President William Powers Jr. spent a good portion of Monday’s Faculty Council meeting explaining the University’s recent decision to move certain funding decisions from the Graduate School to individual colleges and departments.
Previously, graduate students applying for fellowships would do so through the Graduate School. The Graduate School was also in charge of administering Faculty Research Awards, which give tenured professors funding for a semester to conduct research only, and Summer Research Awards, which give tenure-track professors funding for the summer.
The new structure transfers the decision-making power to colleges and departments. Powers said the change was in order to make the University more competitive in faculty and graduate student recruitment. He said UT lags behind its peer institutions in financial support packages it offers and that those resources will be better targeted by the colleges and departments at the ground level.
The change can yield several benefits. For one, guaranteed fellowships and research awards can be incorporated into the recruitment pitch the University makes to potential faculty and graduate students. And restructuring the process at a departmental level allows the funding to be catered in a way that best captures the nuances of the different colleges.
But this move signals the continuing shift of power to the deans, and while the change may be framed in the context of reduced budgets and resources, the decision is in line with the war against centralization that Powers — a former School of Law dean — advocates.
As the University moves toward more decentralized decision-making under Powers, students, faculty and staff need to make sure they exercise every opportunity to provide input on major issues to ensure that power isn’t simply shifted from the top of the University to the top of the college.