Faculty Council News: Council briefed on possible budget cuts
Employee Forum News: Forum shares input on UNC's pressing needs
The economy will likely get worse before it gets better. For
the University, that soon could mean tighter budgets, starting with announced
cuts in non-recurring state funds at the end of this fiscal year that may soon
be increased from 2 percent to 4 percent.
The size of the budget cuts – and how the University
should respond to them – was a focal point at the Oct. 10 meeting of the
“Now is the time to find out how well prepared we are to
make the right decisions for our University and to position ourselves for the
recovery,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp.
Thorp said that he, along with Executive Vice Chancellor and
Provost Bernadette Gray-Little and Vice Chancellor for Finance and
Administration Dick Mann were working closely with the UNC General
Administration to carefully monitor the situation to be prepared for whatever
Earlier this month, Mann and Gray-Little sent a memo to vice
chancellors and deans about the prospect of facing a non-recurring 2 percent
cut in state appropriations through the end of the
Gray-Little said chances were good that an additional
non-recurring 2 percent cut would be announced in the next few days. She said
the net effect would be that the University would get 4 percent less of the
funding it was expecting when the fiscal year began.
“Now is a time for us to support each other,” Thorp said.
Retirement plan changes
Another matter that generated intense conversation at the
meeting was the reduction of available vendors for individuals’ 403(b) plans
from seven to two. The change, which will go into effect Jan. 1, will leave
TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments as the two chosen vendors for all UNC system
campuses. (See related story for more details.)
Many faculty members expressed dismay at the change, raising
issues about the loss of trusted financial advisers and the inability to keep
their money with a state-based vendor.
Brian Usischon, senior director of benefits and employee
services, emphasized that the choices were narrowed in response to final 403(b)
regulations that the Internal Revenue Service announced in 2007 for public
colleges and universities.
Usischon said the changes thrust more responsibility on the
employer to manage the 403(b) accounts of employees, in part, and the
restriction of choices was part of the broader effort to make the accounts
The 403(b) accounts are supplemental retirement programs
that employees can choose to participate in. They are different from the
Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System (TSERS) that all SPA staff
members participate in or the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) that faculty
members can choose over the TSERS,
While all employees must participate either in the TSERS or
ORP, each employee chooses whether to participate in a 403(b) plan, he said.
As of September, for instance, 2,745 employees, or less than
a fourth of the total workforce, participated in a 403(b) plan.
Of these, 29 percent had their 403(b) plans with TIAA-CREF,
while 21 percent had their plans with Fidelity. The high level of
participation, coupled with the financial stability of each company and the range
of investment choices offered were important considerations in the final
decision, he said.
AIG Retirement, which currently has nearly 19 percent of
403(b) participants, was eliminated from consideration because of its financial
instability even before the federal bailout of the company was announced
earlier this month, Usischon said.
In other action, the council approved an Educational Policy
Committee resolution to rename all Artium Baccalaureatus (A.B.) degrees
authorized to Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degrees, beginning in December 2010.
input on UNC’s
Student Body President J.J. Raynor and University Trustee John
Ellison appeared before the Employee Forum on Oct. 1 to lay out the many
challenges the University will face in the coming years.
Ellison said the UNC system would see the college-age
population grow by 80,000 students by 2017. Carolina will face the prospect of
potentially enrolling some 4,000 of those students, he added.
The student population will increase as the retirement rate
for tenured faculty will double. In the next five to 10 years, it is expected
that around 500 of the more than 1,700 tenured or tenure-track faculty will
To deal with both issues, the General Assembly will have to
provide money, Ellison said. Additional building space will be needed to
accommodate the rising number of students, and additional faculty members will
have to be attracted to replace retiring faculty and to hire additional faculty
because of the increased enrollment.
How well the University responds to those challenges and
other pressing needs, Raynor and Ellison said, will help determine whether it
becomes an even stronger institution than it is today.
“We are here to listen to you,” Ellison told forum members.
And forum members responded by offering their suggestions
Employee Forum Chair Tommy Griffin said that the ideas forum
members generated would “live on long after we are gone.”
“When was the last time we had an opportunity like this in
this room?” Griffin asked. “So think about it and ask your questions.”
Ideas shared at the meeting will be included with those that
Raynor and Ellison are collecting from an array of people as part of the
Carolina: Best Place to Teach, Learn and Discover initiative (see Administration).
During the summer, the pair began talking with students,
staff, faculty, alumni and others. Trustee Chair Roger Perry and Chancellor
Holden Thorp handed Raynor and Ellison their assignment in July. They will
continue holding conversations through the year and forward their
recommendations to the Board of Trustees in
Vice Chair Brenda Denzler wanted to remind the University
that it also has an aging corps of vital staff members, and serious attention
needs to be paid to this group. One stone that could kill two birds, she added,
would be free tuition at any UNC system institution for dependents of permanent
employees. That would entice many people to work here, she said, and just as
importantly would encourage more people already here to stay.
Secretary Marshall Dietz said the University would be
strengthened if administrators emphasized the needs and contributions of staff
as they do faculty and students. “Staff is always an afterthought,” Dietz said.
“We need to do more. When Chapel Hill moves ahead, we need to move everybody
Todd Hux from Facilities Services talked about putting money
into merit pay. It exists on paper, he said, but not in people’s paychecks
because funding for it has never been allocated by the General Assembly.
Alan Moran, also from Facilities Services, suggested
offering reduced tuition to Carolina students who agree to work at the University
for several years after they graduate.
Ryan Greenway, from the dean’s office in the College of Arts
and Sciences, said affordable housing in Chapel Hill would help attract young
faculty and staff members to work here.
Mike McQuown from the School of Public Health said the
University would be better if people were treated more fairly across the board.
“Folks are ignored,” he said.
Raynor and Ellison thanked forum members for their input and
said their comments would be posted on a Web site developed for the initiative,
bestcarolina.unc.edu. People can submit ideas to Ellison at Blount2@aol.com and
Raynor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other action, the forum gave final approval to a set of
guidelines that delegates to the UNC System Staff Assembly
It also approved a resolution from Denzler that calls for
University Advancement to include at least two staff-oriented proposals as the
University plans for the next major fundraising campaign.