The Faculty Senate and the Staff Senate of Western Carolina University have approved a joint resolution endorsing guiding principles for the university’s process in making budgetary decisions entering a year of fiscal uncertainty because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Faculty Senate approved the resolution by unanimous vote during an overflow meeting Wednesday, Nov. 18, and the Staff Senate unanimously approved the resolution during a special called emergency meeting Thursday, Nov. 19.
The joint resolution is in response to a request from WCU leadership earlier this year that all divisions of the institution engage in an exercise in which they must identify how they would handle a 10 percent budget cut. University of North Carolina System Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey directed chancellors of UNC System institutions in July to prepare a variety of budget cut scenarios to take into account the possibility of decreased state appropriations, reduced revenue from tuition and fees because of lower enrollment, fewer dollars from room and board, and revenue shortfalls in athletics programs.
The Faculty Senate originally discussed a resolution opposing the inclusion of faculty positions and lines in any future budget cuts during its regular monthly meeting Nov. 11, but tabled that resolution to work with members of Staff Senate on a resolution representing the interests of both advisory bodies.
The resulting set of guiding principles approved by the two senates calls for the university to stay true to its core mission by targeting reductions to specific noncore programs, offices and services as opposed to enacting across-the-board cuts; protect faculty by prioritizing instructional quality and capacity; and protect staff by prioritizing existing institutional quality and capacity.
The guiding principles also ask university leadership to:
* Target reductions to processes and expenditures that no longer make sense.
* Seek input for creative cost-saving measures from WCU faculty, staff and students.
* Document and maintain records of the negative consequences of reductions in areas such as teaching capacity, critical infrastructure, engagement activities and scholarly output.
* Make budgetary decisions openly and with consultation of the faculty and staff leadership, and provide those departments or offices that are negatively affected by significant reductions the chance to be heard before final decisions are made.
* Strive for temporary reductions or furloughs for positions paid more than $50,000 annually, rather than permanent reductions-in-force.
The recommendations will be formally presented to Chancellor Kelli Brown and Provost Richard Starnes by Faculty Senate Chair Kadence Otto and Staff Senate Chair Ben Pendry.