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UW Trustees, Administration, Faculty Leaders Agree on Regulation Changes

May 23, 2018

Leaders of the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees, the UW Faculty Senate and the administration have reached consensus on changes to university regulations governing how UW would respond to any future, significant reduction in its budget.

Additionally, the leaders have achieved substantial agreement on revisions to regulations regarding elimination of programs for non-budget reasons, as well as the university’s overall decision-making processes.

The proposed changes to UW regulations 6-41, 6-42, 6-43, 6-44 and 1-101 now go to the full Board of Trustees for consideration, likely in July. The documents may be viewed at www.uwyo.edu/trustees/2018-meeting-materials/july_10-13_2018_meeting.html, under “Supplemental Materials.”

The agreements were reached following a lengthy meeting of Trustee John McKinley, a member of the board’s Regulation Review Committee, and civil and architectural engineering Professor Michael Barker, representing the Faculty Senate.

“I was pleased to work productively with Dr. Barker to resolve difficult issues and address the concerns of the faculty,” McKinley says. “I’d like to thank Michael for his willingness to invest some serious time and energy to work through things.”

“The discussion was an excellent example of inclusive leadership, where Trustee McKinley represented the views of the board, and I represented the Faculty Senate’s perspective on its responsibility to the health and welfare of the faculty, staff, students and administration and the academic programs at UW,” says Barker, who just completed a term as Faculty Senate chair. “All of us want UW to succeed and be a premier institution, and this meeting set a model for future effective shared governance as the board, the faculty, the staff and the administration strive for those goals.”

The proposed regulations maintain UW’s commitment to faculty tenure, something that none of the parties ever intended to jeopardize.

“We have a process to work with the Faculty Senate on regulation changes to make sure they are in the best interest of the students, faculty and staff of the university, and I’m happy to say that this process worked in this case,” says Trustee John MacPherson, who chairs the board’s Regulation Review Committee. “The board values the input and involvement of the faculty, staff and students in our work with the administration to lead the university. Our committee now will take the proposed revisions to the full board for its consideration, with a recommendation that they be approved.”

The proposed changes to regulations 6-41 and 6-44, and the addition of regulation 6-42, stem from the university’s recent budget reduction. During that experience, UW identified several inconsistencies, inefficiencies and outdated methods in the regulations that guide the decision-making process. The proposed changes aim to clarify and streamline the process.

For example, regulation 6-42 is proposed to allow the administration and the Board of Trustees to address budget reductions in a businesslike manner without the necessity of declaring a “financial crisis” or a “financial exigency.” When a budget reduction is necessary as a result of a significant drop in revenues, the trustees would direct the president to prepare a budget reduction plan that may include recommendations regarding staff, faculty, and administrator hiring freezes; staff and administrator terminations; consolidations of departments or units; reorganizations; dropping of courses; eliminations of staff, faculty and administrator vacancies; and other measures. This would be done in consultation with administrators, the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate and the Associated Students of UW (ASUW).

Regulation 6-41, meanwhile, would maintain the option for the board to declare a “financial exigency” -- in the event the university is confronted with an “imminent financial crisis which threatens the viability of the institution as a whole and which cannot be alleviated by means other than a reduction in tenured faculty members or extended term academic professionals.” However, termination of tenured faculty members would be a last resort, and the university would make reasonable efforts to transfer such faculty members to other open positions for which they’re qualified.

During UW’s recent budget reduction -- when the board declared a “financial crisis” under the existing regulations -- no faculty members lost their jobs, although close to 70 retired through a retirement incentive program. The Board of Trustees has not declared a financial exigency in recent decades.

“Fortunately, the university received its full operating budget request for the coming biennium from the Legislature and the governor, and we are moving forward with our strategic plan to lift UW to new levels of excellence, including hiring faculty members in key areas,” President Laurie Nichols says. “With some improvement in Wyoming’s economy and strong support from the state’s elected officials, we don’t anticipate needing to make major budget reductions in the foreseeable future. But the proposed regulation changes provide an improved process for us to follow in the unlikely event it becomes necessary.”

During the previous fiscal year, the university also initiated a review of 15 low-enrollment academic programs, and the board eventually approved an administrative recommendation to eliminate five of them, while reorganizing and consolidating others. The proposed changes to regulation 6-43 would shorten that process but continue to require solicitation of input on proposed program eliminations. Once again, termination of tenured faculty members in that process would be a last resort -- and the university would make reasonable efforts to transfer such faculty members to other open positions for which they’re qualified.

“Academic program reviews are important for any university to make sure its offerings are in line with its mission, which is providing students with the educational opportunities and curriculum that prepare them for the future,” Provost Kate Miller says. “The proposed regulation revision assures that proper review and consultation take place before any program is eliminated, but the change would allow us to move forward in a more timely fashion.”

Finally, revisions are proposed to regulation 1-101 -- which details the process used to adopt university regulations, as well as standard administrative policies and procedures. The Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and ASUW must be consulted when new or revised regulations, policies and procedures are proposed. Importantly, those bodies also have the ability to propose regulations to the president.

“The expertise and input of everyone in the UW community are crucial as we make decisions, and I’m pleased to see that this commitment is maintained in the proposed regulations that emerged from that very process of consultation,” Nichols says. “I thank the members of the board and the Faculty Senate who worked hard to achieve these agreements. With these issues resolved, we can return our full focus to the important business of providing excellent education for our students; conducting research to benefit Wyoming, the nation and the world; and serving the people of our great state.”

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