Special Senate Meeting – Transcription
April 28, 2009
Broun Hall, 3:00 p.m.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Okay, I’d like to call the specially called meeting of the University Senate to order. The purpose of today’s meeting is to determine whether the University Senate supports the intent of the letter and the resolution sent to all senators last week. The intent of the resolution is to ask the Alabama State Legislature not to support any legislation that limits Auburn’s ability to manage its tuition revenue.
My role once I complete my comments and outline some rules of debate for our discussion will be one of impartial facilitation. So whatever the Senate body decides will be what we do.
The letter and resolution were developed and reviewed by the Steering Committee and as such won’t require a second. Once the Steering Committee developed and reviewed the letter, we had them reviewed by the University’s Office for Governmental Affairs. This was done to insure that our request was appropriate and not inflammatory. It is our hope that we can engage here in a substantive discussion while avoiding wordsmithing. The focus should be on the intent of the message. I’d like to mention that Dr. Gogue has already sent a letter expressing his thoughts on this issue and the SGA actually endorsed a resolution last night opposing any legislation that would affect Auburn’s management of tuition decisions.
The resolution and letter before you today if approved will be sent to a number of key legislators both in the House and the Senate. So before I open the floor for discussion I’d like to outline how we will proceed. First, anyone who wishes to speak to the issue must go to one of the microphones and be recognized by the chair. I’d like you to give your name and your department and then whether you are a senator or not. Senators will have, I guess first preference in terms of speaking. Once all of the senators have made their comments then anyone else in the audience is free to come forward. All comments should be limited to no more than 5 minutes in length, and that’s pretty long for people to keep up with I think. No one should speak twice on the same issue until everyone waiting to be recognized has had the opportunity to speak once. And then as long as there are senators wishing to speak to both sides of any issue, I’ll call on them in alternating order so that those wishing to speak for and against the issue have an equal opportunity to be heard. With that I’ll put a copy of first the letter, and it’s long so I guess we will do it by page so that you can look at it.
I’ll mention that we used senator Little’s address here to give you an idea, but like I mentioned it will go to more than one legislator and of course each letter will be personalized. So with that I’ll open the floor to any comments or discussion, questions. Does anybody have anything on the letter that they would like to discuss? If not, then I’ll call for a vote on approval of the letter. (pause)
Okay, then I’d like to ask if everyone in favor of this letter would say aye.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: All those opposed? (pause, quiet) The letter carries with no debate, so we’ll move on to the resolution. Would you like me to read this or is everyone comfortable with being able to see that?
Someone: Could you read it?
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Okay.
Reading: 4:40 to 5:43
Resolution Asking the Alabama Legislature Not To Support Legislation Limiting Auburn’s Ability to Manage its Tuition Revenue
Whereas the Alabama Legislature is considering legislation that, if passed, will prohibit tuition increases unless approved by the legislature, and
Whereas such legislation will have serious consequences by preventing Auburn University from self-directing the fiscal remedies to past and potential future reductions in state appropriations, and
Whereas Auburn University has a strong record of responsible financial management, and
Whereas we take our responsibility to provide excellent educational opportunities to our students seriously, and
Whereas we are concerned that the proposed legislation restricting the Auburn University Board of Trustees from establishing appropriate tuition levels will have a significant negative impact on our ability to fulfill that responsibility,
Therefore be it resolved that the Auburn University Senate respectfully requests that the Legislature not support any legislation that limits Auburn’s ability to manage its tuition revenue.
I’ll open the floor for comment and discussion.
Andy Whorley, senator from the Library: I looked at the draft and I agree with everything in the draft, but I would just like to add that it strikes me that there is one argument that’s missing from the draft that we need to consider a friendly amendment that would add it, and my first attempt at the amendment is:
Whereas amendment 670 section 1 of the Alabama Constitution states Auburn University shall be under the management and control of a Board of Trustees and that setting tuition certainly is a management issue, this bill is unconstitutional.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Okay. We have a friendly amendment. (Some discussion with the parliamentarian.) Okay, so we need to see if the steering committee is comfortable with that and we don’t have all the steering committee members here. According to the parliamentarian, because the full steering committee is not present you will have to submit it not as a friendly amendment, but as an amendment. [7:00]
Andy Whorley: And then it [the amendment] will direct the comment to you or the parliamentarian, whoever is appropriate and then it will go up for a full voice vote then?
Kathryn Flynn, chair: ah hum. We have a resolution to an amendment here. Does anyone second the amendment?
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Okay, so now we need to discuss that proposed amendment.
Lee Armstrong, General Council: I appreciate the amendment. The legislation apparently was drafted in a way that attempts to avoid that constitutional prohibition, I’m not saying it does or it does not, but the legislature appears to be aware that they are close to a line. I think the, My personal opinion is you don’t ever reach that question if they don’t ever pass the legislation, and that we ought to focus our energy right now on trying to persuade them not to pass the legislation and only if we are unsuccessful is that does the legal challenge potentially follow. Now having said that I don’t know that it necessarily matters that you put that language in your resolution or not, but I just wanted to give you a little context.
Tony Moss, senator biological sciences: I agree basically with what’s indicated here but since you brought this up Lee, what is it about the wording that would suggest that they are trying to avoid that specifically, I don’t understand. Thank you.
Lee Armstrong: They don’t directly tell us that the Board cannot change tuition without legislative approval, what they do is they tell, a) to monitor and if we’re not in compliance then they will make a deduct(ion) in essence toward our future appropriations; they are trying to do indirectly what they probably know they can’t do directly. Whether they cross the line or not, haven’t fully begun to research that yet or not, but it’s pretty apparent that were trying to avoid a frontal attack so to speak. [10:04]
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Does anybody else have any comments related to the amendment that’s been proposed? If not it’s been seconded, so I’ll call for a vote. All in favor of the proposed amendment say aye.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: All opposed?
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Does it sound like we may want to do a hand count? Just to be safe. All those in favor of the amendment please raise your hand. (counting) Okay, we’ve got eleven in favor. All those opposed? (counting) The opposed carries, so the amendment is defeated.
We will now return to discussion of the original resolution.
Jim Saunders, senator from geology and geography: It’s pretty much a matter of public record isn’t it that the amount of state appropriations relative to Auburn’s operating budget is about half of what it was say about twenty years ago? Wouldn’t that be non-inflammatory piece of information to add to some of the legislators who might have forgotten that issue, to this resolution? Particularly since the idea was to, well we won’t cut K–12 or K–14, because they can’t raise tuition, but higher education can so we’ll cut higher education. Seems to me like that should be part of this issue as well.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: So are you proposing an amendment?
Jim Saunders: I don’t have the wording for an amendment, but I would like to see that we show how much Auburn has increased tuition over the last twenty years, it would seem to me that in the letter, it would seem logical to me to point out how much the reduction of Auburn’s operating expenses occurred in the same period of time.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: So, in the letter rather than in the resolution?
Jim Saunders: Yes, perhaps but…I don’t think there’s that institutional memory in Montgomery that remembers that we used to have a state university here instead of a state-assisted university.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Okay. So unless you want to draft or work on some wording for an amendment, we’ll just consider it a suggestion. Does anyone here want to stand up and try to come up with some wording that would express what Jim is talking about?
I’m Don Large: The answer, Jim, is no I don’t have it right off the top of my head. I guess I could give you this concept, but I’m not sure it’s where we need to head. If you go back…I don’t know…more than ten years ago, maybe fifteen or so our operating fund was pretty much two-thirds state appropriation and one-third tuition and now it has crossed over in these recent years as state appropriations have not kept up with inflation generally to where we are fifty-fifty, we actually have crossed over of tuition being more than state appropriations. And then we had a couple of those real good years in 07 and 08, which we now then cut 69 million of that so we are back to the fifty-fifty or less and probably what you can expect is within the next ten years if not sooner, it will be two-thirds tuition and one-third state appropriations. So that’s where we are headed and I think the important point of all this is, it’s important that the university remain in control of that one area of revenue that we can control. We certainly try to be good stewards, we try to keep it competitive with our peers, it’s one of the key strengths of what Moody’s and other rating agencies look at us and say; we have strong student demand, we have strong faculty, we have an ability to move that up if the Board ever chooses to want to price it differently than peer average, and they know that and we have that ability to raise revenues. So if we loose that, we loose a lot of our future. So I don’t know Jim if this hits your points but it’s the way it’s moving and this legislation is very damaging and thank you for your willingness to at least send this message and hopefully it will have some success.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Does anybody else have any comments, discussion? If not, I’ll call for the question on the resolution. All those in favor of the resolution as written, say aye.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: All opposed? (pause) The resolution passes with no opposition. That completes what might be the shortest Senate Meeting on record. I’d like to thank everybody for taking time, I know this is a really busy time of the semester, so I really appreciate your taking the time.
I’d like to remind you that we do have a regularly scheduled Senate Meeting next Tuesday. And I also like to remind you that you still have time if you haven’t become a participant in the AU Staff Campaign, you still have a little bit of time to do that. With that, unless there’s any new business or old business, I’ll adjourn the meeting. Thank you very much.