University Senate meets to discuss pension plans, revenue shortfall

Emily DeLetter

The Western Kentucky University Senate held their third meeting of the 2017-2018 academic year on Oct. 18. WKU President Timothy C. Caboni addressed faculty and staff on their concerns about the academic policies, budgetary issues and other matters of university interest.

One of the topics discussed was the recent pension reform plan by Gov. Matt Bevin. “Keeping the Promise”, if passed, would transition teachers from their longtime pension plans into 401(k)-style plans, according to the Courier-Journal.

“You all know as much as I do in terms of what’s likely to come,” Caboni said. “The information was just released, and we’re waiting to see what the technical bill language looks like.”

The university’s $11 million revenue shortfall, which Caboni said was temporary filled with one-time dollars was not sustainable or a recipe for long-term success.

“We are still 20 thousand students strong,” Caboni said. “But the makeup of that student enrollment has shifted during the past several years, and those shifts have revenue implications.”

One way Caboni plans to combat that issue is by implementing a strategic planning committee and putting together a budget council, chaired by Dr. Indudeep Chhachhi, the department chair of finance.

Caboni said the council, who meets once a week, has already been digging into WKU’s data and budgetary model, as well as looking to see what other institutions have done.

By implementing a strategic planning committee, Caboni said he hopes to give faculty and staff a say in the process. The committee will be led by two faculty members, a steering committee and five to six different working groups.

Community involvement is encouraged, and open forums will be one way for those interested to give feedback. The working groups will then take that feedback, edit it and submit ideas to the steering committee, who will share with the entire committee.

“We have to be bold,” Caboni said. “What makes us the best? Where is our rightful place among all higher education institutions, while at the same time figuring out how to position ourselves competitively within the Commonwealth.”

The upcoming search for a new provost as well as the new dean for the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences was addressed.

Caboni has selected three co-chairs to that search committee, and plans to also use the assistance of a national search firm. Local candidates will also be encouraged to apply, but Caboni said he is interested in national candidates who understand who WKU is, and can come with ideas to improve the university.

He said he hopes to stagger the search process for the provost and dean in such a way that the new provost can help with the search for a new dean.

The anticipated start for those searches will begin in March or April of 2018.

Caboni has told faculty and staff at the meeting that, over the past three years, WKU has graduated more low-income students than any other university in the state.

“The workforce we generate [at a four-year institution] is crucial,” Caboni said. “We’ve got work to do. The good thing is, we’re addressing it, and we’re going to do it.”

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.