University Politics

SU Chancellor Kent Syverud discusses presidential election outcome, university budget

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

During University Senate meeting on Wednesday, SU Chancellor Kent Syverud acknowledged the world has gotten more complicated with the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency.

Chancellor Kent Syverud began his monthly report to the University Senate on Wednesday with the acknowledgment that the world has gotten more complicated with the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency.

“It is important that we at Syracuse University engage and respond in ways that reflect our values and include all in our community,” Syverud said at the Senate’s November meeting in Maxwell Auditorium.

The chancellor added that he will confer with students, faculty and staff and Senate leaders in the coming days to “consider how we should live up to our values in this way.”

After addressing the results of the election, Syverud quickly moved into a discussion on the university’s budget. Many senators have voiced concern over the course of the semester about not having enough access to information regarding the budget.

During his presentation, the chancellor addressed the “good news” — that SU has reached a generally balanced budget and has dealt with what were identified in spring 2014 as two of its primary financial challenges: the lack of growth in endowment and facilities maintenance issues. Endowment grew 1.6 percent in the fiscal year 2016, according to a slide Syverud presented at the meeting.

Syverud also explained the “bad news” — that most of the “good things” have been done at the cost of significant added challenges to faculty and academic units.

“So we now need to rectify the budget situation of the academic units and the faculty, and to fund the strategic plan,” Syverud said, bringing his Fast Forward plan for the university into the budget discussion for the first time.

The next step, then, Syverud said, is to address those challenges that have been put upon faculty and academic units. One way of doing that is to increase fundraising, which has risen since the fiscal year 2015 but by Syverud’s standards has not been rising enough.

“We need to raise a hell of a lot more than $125 million a year to match our peers or to fund our academics,” he said. “We need to get to a much higher slope of an increase than we’re at.”

Another way to rectify the budget for academic units, Syverud said, is to resolve the incongruence in cost of undergraduate tuition and room and board.

SU’s tuition cost and thus its tuition revenue have been running substantially below those of its peer institutions — with which SU competes for faculty and students — in recent years, Syverud said. At the same time, SU’s cost and revenue of undergraduate room and board is higher than that of its peers, he added.

Under the university’s Responsibility Center Management model, tuition revenue goes to schools and colleges — in other words, the academic uses of the university — whereas room and board revenue goes to auxiliary units, such as Food Services.

Syverud said the disconnect in revenue needs to be addressed, adding that it must be dealt with carefully and in consultation with the Senate and with the Senate Budget Committee in particular.

“I do think this needs to be faced this year,” Syverud said.

Additional business discussed:

  • Several senators expressed concern with a policy template and uniform approval process formed by the Policy Advisory Committee, which was created in fall 2015 as part of Syverud’s Fast Forward Syracuse initiative. The approval process requires that a proposed policy is sponsored by either a dean, director or department head. Senators suggested eliminating the sponsor, since there have been many policies proposed in the past that have originated in the Senate.
  • Twenty-two senators will work on a peer review of SU for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, a nonprofit association that performs peer evaluation and accreditation of colleges and universities. The senators will serve on self-study teams that will analyze SU’s strengths and challenges in several areas relating to academia and governance and then recommend improvements in those areas. The long-term process spans from this semester to the spring 2018 semester.
  • Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly announced that 18 people — 11 of which are senators — were named to the new Faculty Salary Review Committee, which will work with the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to share data about faculty salaries.
  • Wheatly also announced that the Senate voted for Gwendolyn Pough, a professor of women’s and gender studies, and Julie Hasenwinkel, an associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering, to serve on the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Promotion and Tenure.
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