Council of University System Faculty

CUSF Meeting of December 12, 2006


CUSF-CUSS joint meeting

December 12, 2006


CUSF delegates present: David Parker (SU, Chair); Martha Siegel (TU, Past Chair); E. William Chapin (UMES, Vice Chair); John Collins (UMBI, Secretary); Joan Langdon (BSU); Alcott Arthur (CSU); Rahim Ashkeboussi (FSU); Kim Rotruck (FSU); R. Michael Garner (SU); Paul Flexner (SU); Patricia Alt (TU, At-Large); Alan Lyles (UB); Lee Richardson (UB); Mary Johantgen (UMB); Steven Schwinn (UMB); Zane Berge (UMBC); Joyce Tenney (UMBC); Rosemary Jagus (UMBI); H. Rodger Harvey (UMCES); J. Court Stevenson (UMCES); Patricia Cossard (UMCP); Denny Gulick (UMCP); Bill Stuart (UMCP, At-Large); A. Delores James (UMUC); Joyce Shirazi (UMUC).

CUSF delegates not present: Marymal Holmes (BSU); Lori Harris (CSU); Robert Larivee (FSU); Memo Diriker (SU); Joyce Currie Little (TU); Goran Trajkovski (TU); Stephen Jacobs (UMB); Elizabeth Mulroy (UMB); Dennis Coates (UMBC); Vincent Brannigan (UMCP); Emmanuel Onyeozili (UMES)

USM representatives present: Dr. John T. Wolfe, Jr., Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Diversity and Academic Leadership Development; Rosario Van Daalan, Human Resource Officer.

CUSS Chair Larry Lauer opened the meeting at approximately 10:10 am, welcomed all the participants and introduced UMCP President Dan Mote. President Mote warmly welcomed the group and thanked them for choosing UMCP as the site of the first joint meeting of CUSF and CUSS.

Following President Mote’s remarks, the group took a brief coffee break. The meeting reconvened at approximately 10:30am. Following a 10 minute round of introductions, Mr. Lauer made some brief remarks. He said that he wanted us to have a general discussion of where CUSF and CUSS are on various issues. CUSF Chair Dave Parker said it would be good for CUSF and CUSS to coordinate their efforts with the legislature. Mr. Lauer said that the staff situation at USM institutions has improved greatly since he first arrived here twelve years ago. It was noted that both CUSS and CUSF endorse the currently proposed changes in the optional retirement plan (ORP). All agreed that USM lags behind its regional and aspirational peers, making it difficult to recruit highly qualified faculty and staff.

Next on the agenda was a report from Chancellor’s staff liaison Rosario Van Daalan. She said that USM is once again proposing improvements to the ORP. They were unsuccessful twice before, and a lot of work will be needed to convince the General Assembly to approve it. Currently, USM is waiting to hear from the Governor about his final budget recommendation. She gave some figures on what USM will propose. She noted that the state currently has a $20 billion liability for state retirees’ health care. The legislators want to see the whole picture on retiree benefits, including both health care and pensions. It's possible that retiree health benefits for new hires will be cut to compensate for greater retirement benefits. The ORP is not available to non-exempt staff. There was a general discussion of retirement health coverage and pensions. There was an extensive discussion of mandated employee contributions in ORPs. A 5% pre-tax mandated employee contribution is being proposed. Mr. Lauer noted that the new State Retirement Plan is competitive with the ORP. Also discussed was life long health insurance for spouses of State retirees. The goal is to reduce the requirement that a State retiree must have had twenty-five years of service in order for the spouse to receive this benefit. USM has pushed very hard for this, and the Chancellor is currently on a blue ribbon commission that has been formed to study the issue.

At approximately 11:30am, Dr. Chapin noted that the USM budget is going to be tighter than last year. As noted earlier, Governor Ehrlich will tell USM how much they will get next week.

At 11:35am, Mr. Lauer introduced the tuition remission issue. A lively discussion ensued. The IRS has changed the definition of a dependent, and USM dropped the tuition remission benefit for those who no longer qualify under IRS rules. Dr. Parker said, and most agreed, said that USM should have kept the benefit, even though it would now be taxable. In other words, eligibility for the benefit should not be tied to IRS definition of dependent.

At 11:50am,a discussion began on benefits for contractual faculty and staff. Dr. Parker said that there are probably a few hundred such people in USM (mostly at SU and TU) who will not get benefits. He made an impassioned statement on the unfairness of the situation, Dr. Gulick said that it's very difficult to find out how many of these people there are. The Regents want to fix the problem, but how? Dr. Siegel said that the pressure that has been placed on the Presidents has helped to improve the benefits at TU. A big problem is the large number of FT-NTT faculty as it relates to the tenure issue. Increases in tenure-track positions have not been enough to cover the larger number of new students coming in. The problem is complicated and getting worse. We should try to counteract the trend to hire more and more FT-NTT faculty. Dr. Wolfe said that he is distressed to see that USM is still not fully functioning as a system. Dr. Siegel said that the situation is a scandal: even Walmart treats their employees better than this.

The meeting broke for lunch, from approximately 12:10pm to 1:10pm.

After lunch, Mr. Lauer called on Dr. Gulick to make a motion on the lack of benefits for long-term FT-NTT faculty. After some discussion, the motion was unanimously approved. Mr. Lauer and Dr. Parker plan to send it with a joint letter to the Regents, Presidents and Chancellor.

At 1:25pm a discussion began on COLA and merit pay distribution. Staff are unhappy that there is not equality in COLA and merit pay distribution. They would like it to be standardized across the System. Dr. Parker noted that each campus has its own procedures. There was general agreement that merit pay should not be used for other purposes, e.g. retention, recruiting, favoritism or to reduce salary inequities. Dr. Wolfe pointed out that campus presidents have a high degree of autonomy, like a CEO. The discussion continued until the meeting adjourned at 2:10pm.

All agreed that it was an excellent meeting.