June 13-26, 2003
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Board funds raises, seeks more for faculty

Staff Report

The University’s budget for the coming fiscal year contains some good news for state employees, and members of the Board of Visitors are looking for ways to provide even better news for teaching faculty.

On May 31, the board approved a spending plan of $1.58 billion for 2003-04 that includes pay increases of 2.25 percent for state employees. The raises go into effect Nov. 25.

The increases became a political tetherball in the last session of the General Assembly. Legislators initially floated the raises but made them subject to meeting state targets. Gov. Mark Warner criticized the contingency as election-year politicking and guaranteed the increases regardless of revenues.

At a meeting of the board’s finance committee on May 30, Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said that while classified staff will see a uniform 2.25 percent increase in pay, faculty raises will be based on merit. Deans will determine increases, which will be administered from a pool of funds.

The Medical Center has a separate personnel system, he added. The state increase will not apply directly to those employees, but there are plans for a salary increase.

Board members expressed concern about salaries not keeping pace with inflation or the cost of living in the area. Sandridge noted that among teaching faculty the University’s ranking among its peers has dropped from the 36th percentile in 2001-02 to 27th this year.

“That’s probably the best indication of what inflation has done to us,” Sandridge said.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has set the 60th percentile as the benchmark, and board member Terence P. Ross asked what it would take to achieve that standard.

Working off the cuff, budget officials initially said it would take $8 million to $10 million a year to bring faculty salaries to that mark. Later, however, Melody Bianchetto, director of the budget, said that the earlier calculations did not take into account the drop during the current year, and a more accurate estimate would be about $11.5 million a year to reach the 60th percentile as calculated for 2002-03. Further, U.Va.’s ranking could change in ’03-04 depending on the range of salary increases among its peers.

William H. Goodwin Jr., chairman of the finance committee, said the committee would hold a special meeting before the board’s retreat in July to look at ways to increase salaries for teaching faculty.

“It’s a complex subject, but it’s one I think we ought to wrestle with,” Goodwin said. “We’re dealing with the heart of the University.”

— Lee Graves

Board: Hiring faculty in key areas

Arts & Sciences dean Edward L. Ayers described creative stopgap measures the College is taking to meet student demand for some required courses during this time of budget stringency, but said after the May 29 discussion with the Board of Visitors Educational Policy Committee that the ultimate answer is hiring permanent faculty in key areas.

When board member Ross commented that economics professor Kenneth Elzinga told him he taught an additional Economics 101 class of 500 students this year, Ayers said, “I think what that shows is how faculty have rolled up their sleeves and are working harder right now.”

Nine departments have a serious need for more instructors to meet student demand, he said, with economics, politics, psychology and religious studies hurting the most. Besides some professors taking on a heavier teaching load, adjunct faculty have been hired to teach additional sections.

In other business, the committee endorsed establishing the Carolyn M. Barbour Professorship in Religious Studies, bringing the number of endowed chairs at U.Va. to 421.

— Anne Bromley

Making a great research university

What does it take to make a great research

That question was the first topic of the board’s Saturday morning session devoted to policy issues.

The discussion itself was part of a new component, introduced by rector Gordon F. Rainey Jr., that he hopes will help board members focus on key University policy issues and engage them in a lively discussion with University administrators.

Casteen kicked off deliberations on achieving greatness with an academic lecture on the history of research at U.Va., laying out the University’s founding principles.

He moved through its evolution from a predominantly teaching institution —“founded to be a center of original scholarship” — into a respected research university that has managed to preserve excellence in teaching as its core.

U.Va. currently is ranked No. 49 out of the top 100 universities in federally financed research and development expenditures, which Casteen said positions the University well for continued forward movement.

He pointed to Virginia 2020, the University’s long-range planning initiative and its ensuing reports, as critical in helping the University lay out its vision and begin to target specific areas for building excellence and establishing a reputation in science and technology.

As a result of that process, the University began to zero in on a handful of science and technology initiatives, including nanotechnology, morphogenesis and regenerative medicine, cancer, and information technology related to the humanities.

Gene Block, vice president and provost, said that to achieve success in any of these areas that the University immediately would need to address two overarching issues: research space and faculty numbers.

He noted that, according to SCHEV calculations, the University is at least 50 percent short of adequate lab space for its current operations. When compared with peer institutions, it is critically short of science faculty.

Board members jumped into the discussion, peppering Casteen, Sandridge and Block with questions regarding how to finance new science buildings and labs, increase research funding and attract top-ranked science faculty.

Board member Mark J. Kington said that Casteen’s opening comments hit on a number of issues he had not previously considered, the most important one being the history of North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle. When it was first envisioned, Casteen said, many thought it little more than a pipe dream.

“What we begin now will have an impact on society in 40 to 50 years,” Kington said, encouraging the group to think big, and to “at least dream the dream. Think about what we do as something that could guide the state — and the nation.”

The board also discussed research in its Educational Policy Committee meeting.

The National Institutes of Health fund nearly half of the University’s sponsored research, said Dr. Ariel Gomez, vice president for research and graduate studies. Therefore, it’s a good idea to see that U.Va. research areas match federal priorities.

“Fortunately for us, we have strengths in some of the areas of increasing importance, such as diabetes and infectious diseases,” said Gomez. Nanoscale science and technology, an area the University targeted for excellence in its recent Virginia 2020 plan, is also among top priorities of not only NIH but also the National Science Foundation.

Research on aging also is a hot topic on the horizon. Gomez said that NIH budget growth is slated to level off in coming years, while the NSF budget will increase. NSF’s 2004 budget will be just shy of $5.5 billion.

— Carol Wood and Anne Bromley


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