Faculty Senate discusses budget changes

Mackenzie Mathews

The Faculty Senate returned to discussions of the university budget at its Thursday meeting, but this time the topic was approached in a different light.

Budget cuts were reduced by one percent, which projected WKU savings to come to $750,000. State-funded mandates increased by 50 percent, and influx that channeled an extra $1.3 million into the school’s treasury. 

Funding has also been established for several facilities across campus. A state bond will finance the new science complex, and Gatton Academy will gain $2 million in order to increase enrollment by 80 students. A private donor will fund the physical developments needed for the expansion.

The positive updates were not to overshadow the state funds neglecting higher education. Faculty Regent Patricia Minter urged senate members to discuss finances with state legislators whenever possible.

“Without significant tax reform, we’re going to have financial discussions at every senate meeting,” Minter said.

The football team received a $1.6 million compensation, which provoked a question of priorities from Chair Margaret Crowder.

 As the university continues to lose money, funding remains an issue, but the school is not prioritizing financial issues, Crowder said.

“People breathed a sigh of relief, but not entirely because it’s still tough,” she said. “I feel the institution’s mission and funding are not matching well.”

 Tuition revenue produced higher numbers than expected; however, due to an enrollment decline, the budget had to be reduced. Many faculty positions were eliminated, but the student to teacher ratio is still increasing at 36 to 1.

Summer term saw an increase in enrollment this year, and an influx in students is expected from Mid-Continent University’s closing.

“Despite the challenges we have faced, we were able to make a budget for next year that preserves staffing,” Provost Gordon Emslie said.

Deborah Wilkins, WKU general counsel, met with senate to discuss IT policy concerning questions about email access and privacy. As it stands, faculty email has never been accessed, and there has been only one information request — regarding sports — in around 20 years. 

There were still inquiries about potential access to faculty and student emails. The main request was to be informed if access was needed.

“I’m not going to search anything until I verify or have a subpoena,” Wilkins said.

By May 2014, WKU must have proper whistleblower procedures. The solution included providing an internal auditor with a “1-800” number. The system must be compliant with common statute in protecting those who expose misconduct in the workplace.

The Colonnade Program, the new general education requirement system, went through approval, and several courses, including sciences, history and criminal justice, were accepted into the plan.

A resolution pertaining to South Campus also made it to the floor. Several changes occurred without faculty knowledge, and those involved would prefer more discussion and clarification concerning any changes that affect faculty and students.

The resolution would allow for planned and communicated revisions, and it passed without discussion.

Elections for new senate officers took place with no changes, as Margaret Crowder remained chair, Jennifer Hanley remained vice chair and Heidi Alvarez remained secretary.

The meeting closed with college representatives meeting to discuss committee memberships.