GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF THE FACULTY SENATE
Robinson Hall B113, 3:00 – 4:15 p.m.
Senators Present: Ernest Barreto, Sheryl Beach, Jim Bennett, Alok Berry, John Cantiello, Yvonne Demory, Betsy DeMulder, Robert Dudley, Susan Hirsch, Mark Houck, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Star Muir, Paula Petrik, Frank Philpot, Peter Pober, Jim Sanford, Suzanne Slayden, Ray Sommer, Thomas Speller, Peter Stearns, Susan Trencher, Nigel Waters, Phil Wiest, Stanley Zoltek.
Senators Absent: Heibatollah Baghi, Doris Bitler, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Rick Coffinberger, Lloyd Cohen, Jose Cortina, Maggie Daniels, Nicole Darnall, Kelly Dunne, Daniel Garrison, Mark Ginsberg, Jack Goldstone, Lloyd Griffiths, Jorge Haddock, Frances Harbour, Margret Hjalmarson, Dimitrios Ioannou, Dan Joyce, David Kuebrich, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Adam Mossoff, Janette Muir, James Olds, Daniel Polsby, William Reeder, Earle Reybold, Edward Rhodes, Pierre Rodgers, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Scott, June Tangney, Eva Thorp, Shirley Travis, Iosif Vaisman, Harry Wechsler, John Zenelis.
Visitors Present: Rizna Ahmed, Director, Benefits and Absence Management, Human Resources/Payroll; Deborah Boehm-Davis, Professor and Chair, Psychology; Delegate David Bulova; Esther Elstun, Professor Emerita, Modern and Classical Languages; Dolores Gomez-Roman, University Ombudsman; Betty Jolly, Director, State Government Relations; Linda Harber, Associate Vice President, Human Resources and Payroll; Reuben Jones, Academics Editor, Connect2Mason.com; Della Patrick, Staff Senate Liaison; State Senator Chap Petersen; Joy Taylor, Director, Learning Support Services, DoIT; Patrice Winter, Life Planning Coordinator/Asst. Professor, CHHS.
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 3:01 p.m
II. New Business
Chair Peter Pober announced that in response to an invitation from the Faculty Senate Representatives to the Virginia General Assembly Senator Chap Petersen and Delegate David Bulova, are present and following introductory remarks, will address questions submitted in advance and then from the floor.
The meeting is intended to provide an opportunity for faculty to learn more about the legislative process, what they can do to support the interests of the University at the state level, as well as about our legislators’ roles on behalf of George Mason University in the past session
Chair Peter Pober then welcomed Delegate Bulova and Senator Petersen. Professor Deborah Boehm-Davis, Chair of the External Academic Relations Committee, presented a list of questions collected from faculty and compiled by the committee. Copies of the highlights of the 2011 session were distributed by Representative Bulova and Senator Petersen.
Opening Remarks: Delegate David Bulova
Delegate Bulova serves on the Higher Education Committee in the House of Delegates, which has 7 members. Much of the time in the past session was spent engaged in the process of working out redistricting plans, none of which had carried by the end of the session. It is possible that this process will end up in court. (Bulova’s district includes areas of Fairfax out to Centerville, including GMU but not some of the proximate areas to the east, e.g. Mantua). There are only 7 on the subcommittee to understand all the different issues.
Overall progress has been made toward new funding for higher education in Virginia, but this in the context of serious erosion of earlier efforts to fund higher education. For example, William and Mary, previously 50% state funded, is now at 20% state funded. This year progress was made toward getting a more stable plan in place. In past several years GMU was willing to accept in-state students and continue to grow, thus got the lion’s share of available funding compared to other state institutions
On the subject of Virginia Retirement Systems (VRS): State has really missed the mark in long-term funding of program. There is a lot going on in the General Assembly that moves toward dismantling VRS over time. There is concern that if we dismantle it too much, we’ll lose it forever. In current system, the state maintains long-term risk. There has been a recent proposal to take state contribution from 10% to 8%. GMU/UMW/NOVA push hard to attract and retain faculty, studying and are looking at peer groups. A study will come out in late fall-early winter. Representative Bulova requested (on behalf of himself and Senator Petersen) that faculty to provide input they want passed to SCHEV.
Upcoming trends: There is increased interest in investing in private universities to take pressure off public universities. For-profit higher education institutions are also a subject of discussion re regulations and standards.
Issue of physical capacity of campus. Delegate Bulova reported that Governor McDonnell wants 24/7 use of campuses/university; including shared resource technologies, e.g. a professor at one college using videos rather than several similar arrangements. Caution in proceeding on these issues is called for.
Delegate Bulova invited faculty to contact him and reiterated his willingness to meet with them one on one.
Opening Remarks: Senator Chap Petersen
Re redistricting: In agreement with remarks from Representative Bulova about the turmoil surrounding efforts to redistrict. Senator Petersen noted that Governor McDonnell had vetoed two plans presented by the legislature. Some people think the result will be that the courts will pick out a plan which may result in different set of options.
Senator Petersen, who has a long history of involvement with GMU, noted that the model of Higher Education is literally changing before our eyes. People are coming to the U.S. to enroll in colleges and universities to get immigration (status) and bring other members of the family to the U.S. In his view the state has to be flexible, but it is also clear that while the state will fund capital costs, there will be no return to 40% funding. The new model is much more diversified. Our public universities need to stand out, better than our competitors and along these lines, GMU has risen to point as a first choice university.
Re VRS: The model for pension plans has changed. Everybody has defined contribution plans. State workers by and large (earn) lower salaries than private sector workers and have been compensated by better benefits. We did back off the 5% contribution by including a 5% salary increase.
In regard to salaries: Universities have to pay for top talent. We have to pay for top talent. Since there is not state money, we have to put up money ourselves. Senator Petersen sponsored a bill to post (state) salaries on the internet. Some salaries are frozen, some are not. There needs to be communication where people are not afraid to talk to authority.
Professor Boehm Davis: Questions to Representative Bulova and Senator Petersen from the faculty included questions re VRS issues, faculty salaries, faculty expertise.
A group of faculty has been asked to study retirement issues and wondered if the delegates would support us in our request. For instance: open enrollment system in which changes in choice of retirement system could be made.
Senator Petersen asked if study included information about affect on solvency of VRS
Professor Boehm Davis: Affect on long-term solvency is unknown, but possibility of swapping involving a payout/solution is worth considering in the face of change in life situations.
Issue raised: People are looking at 5% pay increases factored into raises for future. So people might want to make different choices.
Senator Petersen Different groups may seek different options. For instance, delegates met with the firefighters union, they were against defined contributions. Professors may want defined contributions.
Professor Boehm-Davis: Question not so much with defined contribution (or) defined benefit plan, more inequities for 5% raise. Because we are 9-month employees, benefits not taken out. People will earn different amounts. 5% is a real raise for some salaries. This creates problems for Chairs trying to decide raises.
Professor Boehm Davis: When you visited us before you mentioned that the ARRA money was providing some security. Now that the AARA money is gone, what is the situation?
Senator Petersen and Delegate Bulova: We (state of VA) took in neighborhood of $2 billion, about half went to Medicaid, backfilled some money to higher education, but backfilled more into K-12 education. We relied on that money not to raise taxes; did not have a catastrophic drop (in funding). We are in a completely different landscape than 2-2 ½ years ago. FY 09, 10 negative growth. There was 4% growth in FY 11, revenues going up. We are coming back in the Northern Virginia real estate market, unlike southern Virginia. Moving toward self-sufficiency at state level. (Tax) Receipts are $1-2B higher than recession, hopefully this will help to balance out. Hope that the cliff wouldn’t be so steep, but not expected that we would be able to avoid a dip altogether. Into the next budget year, where you had some relatively draconian cuts – rather than a 15-20% cut, was more like 5-7% cut for higher education. Not a great situation, but could be worse.
Professor Boehm Davis: What things could faculty members do to help you in advocating for us, either during or between legislative sessions?
Senator Petersen: First of all, continue what you’re doing right now, for example, the pension issue. Meet with your representatives individually, let us know your opinion on issues – try to get person-to-person contact. In some areas delegates do not receive feedback.
Delegate Bulova: Three things: If we don’t hear from you, we don’t know if something is an issue. To get more than 3,4 issues on an email is difficult to engage. Constituencies are best resources. Bills we introduce are from constituents. I have to make the decision whether to introduce a bill, a lot of times take it and run with it. Noted Betty Jolly, as GMU’s full-time representative at the General Assembly; a better situation than previously when GMU used a lobbying, consulting firm. If we can get on the same page, so Betty can carry a message, becomes a very powerful tool. We’re there for two months/year, but we continue studying throughout the year. JLAR, SCHEV, COLA reports are generated when we’re not in Richmond. Asks that people get in touch if there are. Let us know if there are things you want to be involved with. If you are interested in having a study done on an issue, let us know (so that we may request a study).
Senator Petersen: A lot happens in Richmond. The. Budget is put together by professionals; about 90% is completed before December. At the Senate Retreat, all the revenue numbers are reviewed; discussion held about needs. A lot of big issues are addressed at session. Re University issues, important to remember that there are four groups here: Students, administrators, faculty, and neighbors and that not everyone is in agreement about best practice or choices.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Question 1: Debt is going to be a really major issue at all levels of government. I am concerned about unfunded federal mandates to the state, as you see in Maryland counties. Thinks we have not seen anything like what we will see in the next 5-7 years. Article VIII, Section I requires each locality to (fund) education for each school child. There are times government tries to increase its influence, but there are those who will push back. Some mandates have run their course. Our debt in Virginia is far less than typical (for) states. Suggests going to self-paying mode for roads and transportation.
Delegate Bulova: Agrees it is a huge national issue. Proud that the Virginia model is to have a balanced budget. Debt in Virginia is for capital projects, not for operations. Noted that there are things over the last few years which are of particular concern: e.g. protection of VRS; issues of accelerated sales tax that make things tough on business (most of this was shifted in last session; push issues for Virginia because no federal funding partner, What will push issue for Virginia – because you won’t have federal partner for funding. The Dept. of Justice review of Treatment/Training Centers means that Virginia is under the gun; have to provide millions of dollars to support people with intellectual disabilities if we’re not to go back to the 1960s model. There’s also the Chesapeake Bay clean up: The EPA is using the Federal Clean Water Act requiring clean-up, not withstanding what it will cost. It’s the right thing to do, but it represents an enormous hurdle. We also need to protect our local governments – need to give them tools and provide adequate funding.
Question: What about tax increases, also known as “raising revenue”? Have there been ideas about raising revenue of various kinds?
Senator Petersen: Not at this time. I was in the House of Delegates in 2004 when the sales tax was raised and eliminated some loopholes. $1Billion more revenue/offset reduced car taxes by about $1Billion; they about matched. In Fairfax City we get the best deal, we get better yield on this here. In the Special Session 2008 a bill was passed on a party-line vote to raise the gas tax one cent/per year for five years and raised the sales tax for transportation funding. I voted for the bill because I thought it was a good deal for my constituents, but the bill was killed in the house. The last major revenue bill was in 2005; Tim Kaine proposed a 1% tax increase. Otherwise, incremental bills here and there. I put in a bill to index gas tax differently that would raise $150 million for transportation; Right now we’re taking general funding, but haven’t increased the revenue stream.
Delegate Bulova: The Governor has said he would veto an increase in the gas tax, but we need to adequately fund transportation.
Delegate Petersen: There is a consistent percentage of each dollar (about 10 cents) for taxes raised by the state; about 20 cents per dollar in federal tax. But the allocations of monies need to be shifted; for instance, in my view in Virginia we spend too much money on prisons, not enough on mental illness. There ought to be a five-year review of loopholes and incentives.
Delegate Bulova: It would be useful to be able to show that there are tangible benefits to these incentives to make better decisions about their worth.
Comment and Question: Thank you for coming to the aid of local citizens in the initiative to bring the Fairfax City tank farm up to higher standards. Question about ways in which the university can have a more level playing field when bidding for projects in Richmond which often go to local profit making consulting firms. No fair hearing of alternative bidders given local networks.
Delegate Petersen: The written RFP must have specific details. You could file a grievance.
If you file a grievance they have to show you how they rated it.
Comment and Question: Globally, U.S. and Virginia gas taxes are very low, as are the local alcohol taxes. U.S. incarceration rates very high instead of fines. European countries – day fines – you lose one day’s salary, which would help keep incarceration rates lower. I receive emails from people in the state that I ignore because I don’t agree with them, but would be interested in replying to emails from the two of you.
Delegate Bulova: The high incarceration rate is a real problem for Virginia; it’s very expensive. The question is: What are you trying to get out of it? A new bill was passed establishing veteran’s courts. Statistically about 20% of solders return with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries. Often they don’t seek treatment until something bad happens. This is not a good practice, but in Virginia we are very proud that we able to pass a bill that provides courts for veterans that help to avail them of services.
REQUEST FROM DEBORAH BOEHM DAVIS FOR CLOSING COMMENTS
Senator Petersen: Noted he is up for re-election. Grew up here and is aware of all the talented people who come to Fairfax County to educate their kids, start businesses etc. Finds it incredibly exciting to represent constituents in this area; seeks to listen and learn; and encourages people to stay involved, and hopefully vote for him in November. Incredibly exciting for me to represent this area. I have always tried to listen to people, encourage you to stay involved, participate, and hopefully vote for me.
Delegate Bulova: Amazing to represent such a dynamic community – GMU very important to greater development. Does not go down there alone, his job is to listen and to facilitate…I am your delegate whether you live near here or not. He has (served in the General Assembly) for six years and hopes you will be part of process.
Deborah Boehm Davis thanked Senator Petersen and Delegate Bulova for coming to the Faculty Senate.
Betty Jolly praised the work that both the Senator and Delegate do in Richmond, and noted that they are consistently interested in representing the interests of the University and the university community.
III Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at approximately 4:10 p.m.