Faculty requests data from administration


In a unique turn of events, members of the faculty are requesting information from the WKU administration. 

The Budget and Finance committee reported in the most recent faculty senate agenda that it’s looking into two major issues: WKU’s self-insurance program and proposed compensation for faculty. 

Andrew West, chairman of the Budget and Finance committee, said these requests come in anticipation of larger issues. He said he hopes to address concerns people have brought up through email and in-person discussions. 

“Most of these concerns have stemmed from public communication through the faculty staff email listserv,” West noted. 

Associate professor of history and former faculty regent Patricia Minter said she completely agreed with the committee’s information request. 

“I think it’s excellent. I think that transparency is of utmost importance at a public university, and with a self-funded insurance program that in essence amounted to a wage cut for the employees of the university, I think stakeholders at the university have every right to know what the state of our self-insurance plan is,” Minter said.  “And I think it’s a very good step. I’m very glad that senate budget and finance committee is trying to establish a path to ongoing transparency in all of our budget.” 

The finance committee specifically requested 10 years worth of data regarding health insurance “enrollment, costs, benefits paid, and sources of revenue (WKU and employee contributions, as well as any other sources),” the report said. 

Minter said some faculty saw the self-insurance as a pay cut, as faculty put pay raises toward new insurance policies.  West also noted questions brought before the senate regarding the program.

“…In general it’s a new model of insurance that most of the costs come out of employees pockets up front before the insurance kicks in, it’s deductible before help,” West said. “Some people had medical needs right out of the gate… some wondered is this a de facto pay cut, or maybe it’s not?”

The university reported in January that the self-funded insurance plan showed economic potential, and increased reserves to roughly $654,000, according to university documents. Minter said despite the initial gains, communication should remain open about such a young plan. 

“I know from what the president has already disclosed about self-insuring that while they thought they’d lose money, the self-insurance plan is in much better financial pan than they’d anticipated,” Minter said. “That’s something that if the self-insurance plan continues to have a solid financial footing, the administration should look at giving some of that money back to employees in the form of cutting premiums or adding subsidies or something that puts money back in the stakeholder’s pockets.”

The faculty compensation request included “any plans to institute across-the-board or merit raise pools and descriptions of funding sources for such raise pools.” 

Provost Gordon Emslie brought potential compensation before the faculty senate before winter break. 

West said not much else has been heard outside of Emslie’s initial communication with the committee. 

“But he’s willing to share those numbers with us, and we’ll have conversations with him also,” he said. 

Minter said communication is crucial for determining faculty compensation, especially if merit-based raises become a possibility after not having them for seven years. 

“…These are not decisions that need to be made behind closed doors,” she said. “We have faculty groups who advise the provost, and they need to be part of the dialogue and so far the dialogue has been moving in one direction which is to have across the board raises until we get to the benchmark level.”

For now, West said he’s “very impressed” with the administration’s initial openness.

“We’ve been very impressed with all levels of administration in their willingness to share things,” he said. “We were initially hesitant.”