Mondays with the Faculty

Once a month during the academic year, I attend a meeting of the Faculty Council.  On every agenda, there’s an item called “Questions to the President.”  Sometimes these questions lead to very spirited conversations.

I thought Tower Talk readers might be interested in some of the topics that were on the faculty’s mind this week.

The first order of business was a group portrait of the Faculty Council.

2009 Faculty Council

2009-10 Faculty Council

Faculty Council members were curious about the distribution of faculty raises. Roughly one-third of tenure and tenure-track faculty received raises in January. These raises were primarily used to address structural concerns in our salary budget resulting from gender and equity issues, salary compression, and competitiveness. The Office of the Provost will post more information on its website when it has made a more detailed analysis.

The Faculty Council passed a resolution thanking the Regents “for their unanimous vote to retain the Brackenridge Field Laboratory at its present location.”  Provost Steve Leslie, Dean Mary Ann Rankin, and I were also thanked for our efforts to preserve the Brackenridge Field Lab.

Athletics Budget

Also on the agenda was a request for more information regarding the Intercollegiate Athletics budget and trademark licensing income.  Here’s a summary of my comments with a few extra facts added for clarity.

For this discussion, I referred to 2008-09, the most recent fiscal year for which we have actual data on revenues and expenses.  Intercollegiate Athletics had revenues of $110.7 million in 2008-09 and total payments of $107.3 million.  That left an excess of $3.4 million, which was retained as cash reserves.

I was asked to explain trademark licensing, which is generated by licensed products such as apparel, jewelry, and souvenirs. Trademark licensing, which is managed by Athletics, had revenues of $7.8 million for 2008-09.  Of this, $1.65 million was transferred to my office to fund academic initiatives.  During the past several years, these payments have funded programs such as undergraduate curriculum reform, including the first-year Signature Courses, the UT Film Institute, and an endowed chair at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.  Trademark licensing also funds athletics operations and debt service.  Excess revenues of $2.5 million were retained as reserves.

Intercollegiate Athletics pays all its expenses at UT, including $8.2 million in scholarships, $2.1 million in central administrative services, $14.7 million in debt service, and $2.6 million in capital expenditures.  During the past 3 years, Athletics and trademark licensing combined have contributed nearly $6.3 million to academic initiatives.

UT is one of only a handful of schools in the nation where Athletics is self-sufficient and not dependent on financial resources from the university.  It was not too many years ago that UT was required to subsidize Athletics, and we need to strive to continue to keep Athletics self-sustaining.

It’s important to understand that we field teams in 20 sports, but in recent years only 2 teams have consistently generated significantly more revenues than expenses—football and men’s basketball. Baseball normally breaks even.  In 2008-09, football generated $87.1 million and its expenses were $21.3 million.  The resulting net income was critical to the financial well-being of 7 men’s teams and all 11 women’s teams.  For this reason, if you are a fan of women’s rowing or softball or volleyball—or men’s or women’s tennis or golf or swimming—you should be rooting for the football team, too.

I was also asked about cash reserves in Athletics and trademark licensing.  Those reserves totaled $25.9 million in 2008-09, which is equal to 2.9 months of operating expenditures and 11.6% of outstanding debt.  The debt comes from the construction and improvement of multiple facilities, including Royal Memorial Stadium.  Athletics revenue is cyclical and unpredictable—just like win-loss records.  This fact makes it prudent to maintain cash reserves.

Lee Jamail Academic Room is nearing completion.

The Lee Jamail Academic Room is nearing completion.

Finally, the Faculty Council has been roaming the campus for meeting space during the past year while Main 212 was being renovated.  The newly renamed Lee Jamail Academic Room in the Main Building will open next month, when it will again house the Faculty Council, as well as many University events for students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This renovation was funded jointly by revenue from trademark licensing and a generous gift from Joe Jamail.

Bill's Signature

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Comments

  1. This post has 20 responses, but only 10 are visible and there’s no way that I can tell to get the rest. A problem needing a fix? Or a procedure needing an explanation?

    • Kathleen Skinner says:

      All comments on this blog post are currently being displayed. The comment count includes the thread of replies to each comment which is why the comment count seems higher than what is being displayed.

      Kathleen Skinner
      Office of the President

  2. The budget is truly interconnected.

    Please read: http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/publications/editorials/07jan10.html

    The Announced Cactus Cafe closing throws matters into high relief. As does the story of how the decision was made: proposed by an anonymous ‘administrator'; in the absence of the three faculty members on the committee; and without even a recorded vote or minutes of the meeting, just a ‘consensus’.

    Want to know why the NY Times  wrote a piece about closing the Cactus?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/06/arts/music/06cactus.html?ref=us

    READ THIS FROM AN ON-LINE INFORMATION SITE ABOUT AUSTIN:

    http://do512.com/venue/cactus-cafe

    The Cactus Cafe is one of Austin’s great acoustic music traditions. The Cactus is an intimate live music performance venue, and since the Cafe opened in February 1979, the Cactus has acquired a national reputation, showcasing the top local, regional, national and international acoustic music acts on the circuit today. Billboard magazine listed the Cactus as one of fifteen “solidly respected, savvy clubs” nationwide “from which careers can be cut, that work with proven names and new faces.”

    Then read the latest position statement from student leaders.

    http://www.myfoxaustin.com/dpp/news/local/Cactus-Caf%C3%A9-Is-Not-Shutting-its-Doors

    Where do they learn such behavior? Who are their role models around here?

    Does it not strike you as insanity for an institution that over the last decade has promoted outreach to the local, state and world community, even in its very motto, not to be able to subsidize such a treasure when it is in the red ca. $66K per year.

    Compare the costs for football:

    $20,000 per game [in 2007] The night before home football games, Longhorn players stay at a local hotel. The idea is to build team spirit — and to help keep the players free of distractions before the game.

    SO LET PLAYERS AND COACHES SLEEP AT HOME THERE HOME GAMES PER YEAR AND USE THE SAVINGS TO KEEP THE CACTUS OPEN. (IF THEY CANNOT BEAT THE MANY LOUISANA LAFAYETTES OF THIS WORLD ON THEIR HOME SCHEDULE WITHOUT SLEEPING THE NIGHT BEFORE IN A HOTEL, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE COACHES.

    $200,000 [in 2005 dollars] After the 2005 national title, the football team was rewarded with a renovation of the players lounge. The lounge now features leather recliners, TV projectors and flat screen TVs.

    CANNOT UNDO THIS NOW, BUT THERE ARE ADDITIONAL EXPENDITURES OF THIS EXTRAVAGANCE MADE FAIRLY ROUTINELY.

    $50,000 per game The new Godzillatron scoreboard and sound system are expensive additions to UT games.

    SHUT DOWN THE GODZILLATRON FOR TWO GAMES. MANY FANS WOULD LOVE THAT!

    The UT football locker room features a lounge area with game tables, 125 personalized lockers for the players, five flat-screen TVs and a three-dimensional, lighted 20-foot Longhorn on the ceiling. The facility, which is named the Howard L. Terry-Bobby Moses Jr. Longhorn Locker Room, is described on the UT athletics department’s Web site as ‘one of the finest collegiate locker rooms in the country.’

    Indeed, following a national trend, the number of Longhorn student-athletes has fallen slightly, so the amount of money the university spends per athlete has soared, from $113,000 in 2003 to $210,000 this year. That’s 10 times the average of all Division I and II schools, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It’s eight times what the University of Texas spends educating each student.

    UT AUSTIN SPENDS MORE ON FUNDING ONE ATHLETE FROM TOP OF THE HEAD TO THE DIAPHRAGM THAN IT IS WILLING TO SPEND ON KEEPING THE CACTUS OPEN.

    Refresh your memories:

    http://www.statesman.com/horns/content/sports/stories/longhorns/09/30/0930utsportsmain.html.

    FINAL QUESTION: Has anyone made public the accounting on the Cactus’ operation.

    If one were to charge an $X SAVE-THE-CACTUS surcharge per ticket for musical acts on Fridays and Saturdays and truly special shows and $Y the rest of the week, what would that generate for the year?

  3. This really is Enron style accounting. Of course, should we expect much more from a former Enron board member such as Bill Powers? Here’s some examples of “Power’s style accounting”:

    1. President Powers classifies $700,000 in costs to move trees for stadium construction, as (in the post above) “contributions to … academic initiatives.”
    2. President Powers requires that 52% NSF grants for university researchers working on things like cancer research be forked over to administrators (who frequently use private aircraft at university expense), while requiring less than 2% of athletic revenue to go to help support academics.
    3. President Power’s uses hundreds of thousands of dollars of university funds to rent a presidential suite in the football Stadium. This is to say a good chuck of the $1 million or so dollars that the athletic department is kind enough to share with the university, is paid back to the athletic department so Powers can have a good seat at the games.
    4. President Powers claims that the athletic department gives $6.3 million to academics, when this is just a fraction of the $32 million in licensing that is funneled away from academics to athletics.
    5. President Powers claims that athletics is profitable when advocating massive salaries for athletic executives, and then claims that athletics just breaks even when justifying why the program contributes so little to academics.
    6. President Powers refuses (despite almost daily requests) to publish details of the athletic department’s finances.
    7. President Powers reports academic contributions aggregated over the past 3 years next to 1 year revenue records. Reversing this trick one could say “The athletic department gave less than $2 million dollars to academics this year, in contrast to the nearly $300 million the athletic department has brought in just the last 3 years”.
    8. President Powers allowed the athletic department to rack up $222,488,000 in debt over the past few years, imposing massive risk on the university in the case of a economic slowdown.
    9. President Powers claims that UT athletics doesn’t receive any subsidies from the University.

    What is most troubling about these shenanigans is President Power’s apparent embarrassment. It would be one thing for him to back the spending by saying “Athletics costs a lot, but I believe that the program is worth every dime they spend. This may be controversial, but that it is my view. And I stand by all of their spending.” But instead Power’s is left saying things roughly equivalent to “if you call moving trees funding academics… then the athletic department helps out acadmics — at least whenever they expand the stadium.”

    President Powers please either (1) standby the athletic spending and make the figures public, or (2) crack down on the spending you find embarrassing and make the athletic department really contribute to the University.

    But let’s stop with the Enron style games.

  4. Anonymous says:

    David Hillis is the Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor of Biology at UT. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and recipient of a NSF Young Investigator Award.

    Dr. Hillis, as a member of the UT community with a less distinguished record (and, hence, less job security), I applaud your efforts to bring credibility to this debate. I encourage other members of the faculty to come forward as well.

    I speak only for myself (not Dr. Hillis or anyone else here), when I say that we as a community need to stand up against this Enron style accounting practices that leads to the conclusion that the athletic department is self sustaining. Regardless of your opinion the athletic department’s spending and Mack Brown’s salary, the figures clearly indicate that the athletic department is not (even close to) self-sustaining. In addition to excessive spending (they spend nearly all of their revenue) the athletic department has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in debt over the past few years.

    If UT football has a few bad years, who do you think will end up paying off the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt?

    President Powers: It is one thing to write anonymous posters off as “cranks” and not respond to them. But now we have one of UT’s best and brightest saying this claim doesn’t add up. Can you clarify your position?

    • Hi, Anonymous–

      You refer to “anonymous posters.”

      Do you withhold your identity for the same reason I do: out of self-preservation, since the University reserves unto itself the right to decide what constitutes “retaliation?”

      I am afraid that because we share a virtual network connection which a generous friend of ours has provided, I may have brought unwanted suspicion on someone whom I barely know. The University has very deep pockets when it comes to such things as football and snuffing out dissidents.

      Are you aware that in some departments, the bulk of at least one employee’s job is to monitor all electronic mail employees send through UT-owned servers? This is neither paranoia or a suspicion. It is an established fact which has gone uncontested by UT attorneys in court cases.

  5. David Hillis says:

    The UT faculty also appreciate these opportunities to ask any question of President Powers, and appreciate his willingness to address issues, even when they may not be comfortable to discuss. The Athletics Budget is one such uncomfortable issue.

    In providing a look at the past five years of the athletics budget, the spreadsheet the President provided to faculty at the FC meeting indicates that Trademark Income over this period (the amount that UT makes on its name and logo) was $32,657,218. Of this, $5,218,684 was returned to the President’s Discretionary Fund (which largely goes to pay for programs like the new School of Undergraduate Studies). Another $180,000 was given from Trademark Income to the Kinesiology Program, and $200,000 to the UT Film Institute. The remaining $27 million went to fund athletics or athletics-related programs, or into the cash reserves of the athletics program. If Trademark Income is viewed as athletic income rather than as general income to UT, then that is the source of the “nearly $6 million returned” to UT academics over the past five years. (To get to $6.3 million, we would have to add in the $700,000 spent to relocate trees for the DKR stadium expansion, or other athletics-related expenses). On the other hand, this net exchange from the Trademark Income could also be logically viewed as $27 million diverted from the general budget to subsidize the athletics budget over this same period.

    During this five-year period, the outstanding debt of the athletics program (largely for capital improvements to athletics facilities, such as the stadium) grew from $64,435,000 to $222,488,000, according to the numbers provided by President Powers. Furthermore, even with the huge subsidies from Trademark Licensing revenues, the income-in minus the expenses-out were virtually even for three of five years (e.g., they were positive by $6,552 in 2004-2005, and negative by $77,838 in 2007-2008). In other words, even with the multimillion dollar subsidies from UT, and even during a time when it was running up $222,488,000 in debt, the UT athletics program usually spent at least as much as it had available to spend (“it eats what it kills”, in the words of the athletics staff). And of course that “black budget” over the past five years came at a cost to UT of $27 million in Trademark Income, as well as $222.5 million debt. In addition, unlike other programs such as sponsored research, UT athletics does not return its share of indirect costs to UT. UT’s budget largely depends on two sources of revenue: tuition and indirect cost recovery from sponsored research programs. The latter return over 50% of their direct costs to UT (over $400 million each year). That is a huge contrast to the enormous subsidies given to UT athletics.

    Many people, myself included, enjoy UT sports programs. But we should be honest in recognizing that these programs exist only with huge subsidies from the rest of UT. Do these programs justify paying a coach a base salary of $5.1 million a year? That is the same that we pay (on average) for the yearly salaries of 367 graduate student Teaching Assistants. We pay the football coach more every day of the year (including weekends and holidays) than we pay teaching assistants for an entire year. Now that we are having to fire hundreds of TAs, staff, and faculty, it does not seem to be reasonable or prudent to give the highest paid public employee in the world a $2.1 million raise. Surely, we could have a great football coach for a “mere” $3 million a year?

    I acknowledge that there are many positive aspects of UT’s athletics program, but we should not pretend that UT athletics isn’t subsidized heavily by the rest of UT, and we should work to bring its nine-digit spending under control. We can have great athletics programs at UT without heavy subsidies from UT academics, and perhaps one day athletics can even begin to support its real share of UT expenses. Until that happens, the athletics programs should work to bring their expenses under control, before we have to eliminate even more academic and cultural programs to fund them.

    • Dr. Hillis,

      Are you saying that President Powers provided the Faculty Council with an actual spreadsheet of all football money, in and out?

      If so, it would help us all for someone to post that; this is exactly the sort of data a number of us have requested. We’ve been waiting a while.

      I had suspected that figures on the football money might take a while to massage; apparently the President’s position on whether he supports a Staff Ombudsperson (similar to that which UT students and the faculty, as well as the staffs at most of UT’s peer institutions) in terms of a simple “yes” or “no” is a much thornier question. I don’t understand. It’s not as if we’re asking him to locate the dark matter in our universe.

      • David Hillis says:

        Yes, in response to a request from Faculty Council, President Powers provided a fairly detailed summary of the Intercollegiate Athletics Budget for UT. It contains income and expenses in broad categories for the period of 2004-2009.

        The expenses are, of course, in very broad categories, such as:
        Salaries and Fringe Benefits
        Operating Expenses
        Scholarships
        Travel
        Band and Cheerleaders
        etc.

        This is a public document, and was handed out at the public meeting.

        It also shows information on cash reserves, as
        well as income and uses of the Trademark Licensing Operations.

        It also shows the Outstanding Debt Obligations of UT Athletics.

        As this was an official document distributed at the Faculty Council meeting, I will ask that it be posted at
        http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/pages/documents.html

  6. Eliott Fisk says:

    The Cactus Cafe is the very “thing” that seperates U.T. from all major powerhouse Universities. I’ve been to Ohio State, and USC, and its funny to hear the students at those Universities talk about the Cactus Cafe and Austin City Limits. It’s actually disheartening to know that you can’t cut your budget in other areas. You could charge more, and close it earlier to save, but to throw it away forever is hard to swallow. U.T. will be just like Ohio State and USC now……it’s like a Wal-Mart of Universities with no difference in culture…

  7. M Anderson says:

    You wrote that only 10% of donations to the University are designated for the athletics program. A commenter wrote that you were referring to the number of donations, not their value, which apparently amounts to 35%, with 65% going to academics. Is that correct? You have also said that athletics contributes over $12 million to UT’s (apparently non-academic) economy (per year?), and an average of $2.2 million to UT academics over the last three years.

    It has been claimed often that Coach Brown’s success has financially benefited UT academics greatly, specifically that a large amount of donations to academics (the 65%) comes in because of the football team’s success. That would be good news if it were true, but is that claim true, and if so, how much money comes in that way?

    If the athletics program really doesn’t bring in much money to academics directly (a fact) or indirectly (to be determined), and if the program’s graduation rate is well below the UT average (a fact) and below that of the Big 12 Conference (2008), which itself is below the national average (2008), then what is the academic purpose served by the program? It seems pretty clear that it operates as a farm program or minor league for professional sports. And it is very popular with many alumni, so that it is currently self-sustaining is important. But what is the academic justification for its current role as an expensive component of a teaching institution.

    Are you really saying: look, “everyone” expects UT to have an athletics program, and to be a self-sustaining program, the football team must be consistently successful, and to guarantee that, it must spend a lot of money. Is it that simple? Hope you have a plan for the (inevitable?) era when its record doesn’t pay for the cost.

    Finally, there was a time when college football was primarily something fun to do and watch, and not a big business that needed very highly paid executives? The good-old days may be gone, but unless UT uses its football team as a profit center to pay for its primary business of teaching, then what’s the point?

  8. Many readers have recently asked President Powers for statistics and detailed information regarding university finances. President Powers has yet to answer any of these, yet you all continue to ask and are amazed when your questions go unanswered.

    Please realized the President Powers is a very busy man. Clearly he (and his staff) do not have the time to monitor how the athletic department spends every $10 million, or monitor which teenage children UT is flying around in its private aircraft, let alone respond to your questions.

    Instead of just asking questions, I will offer to help out. A fundamental unanswered questions on this blog has been for a detailed accounting of how the athletic department spends its $100+ million. I assume that President Powers is still working on a detailed post about this (he is a man of his word, right?). But in case he isn’t, I make the following offer to help out. If a detailed answer isn’t provided, I’ll compile the information myself. If President Powers can’t (with the help of a large staff) put together this information in the near future I’ll simply send the university CFO an open records request for the information. I’ll scan it, upload it to my web directory and place a link to it on this blog. Everyone will then be happy! If you have any ideas of informative documents, expense reports, emails, etc to request just leave a response below, and I’ll make sure to include it in my request.

    You can help out too!

    Say you want to know how much money was spent, say, on travel expenses for UT administrators related to the BCS game. You do not need to just ask nicely on this blog and wait for a response. All you have to do is send the university CFO a written request for the information (whatever it is: expense reports, phone/text logs, etc).

    Q1) What if they do not respond? They can’t. There are a few limited cases where the university doesn’t have to provide the documents. information, but they can’t even decide this themselves. The university has to get approval to withhold the information from the attorney general.

    Q2) What if they don’t respond anyway? They go to jail (seriously). A Texas superintendent who didn’t turn over expense reports to an open records request got a jail sentence.

    Q3) Does it cost anything? It can. In some cases you can get around this by requesting to view the documents in person. If you request, it they need to inform you of the cost (and get your approval) before charging you anything. You can always then revise your request to reduce or eliminate the cost (or appeal the cost estimate to the attorney general).

    Q4) Will I be fired or demoted if I am a UT employee? Not at all. In fact retaliating for submitting a records request is illegal and likely grounds for wrongful termination lawsuits.

    Q5) Where can I confirm everything you say here? Just google Texas open records request.

    Q6) How do I get started? Just send a request for documents to: cfo @ http://www.utexas.edu. Make sure to say it is an “open records request” and include contact information for yourself. By law in 14 days you’ll have your documents.

    Remember, when you do get your documents be sure to share them here! This will help President Powers who is too busy to answer your (or anyone elses) questions!

    • Hi, A (et al)–

      Good for you, and we’d love to see a detailed spreadsheet on the football program’s money, as opposed to cherry-picked feel-good numbers. Please go it!

      The only parallel I can draw between the special status football seems to enjoy at UT (compared to other units which bring in their own funding and have to pay 52% overhead to the University) is the special tax-free status granted to religious organizations (including groups such as the Scientologists) in America. (One might make a strong argument that football is akin to religion, but I won’t pursue that tangent.)

      One of the largest outlays for the football program came a couple of years ago in the $175 million devoted to major renovations on the north end of the stadium. (Gosh. . .doesn’t that facility stand vacant and unused most of the year? Anybody sitting in all those new seats and luxury boxes right now? Or are we supposed to pretend that a few hot-dog and snow-cone stands on the ground level open year-round justify that extravagance?) If the football program only keeps a couple of million a year in reserve, where did that $175 million come from?

      And I have to point out that some things don’t work exactly as they are supposed to.

      Regarding your Q1 above: The Texas Attorney General has very broad authority to deny access to official public records. For one, if the AG discerns any possibility that such information might be used in a lawsuit against the state, the AG can and will clamp the gates shut. Why? Unlike most attorneys general, in Texas the AG represents not the people, but state organizations.

      Regarding your Q4 above: Let’s not be naive. If a UT employee requests information that UT administration would rather not release (such as a copy of the Buck Study, as opposed to the largely dismissive blue-ribbon “evaluation” of the Buck Study) , that employee’s name will definitely be recorded. If managers are instructed to keep a “problem” employee (such as one who asks too many questions) under a microscope, with coaching from HR and/or UT’s so-called Equal Opportunity Services, eventually the managers can create a trumped-up reason to demote or fire that employee. It’s always fairly obvious to everybody within a department as to who is getting singled out for special treatment (either positive or punitive), and under the extant system absent a Staff Ombudsperson or anyone neutral to whom as employee might appeal, no matter how sympathetic one’s co-workers might be, those co-workers are savvy enough to understand that if they speak up on behalf of an employee who endures official harassment, the co-workers may very well find themselves subject to the same treatment.

      Other than a few minor details such as these, yeah, the playing field at UT is completely level and everything is just ducky.

  9. President Powers,

    Thank you for including the text of Governor Perry’s budget-cutting letter to you of January 15 in your post entitled The Recession Catches Up with Texas.”

    You said in part:

    “Governor Perry sent a letter a to all state agencies today requesting that we submit a plan to cut spending of state general revenue and general revenue-dedicated appropriations by 5%.”

    Two questions (and I am positive that you have this information at your fingertips):

    1. What proportion (percentage) of the University’s annual budget is actually funded by the Legislature (neither through tuition nor grants nor gifts nor donations nor parking fees nor anything else that has been devised to charge students, faculty, staff and visitors)?

    2. Who sits on your Budget Council (specifically, their names and titles)?

    Regarding question 1 above: Doubtless you have the current figure; ergo I request it for the sake of accuracy. Some years ago I heard the figure of 23% batted around; from all we have heard about how impoverished the University has become because of decreasing outlays from the Legislature (providing administration justification for raising tuition and a raft of other increases), I suspect that the current figure is even lower.

    But for a moment let’s use the outdated figure of 23%. Cutting five percent of that yields an overall number of 1.15% of the entire University budget. (That is, 5% of 23% equals 1.15%.) So if the Budget Council follows the mandate to “cut spending of state general revenue and general revenue-dedicated appropriations by 5%,” that will be 1.15% or less of the entire budget. Not an insignificant amount, by any means. . .but this is in fact how the target figure is calculated, correct? This clarification is important. To speak of cutting 5% overall paints the objective with a big, scary brush (certainly not your intent).

    Regarding question 2 above: Does anyone on the Budget Council hold a stake in retaining a knowledgeable and capable classified staff (much less treating that group as people to encourage loyalty in a decent workplace environment)? Or is this a group similar to the blue-ribbon panel of vice-presidents, deans and directors appointed to “evaluate” the Buck Compensation Study after the Austin American-Statesman had to file a Freedom of Information request to make the Buck Study public? (As I am sure you recall, the gist of the Buck Study found that UT is overly top-heavy in administration and its salary structure.)

    While we’re on the Buck Study: Can anyone explain why obtaining a copy of the Buck Study proper (paid for at least in part with state funds) requires a formal request with either the Provost or the Office of Public Affairs, while the report of the blue-ribbon Compensation Advisory Committee appointed by then-President Larry Faulkner is easily available online?

  10. I hope this wasn’t the much awaited (that took over a month to prepare) explanation of the athletic department budget. I still have no very little idea of how athletics department spends its millions!

    Several points:

    1) Why is it that you report revenue on an annual basis: “Intercollegiate Athletics had revenues of $110.7 million” but report contributions to academics on a aggregated basis “During the past 3 years, Athletics and trademark licensing combined have contributed nearly $6.3 million to academic initiatives.”?

    2) The athletic department had revenue of $110.7 million and payments of $107.3. This is to say they spent 97% of the money they brought in. However in past years when the revenue was at $100 million and $80 million, sending was still around 97%. Where is this surge of spending coming from?

    3) The department had spending of $107.3 million with only $21.3 million related to football. I understand that there are 19 other teams, but this leaves more than $4.5 million in expenses PER TEAM. For contrast, this is roughly the payroll of the 50 member faculty computer science department! Should women’s golf really cost this much? Where is this money going?

    4) This question has been raised many times, and I would really appreciate an answer. Why does the university take 52% of the faculty member’s research grant money, but only 2% of the athletic revenue? Isn’t this a bit uneven (and somewhat contradictory to the mission of the university)?

    5) You write that the athletic department has considerable cash reserves because “Athletics revenue is cyclical and unpredictable—just like win-loss records. This fact makes it prudent to maintain cash reserves.” This makes prefect sense to me. However, I also recall that a Department chair recently told me that many of the layoff’s, funding cuts for graduate students, have been magnified by the fact that departments aren’t allowed to maintain cash reserves. This forces departments to hire a lot of staff / graduate students when budgets increase and then cut them when budgets decrease, instead of allowing for more rational financial decisions. Could you explain why it doesn’t make sense to let departments (that are subject to the same cyclical issues) have this same flexibility?

    I look forward to your answers!

    • Jim,

      Good questions all, but I’m confident that this catalog of USA Today factoids cannot be the answer President Powers promised us. I don’t question the verity of individual points, but it’s all scrambled up. Let’s see year-by-year spreadsheets comparing apples to apples in a given year (not the watermelon from a few years back and this year’s cherry).

  11. Mr. Powers,

    Have you perhaps considered meeting with Staff Council on a more regular basis? It is wonderful that you meet with Faculty Council as often as you do; in part, I’m sure, because you are a faculty member, as well as your required duty to attend as President. But wouldn’t behoove you to develop more of a rapport with Staff Council as well?

    • D,

      I second your recommendation on the importance of the President (or at least a member of his staff) attending Staff Council meetings. . .and not just meeting occasionally with the Staff Council Executive Committee, which may or may not actually represent the Classified Staff, depending on the the present composition of the Executive Committee.

      Have a look at the archived webcasts of recent Staff Council meetings and decide for yourself whether the present Council officers are doing anything at all on behalf of the Staff, or if the present Staff Council officers have even laid the foundation for any progress. Do they actually represent you? For three years when Ms. Erin Waneck worked her heart out as Chair, things looked hopeful. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what is (or is not) happening now on the Council.

      • Argus,

        Thank you for your support of my recommendation.

        I am not an active member of Staff Council, nor have I ever been, but I do sometimes watch the webcasts. As to your question regarding whether or not the Staff Council represents me, or any of the staff for that matter, the answer is yes. They represent the entire staff. Now whether they represent and stand for the issues you or I want them to is a different matter altogether. In general, I am satisfied with the current Staff Council initiatives.
        It appears you have an agenda inlaid with your reply that I am not aware of or privy to, but it does exemplify a possible reason why the president (or his appointee) does not attend Staff Council meetings – there appears to be too much pettiness and infighting.

        It’s a wonder the president, most of the staff, including me, don’t attend the monthly meetings given the
        the internal struggles within the organization that could be perceived from your comments.

        Hopefully staff campus-wide can get encouraged to support their Staff Council as the organization moves forward.

        • Hi, D—

          I’m puzzled: I have examined my comments on the present Staff Council for any mention of what you describe as “internal struggles within the organization that could be perceived from your [my] comments.” I don’t find any.

          May we leave it to individuals to discern whether the Staff Council represents the Classified Staff well, or if a measure of “pettiness and infighting” [again, your words] afflicts the Council? Anyone and everyone can watch webcasts of Council general sessions (and archived meetings) at http://www.utexas.edu/staff/council/webcasts.html.

          If you have identified a problem, it is incumbent on Staff members to demand better service from its elected representatives. God forbid that the Council should find itself paralyzed by the sort of entrenched partisanship we see in the U.S. Congress!

          Finally, if I have any “agenda inlaid with your [my] reply,” it parallels that of your hope that “staff campus-wide can get encouraged to support their Staff Council as the organization moves forward.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every member of the classified staff took the initiative to stay informed of the Council’s progress (or lack thereof), got acquainted with their district representatives, maybe even attended a Council general session and otherwise got involved?

      • Argus asks whether “the present Council officers are doing anything at all on behalf of the Staff, or if the present Staff Council officers have even laid the foundation for any progress”.

        As the current Vice Chair of Staff Council, I’d like to point out that this year’s UTSC has been more active, visible and productive than it has been in several years. To highlight this, I’d like to note some of the things the current UTSC officers and membership have already done, or are working on, this year:

        • Organizing the first ever UTSC Staff Appreciation Week, to be held May 3-8, 2010;

        • Organizing forums for the UT Community about H1N1 and seasonal flu and on UT Compliance issues;

        • Participating in discussions and forums pertaining to the UT Budget and inviting both President Powers and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty to address UTSC meetings on this topic;

        • Encouraged all UTSC representatives to solicit input from constituents to identify top priorities for Staff Council;

        • Creating three adhoc committees, based on these priorities, to make recommendations on the following three areas of concern:
        1. Compensation, Benefits and Wellness;
        2. The Grievance Process and Ombudsperson for Staff;
        3. Professional Training, Development and Mentoring;

        • Rebuilding lines of communication with the UT administration;

        • Increasing communication with other UT constituent-based organizations with the establishment of regular meetings with the executive members of Faculty Council, Student Government, Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly;

        • Reaching out to local media including the Daily Texan to provide information about Staff Council activities;

        • Successfully resolving the majority of staff issues that had been brought to UTSC over the past several years, including topics on workplace safety, the Staff Ed Benefit, and parking (just to name a few).

        How odd and curious it is that someone who claims to be familiar with the current Staff Council would make assertions that are so contrary to the demonstrated activities and goals of this year’s leadership.

        Despite this, if you feel that Staff Council is not representing your current concerns, we encourage you to contact your Council representative or any executive officer (Ben Bond, Chair; Janice Hejl, Recording Secretary; or myself), or attend a monthly meeting, so that you may communicate your concerns to the staff who are volunteering their time and effort, and working very hard, to represent staff campus-wide.