GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL CALLED MEETING OF THE FACULTY SENATE
APRIL 15, 2009
Robinson Hall B113, 3:00 – 4:15 p.m.
Senators Present: David Anderson, Jim Bennett, Alok Berry, Doris Bitler, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Phil Buchanan, Rick Coffinberger, Jose Cortina, Nada Dabbagh, Yvonne Demory, Betsy DeMulder, Penelope Earley, Allen Hughes, David Kuebrich, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Janette Muir, Peter Pober, Pierre Rodgers, Jim Sanford, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Slayden, Ray Sommer, June Tangney, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Phil Wiest, Peter Winant, Michael Wolf-Branigin, Stanley Zoltek.*
* by teleconference phone.
Senators Absent: Heibatollah Baghi, Ernest Barreto, Sheryl Beach, Kristine Bell, Rei Berroa, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Sara Cobb, Lloyd Cohen, Sharon deMonsabert, Rutledge Dennis, Gary Galluzzo, Lloyd Griffiths, Frances Harbour, Kingsley, Haynes, Allison Hayward, Mark Houck, Richard Klimoski, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Star Muir, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Larry Rockwood, Suzanne Scott, Peter Stearns, Tojo Thatchenkery, Shirley Travis, Nigel Waters, Harry Wechsler, John Zenelis.
Visitors Present: Pat Donini, Employee Relations Director/Deputy Director, Human Resources/Payroll; Kim Eby, Associate Provost for Faculty Development; Sharon Pitt, Executive Director, Division of Instructional Technology (DOIT); Patrice Winter, Life Planning Coordinator/Term Assistant Professor, CHHS, Human Resources/Payroll.
Note: Only business included in the agenda can be transacted at the Special Meeting.
I. Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m.
II. New Business
Senator Chap Petersen and Delegate David Bulova, representatives to the Virginia General Assembly, will be guests. After introductory remarks, they will answer questions submitted by faculty and sent to them in advance. Faculty will also have an opportunity to ask questions from the floor.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for faculty to learn more about the legislative process and about our legislators’ roles in helping George Mason University. We also hope that it will provide an opportunity for the legislators to learn about the University from a faculty perspective.
Delegate David Bulova (D-37th District) lives in nearby Middleridge. A graduate of Robinson Secondary School, he received his B.A. from the College of William and Mary (1991), and his MPA from Virginia Tech (1996). First elected to serve as a delegate in 2005, he serves on the General Laws; Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources; and Education Committees. He was also elected to serve on the board of directors of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (2004-06).
Senator Chap Petersen (D-34th District) grew up in Fairfax City. He received his B.A. from Williams College and his J.D. from the University of Virginia. He has worked as an attorney in private practice since 1994. He served as a member of the House of Delegates (2002-2005). Elected to serve in the Senate (2008), he is a member of the following Senate committees: Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources; General Laws and Technology; Privileges and Elections; and Transportation.
Delegate Bulova said he was pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the GMU Senate. He frequently praises GMU as a crown jewel of the 37th District of Virginia. Although members of the General Assembly may fight about issues, there is great pride in Virginia’s system of higher education (as well as competition among (legislator’s) alma maters). He added that he has taken accounting classes here at GMU.
Not every legislator in the General Assembly is an expert on the education budget, nor should they be, as the legislature deals with thousands of bills every year. We rely on the committee structure. Last year I was appointed as a member of the Higher Education Subcommittee, chaired by Tom Rust. Steve Shannon, the only other member of the Higher Education Subcommittee from Northern Virginia, will leave at the end of the year. The nine members of the Subcommittee (out of 100 total delegates) deal with the intricacies of higher education policy, forming both the first place to go as well as a line of defense against bad bills. Should a bill receive a negative vote on the subcommittee, it goes no further (unlike Senate practice).
The Appropriations Subcommittee is not technically supposed to deal with policy, but bills dealing with money (must) go there. Often bills arrive there to die – i.e., good politics but also bad public policy (reference to black hole). A bill does not have to have a recorded vote to die there; it can be heard and not acted upon, as a defensive mechanism. The Appropriations Committee has to make tough decisions.
We are citizen legislators, serving 45-60 day sessions, not a full-time legislature. There are 100 delegates and 40 senators. The committees’ work on all those good ideas introduced with little thought of how they fit together into our larger structure of laws and policies. Some issues examined by the Higher Education Subcommittee include:
· Proposal for caps on in-state/out-of-state students: Sounds good, but there are a lot of intricate policy decisions involved. Virginia underfunds colleges and universities, given the expectations placed on them. Average in-state tuition is $5,900; the average out-of-state tuition is $17,000. SCHEV calculated that a 20% cap on out-of-state enrollment would result in $3.3 million less tuition revenue that would have to be made up elsewhere.
· Financial aid for home-schoolers –This issue is quite complex. The legislature needs to develop a systematic policy to deal with it.
· In-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants – A growing number of children fit into this mold. In the context of federal law, you cannot grant in-state tuition to unlawful residents. If you do, you would have to offer in-state tuition rates to students from other states as well.
· Reporting requirements for campus police (reference to the incident of mass murder at Virginia Tech). Campus police are in communication with state and local police, and are co-equal. The Committee concluded that new proposed legislation was not needed.
· Tension between independence of the BOV at each institution and the tendency of the General Assembly to get involved. We cherish decentralized, independent BOVs, unlike the California and New York systems. Accordingly, the Legislature is reluctant to look at issues that may limit the purview of the BOV.
How can the University work together better with the General Assembly? This meeting is a great step in the right direction. I look forward to coming to more meetings here at GMU and to engage in dialogue with the Senate leadership--not just once a year. A lot more interaction between the BOV, Legislature, and the (local) community would be salutary. The community feels like a stepchild when it does not have input into GMU decisions. The Education Subcommittee supported a bill to have non-voting members, representing the general public, on the BOV, which did not pass.
Representative Bulova said he was well aware that GMU received less state funding per student than other Virginia research universities and that GMU employees did not receive a COLA. However, he said it was hard to achieve sufficient legislative support to address these issues. He also distributed two documents (1) Higher Education Affordability, and (2) Primer on Higher Education Funding, which discuss many aspects of legislative policy re colleges and universities.
Senator Petersen thanked the Senate for the invitation, adding it is a pleasure to serve with Dave Bulova. He suggested that interested faculty sign up for his newsletter at http://www.fairfaxsenator.com/ as the most efficient way to contact him. Senator Petersen’s father is a GMU professor now on a Fulbright (award), teaching in South Korea; his great-uncle (Ed Pritchard) served on the BOV; and his mother is a graduate of the GMU School of Management.
Senator Petersen discussed how funding for GMU compares between FY 2009 (ending June 30, 2009) and FY 2010 (ending June 30, 2010). Of $633 million budgeted for GMU, $143 million comes from the State and $478 million is funded by the University’s various operations (tuition, research grants, etc.) The $143 million from the state is a reduction of $10 million from the previous year. The proposed reduction for FY 2010 from FY 2009 was originally significantly larger. However, under President Obama’s and Congress’s passage of the federal stimulus act, GMU received $12.467 million of the $100 million allocated by the State for higher education.
Other issues to look at as part of a long-term vision for developing a healthy economy for Virginia and its system of higher education:
· Energy Conservation: South Korea, a country that has limited natural resources, is light-years ahead of the U.S. in using technology to save energy. Billions of dollars within the state are spent on energy use. Virginia must become a more efficient producer and user of energy.
· Budget Transparency: government spending records should be accessible to the public. Petersen has co-sponsored a bill with Senator Cuccinelli proposing every state agency’s budget be posted on-line. State salary information should also be posted on-line.
· Criminal Sentencing: we spend an inordinate amount of money on sentencing and confinement. The US has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prison population. Petersen supports the death penalty, but he believes there should be proportionality in sentencing. One illustration of needed reform: the threshold for property crime between a misdemeanor and a felony charge is $200-- a threshold set in 1977. Since then, prices have gone up a lot, and the amount needs to be adjusted to reflect this. Felony (conviction) results in a one-year minimum imprisonment, which is a great expense to the state (and the conviction remains on the person’s record for life, making it harder for her or him to be a productive citizen).
· Tax increases: in view of proposed budget cuts, Senator Petersen put forward a bill to reinstate the estate tax into the budget; he also favors the elimination of other loopholes in the Virginia tax code.
Professor Peter Pober, on behalf of the faculty, thanked the legislators for attending and submitted the following questions:
In the 2009 session, there was a $821 million reduction in projected general funds revenues at the mid-session forecast. How do you make decisions on priorities under such dire circumstances? Where is higher education in the pecking order?
David Bulova: Higher education is not at the top of the pecking order, but is in a good position. Medicaid and elderly/disabled protections were #1, taking a good deal of available monies but still experiencing substantial cuts. K-12 education was also a highly “protected” area, but it took over $300 million in cuts. Next in order (#3) is public safety which was forced to absorb a 7-15% reduction. Higher education as next (#4) in line, has been used as a way to balance (state) budgets for many years, as budgets declined. It also took a substantial cut.
Professor Pober: As Mason gains a national and international reputation, more out-of-state and international students are applying to our programs. Nearly 140 nations are represented on campus. We welcome the diversity and tuition dollars these students bring and are concerned about General Assembly proposals to cap the number of out-of-state students we may admit.
Chap Petersen: The out-of-state student population at GMU is between 15-16%, at UVA about 30%, and at William and Mary 33%. People in the Far East want to be educated in the U.S. Virginia has a great reputation for higher education; and many international students do not have any sense of Virginia’s geography. Perhaps GMU can increase its number of international students by foregrounding its proximity to DC also very important, as well as diversity (among student population).
David Bulova expressed concern about bills to put caps on out-of-state students. He stressed it is important that GMU educate legislators about the educational and political benefits of maintaining a substantial population of international students.
Chap Petersen cautioned that university presidents should not say they “self-fund” (are self-sufficient)--not that President Merten does--to the General Assembly.
Professor Pober: Considering we are a relatively young University, the “child” at the table, are we making progress in presenting our case in Richmond? How can the Faculty help advocate for better funding?
Chap Petersen: State funding for GMU faculty salaries is highly dependent upon how they compare to the salaries of GMU’s peer universities. This peer group is determined by SCHEV (not the Legislature). As GMU matures, it will acquire a different and more highly paid cohort of peers.
David Bulova offered the following “nuts and bolts”. There are 200 plus lobbyists and 140 legislators in Richmond. Usually William and Mary, Virginia Tech, and UVA had full time representatives. Hiring Betty Jolly as GMU’s new full-time liaison to the General Assembly is a significant step. Legislators must confront a lot of funding issues and determine how to divide up the budget pie? How do we decide GMU gets X amount? Formulas set in 2001, before then, not a good way to figure out shares of pie. In the late 1990’s, the Higher Education Sub-committee put together a very complicated funding formula to distribute resources to each college and university. It has developed a set of formulas that consider such factors as the institution’s research agenda, instructional mission, student population, costs per student, and number of faculty.
Senator: The Federal Stimulus money is a one-time event. In the next budget cycle, will we be faced with greater cuts? How to generate more funding in Virginia?
Chap Petersen: We held back $116 million of stimulus monies as a reserve fund. The State has a rainy-day fund of $500 million. If the economy does not pick up, he anticipates cuts of 10-15% in the future 18 months.
David Bulova: We’ve moved the cliff ahead by a year or two – hopefully we will be spared. Cigarette and tobacco tax increases could help offset health care costs. Transportation needs to be adequately funded.
Senator: Relative to GMU, UVA, William and Mary, and Virginia Tech have high endowments. GMU has not been able to raise funds. Is this appreciated? We do not have endowment income to fall back on. UVA raises a lot (of money). This is a serious problem when the State is pulling back from higher education.
Chap Petersen: I wrote to the GMU administration about this. I agree that the GMU endowment is not enough. GMU needs to find a way to successfully raise money.
Senator: UVA has raised $3 billion.
David Bulova doesn’t know if any way General Assembly can match endowment.
Betty Jolly: One advantage of UVA and other schools is that they receive bequests from alumni for their endowments. Being a young school, GMU doesn’t.
Chap Petersen suggests people get into the habit of giving year after year.
Senator: Do you have a feedback loop regarding energy conservation/alternative energy in Virginia?
Chap Petersen: The State must push to convert to alternative energy. Virginia Tech has positioned itself regarding coal research. Every university should try to gain federal research monies for developing alternative energy sources.
David Bulova: Federal funding, research grants… Old Dominion University is a national leader on modeling climate change, global warming issues. Every university should be a model to its community on how to save energy and promote environmental sustainability. The communities would respect this and be more supportive of the universities.
Senator: Governor Kaine has mandated that every state-owned building greater than 10,000 sq. ft has to be LEED certified. This is not just saving the environment but also saving money.
Senator: You are in touch with the administration and have raised concerns about our modest endowment. The Senate has also raised this issue. How can we partner better?
Chap Petersen: Our meeting with several senators this summer was very helpful. We discussed substantive issues. I would rather see funding for faculty salaries than for housing. We don’t need more housing in our area. President Merten has been very accessible to me; we don’t always agree. I’m willing to help the faculty address the President on issues of concern. Both he and Dave Bulova are willing to advocate. They used to meet with President Merten once a year--now meetings tend to be on a quarterly basis. I also think Betty Jolly will help in the process of gaining more legislative support.
III. Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at 4:17 p.m.