University joins plan to unify Ohio colleges’ goals

The first Faculty Senate meeting of the year took place yesterday and dealt with an issue many colleges are facing across the state.

This year, Ohio has united its 13 public universities and 24 community colleges, including BGSU, under the University System of Ohio, which will unite higher education institutions by focusing on common goals while still maintaining their own identities.

All colleges, including the University, now must report to a chancellor – currently Eric Fingerhut – who will meet with the presidents of all the universities and colleges to discuss a 10-year plan for that institution. In addition, Fingerhut will be making decisions pertaining to tuition rates and other fees.

University President Sidney Ribeau addressed faculty and staff about the new University System of Ohio at yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting.

“We are now under the University System of Ohio,” he said. “We have been changed … and no one really knows what that [the University System of Ohio] means. It is, in fact, different.”

The major change that has occurred under the University System of Ohio is that tuition increase is not decided by individual institutions, but by Fingerhut and Gov. Ted Strickland.

Currently, because the University’s tuition rate was fixed at 0 percent this year, BGSU has had a $3 million shortfall in the budget. By the end of the year, the University has to break even, and there is no “roll over” onto next year’s budget.

The University had a 0 percent increase in tuition despite the fact that tuition makes up 70 percent of the budget. While there was a 5 percent increase from the state, the state only makes up 30 percent of the University’s budget.

“So if you do the math, you get a 5 percent increase on 30 percent, and a 0 percent increase on 70 percent, and that is part of the problem,” he said.

Not only has the 0 percent increase on fees helped to fuel the budget crisis, but the University also had to reduce its institutional financial aid for this school year because they exceeded last year’s budget and needed to cap this year’s budget to compensate. Also, this year there was a 4 percent increase in mandatory cost, which deals with salary and personnel costs of faculty and staff.

Faculty Senate committees will play an important role in reducing the budget problem.

“I have asked by mid-December for every unit [committee] to have to me a report explaining how we are going to modify the budget,” Ribeau said. He added that these reports are important in helping with this problem.

Shirley Baugher, the new vice president and provost for Academic Affairs, addressed Faculty Senate also, and said communication is an important aspect in reducing the budget.

“It will be very, very important for us to communicate with each other and keep that communication flowing,” she said. “What we are thinking and where we are is very important.”

Baugher added that this is a very important and critical time for the University, and faculty members need to challenge themselves for that future.

Faculty Senate Chair Patrick Pauken reiterated that the University may be facing a budget crisis, but that it should in no way hinder the teaching on campus.

“No… challenge should prevent us from outstanding teaching, learning, scholarship and personal and professional development,” he said.