University committee

Janet Dukerich, senior vice pro-vost for faculty affairs, is the head of the University Gender Equity Council. The council was created to combat issues related to gender inequality at UT.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to combat gender inequality in UT's faculty, University Gender Equity Council, a committee formed by the University administration to research the issue, began meeting in early October.

The council, which consists of at least one faculty representative from each college or school at UT, met to discuss and advance gender equity efforts on campus. In 2013, the University employed 784 male full professors compared to 230 female full professors, according to data from the University’s Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems.

Janet Dukerich, senior vice provost for faculty affairs and head of the council, said the 25 council members split up at the first meeting into three separate subcommittees to tackle different issues relating to gender inequality at UT: family and health, employment and climate.

“Each of these standing committees, over the next year, will meet regularly and gather data in terms of what’s going on at the University, in the colleges, in the departments,” Dukerich said. “And then [they will] make recommendations to the provost in terms of where we can make improvements.”

This is not the first time the University has looked into the issue of gender inequality. In 2007, Steven Leslie, the executive vice president and provost at the time, established the Gender Equity Task Force to research faculty gender inequality issues on campus and provide recommendations for improvement. The task force published its findings in 2008 and cited promotional lags and salary gaps between male and female professors.

Dukerich said the state of faculty and administration gender issues have improved at the University since 2008 but more growth is still needed. For instance, the report called for an increase in the number of child care centers available on campus to help faculty and administrators balance their family and professional lives. Since the report was released six years ago, there still remain only two child care centers on the University campus.

“Space is such a premium here,” Dukerich said. “The committee on family and health said that is one of the areas they want to work on. I think [the report] really raised awareness that these are issues we have to continually monitor and work on.”

Other issues highlighted in the 2008 report include concerns involving harassment and discrimination, attitudes about family-friendly policies, opportunities for administrative leadership and the sense of isolation among senior women.

Engineering lecturer Hillary Hart, member of the climate subcommittee, said this year’s council would survey faculty and administration to determine which further actions should be taken to improve issues surrounding gender equity on campus.

“The climate issues are harder to attack because the data is more qualitative and more anecdotal, so we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to do this,” Hart said.

Natasha Beretvas, educational psychology professor and member of the subcommittee on employment, said the employment committee would likely focus on faculty recruiting, salaries, start-up packages, endowments, promotions and spousal hires.

“It is very early in our deliberation process,” Beretvas said in an email. “We will endeavor to find relevant data to investigate how we are doing as a university in terms of equitable employment practices at various levels. All committees include highly qualified quantitative and qualitative data analysts and researchers, so that should help ensure alignment of research questions with the analyses conducted.”

Dukerich said as the University becomes more equitable, it must also remember that it is competing against other colleges in the nation in terms of providing supportive environments and equal opportunities across genders.

“We have to continually ask ourselves what we could be doing better, and that’s what I’ve charged this gender equity council with,” Dukerich said.

One week after a University committee recommended a nearly 4-percent tuition increase per year over the next two years, it is still unclear how need-based financial aid would be affected if the increase were implemented.

The Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, which is composed of four student leaders, five faculty members and three non-voting advisory members, recommended tuition be increased by 3.95 percent per year over the next two years.

Though an increase would raise the cost of attendance, it would also increase the amount of money available for aid, said Tom Melecki, director of student financial services.

About 20 percent of each resident student’s tuition is set aside for funding financial aid, as the Texas Education Code mandates. More than $2 million would be added to available aid if an increase were implemented, he said.

Including a $65 per-semester fee for the construction of the new Student Activity Center, the increase translates to about $240 more in tuition each semester next year for each undergraduate.

He said it is difficult to know how financial aid will be affected if tuition is increased. The
ability to provide aid is determined by both the cost of attending the University and by the resources families can contribute to paying those costs.

“If the economy picks up and families are better to offer somewhat larger family contributions, that’s part of the equation, too,” Melecki said. “It’s not just the cost of attending, but it’s also what families can produce. We’ll know more about where families are at in April after families have filed FAFSA forms.”

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, takes salaries, children, assets and other factors into account when calculating an Expected Family Contribution, or the amount the government thinks a family is able to contribute toward a college education.

The amount of aid available also depends on how much the state and federal governments are willing to provide for grants, including the TEXAS Grant and the Federal Pell Grant, Melecki said.

“Given what’s going on in the economy now, I would strongly recommend every student file one of those FAFSA forms so we can see what a family can kick in toward college cost,” he said.

About 53 percent of undergraduate students and about 40 percent of graduate students receive need-based financial aid, Melecki said.

But some students, including social work senior Elizabeth Ender, say they have not received enough need-based financial aid, even though they filed a FAFSA.

Ender works two jobs, as an on-campus resident assistant and as a psychology lab research assistant, to help pay for her tuition. She said her jobs are affecting her grades.

“It’s a tough situation,” said Ender. “Obviously, it would suck if they raised tuition, but it sounds like if they don’t, education will be affected in the long run. I’m on the fence, but either way, it sucks.”

Without a tuition increase, the University would face budget shortfalls of more than $17 million during the 2010-11 school year and more than $14 million the following year, according to the committee’s recommendations.

The committee does not make decisions or recommendations about how the budget, aside from tuition, should be handled. But cutting the budget by more than $17 million could result in reductions in course availability, staff, equipment and academic and student-support services, said Kevin Hegarty, the committee’s co-chair and UT’s vice president and chief financial officer.

“Obviously, there’s never enough financial aid to go around to everybody,” Hegarty said. “But we would hope to protect the people in greatest need from the effect of the tuition increase.”