Mulcahy. He further emphasized that distributed management can work against the University, noting that a recent offer from an outside company to work with the University fell through because the U didn’t have a space with adequate power and cooling to manage the equipment associated with the opportunity.

Modeled on the U’s successful six-year capital plan, VP Cawley’s information technology plan is already transforming how the U approaches IT decisions and spending. Cawley mentioned the need for a new centralized data center, which could result in tremendous savings for the University. The U currently has some 40,000 square feet of distributed data management—almost a football field—across the University. He said that number could be reduced to 3,000 or 4,000 square feet—saving space, energy, and support costs.

Six-year capital improvement plan

Highlights of the six-year capital improvement plan presented to the board included repair replacement funds for existing buildings, an addition to UMD's Griggs Hall Dorm, UMM energy improvement projects, the UMTC Weisman addition, a new Bell Museum, and more. Primary funding for capital improvement projects come from state and University funding sources. The advancement of some projects may depend upon the level of funding the University receives from the state. (The current capital request is for $74.5 million, which has not yet been approved and may be significantly reduced.)

Honors and awards

The board recognized recipients of the Distinguished McKnight University Professor Awards, the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, the John Tate Awards for Undergraduate Advising, the Josie R. Johnson Award for Human Rights, and the Social Justice and Outstanding Community Service Awards. In addition, two Truman scholars (Kellcee Baker and Ashley Gaschk—both from UMM) were honored. Only two other places in the United States had two Truman scholars—Stanford and Wellsley. "This is a [great] accomplishment for Morris, and they should be proud of it,” said Bruininks.

Other regents action

The board received an update on the groundbreaking ceremony for the NOvA detector facility in northern Minnesota, May 1. The international physics laboratory of the School of Physics and Astronomy will be home to the world's most advanced neutrino experiment. Construction of the facility, supported by a $45 million cooperative agreement between the Department of Energy and the U, is expected to generate 60 to 80 jobs over the next two years.

The Alumni Association, just one week after celebrating its 105th anniversary, presented its annual report to the board.

Leasehold improvements to the UMR campus were approved at the May meeting. UMR received approval for its new degree program, a bachelor of science in health sciences, in January, and began recruiting a freshman class for the fall semester. The health sciences degree program will require the addition of new organic chemistry and multipurpose science labs, the conversion of six constructed but unfurnished classrooms into learning studios, and additional support space.

Labor agreements among unions at UMD and UMC were approved.

*The comparison used a survey of full-time, nine-month, non-medical faculty salaries among 11 'aspirational group institutions,' including several from the Big Ten. The annual, nationwide study is conducted by the American Association of University Professors for the Association of American Universities Data Exchange.