Thursday, June 23, 2022
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Faculty Senate Calls for Clearer Purpose, Better Data

The Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday revealed overall increases in university spending over the last decade with little change in revenue, as well as the need to reevaluate the purpose of the university.

The financial data was presented by Erik Olsen, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on University Budget Priorities. The committee was started three years ago in response to concerns over how the university was handling financial transparency.

Olsen retrieved data from the federal Independent Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The first agenda item was UMKC’s spending trends from 2008 to 2015.

In 2008, the university’s deficit was at $3,909,035. By 2015 it reached $8,119,039. Additionally, institutional support rose by about $6.5 million, whereas research only increased by less than $1 million, a figure which concerned some members of the senate since UMKC is supposed to be a research university.

Meanwhile, little has changed in terms of incoming money.

“The revenue has remained virtually flat for the entire period,” Olsen said. “I think it was academic year 2013 that we changed to the [Western Athletic Conference], which had almost no impact on our revenues.”

Olsen also discussed the loss in tenured and tenure track employees since 2008. However, he said the data he had doesn’t best represent faculty and staff figures because of the nature of the UM system’s human resources’ reporting methods. There are a wide range of categories for employees to be sorted into, and some positions which seem equivalent aren’t when it comes to the system.

This results in confusion on all sides regarding who can receive tenure and a need for UMKC-specific data reporting.

“We need to be generating better data internally and making sure that we compare it to the national data and that everybody’s on the same page,” said Senate Chair Jerry Wyckoff. “Because otherwise we can’t even get estimates straight.”

Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer agreed, saying she acknowledges that UMKC doesn’t have a history of getting reliable data to its members. Bichelmeyer also voiced her belief that UMKC needs to determine its purpose as a university.

“We have to quit defining ourselves as, ‘We’re not quite KU, K-State and MU. And we’re not quite UCM, Missouri State and Wichita State,’” Bichelmeyer said. “We better figure out what our value is. Everything’s just a number until we figure out the goal we’re trying to achieve and how that’s unique in our region.”

“Research, teaching, and service are what the UM system campuses are about,” she said. “And I think we’re trying to re-articulate that research, teaching, and service are what UMKC is about.”

While this vision is in progress, Bichelmeyer emphasized the importance of being diligent with the budget.

“We’re going to re-envision what we do and over time create that enterprise,” she said. “And we’re going to have to be disciplined with every dollar we spend in order to be able to have as much saving as we possibly can at the university while we re-envision our operation.”

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