Hillary Hart

Faculty Council began discussion Monday to extend Thanksgiving holiday. The Calendar Committee proposed four options to give students an extra holiday while still complying with calendar principles. 

According to Faculty Council Chairwoman Hillary Hart, one option involves changing the calendar principles’ current mandate of 42 Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes to 41, avoiding further changes to the beginning or end of the semester. The other options involve starting fall classes Monday or Tuesday instead of Wednesday, or extending class at the end of the fall semester, eliminating one dead day before finals.

“Unlike the fall break proposal from last year, cancelling classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will have far less impact on instruction,” Hart said.

President William Powers Jr. said he would support whatever the committee decides, although he is opposed to beginning fall classes on a Monday.

“I will approve anything [the council] decides, but Monday would be tough. … Starting classes on Monday morning would require attention to orientation. … Starting on Tuesday is logistically doable from our point of view,” Powers said. “We can mange doing orientation on Monday and Gone to Texas on Monday night.”

The council ultimately decided to send the proposal back to the Calendar Committee for further discussion and will vote on it later this year.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Classes on Jan. 24 were canceled the night before as a result of ice storms that accompanied a Central Texas cold front. On Tuesday, the University announced a delay at 8:20 a.m. and ultimately decided to close for the day around 11:30 a.m. University officials look to local meteorologists — who analyze regional forecast information — when making decisions about weather-related closures. 

Faculty Council chairwoman Hillary Hart said the University does not reschedule classes after closures; the decision lies solely with individual instructors.

“[Professors] don’t get any help, it’s not like the University’s going to tack on another day at the end of the semester,” Hart said.

Hart said instructors have to decide for themselves how to make up classwork.

“We are required to have a certain number of days of instruction, and if the weather is bad and the University has to close, everybody’s excused and that day just doesn’t count,” Hart said. “We have to just make it up in our classes as we go.”

Labs typically begin in the second or third week of the semester, so professors were more likely affected by Tuesday’s closure, according to Hart.

“In big labs with several sections spread throughout the week, if even one day is missing, that really impacts things,” Hart said. “You can’t have just one set of students not learning something that everybody else is.”

Biology senior lecturer Ruth Buskirk said she missed three classes on Jan. 24 and one class Tuesday.

“I’ll probably have to cut a little bit from the syllabus,” Buskirk said. “But I also did lengthen one of my homework assignments that I had already assigned. … I lengthened that to compensate a bit.”

Buskirk said she is still working to compress her curriculum in a way that will be most beneficial to students in each of her eight labs.

“It’s too early in the semester to know [how students will be affected],” Buskirk said.

Senior lecturer Raymond Neubauer, who teaches an introductory biology course with eight lab sections, said he does not think the closures will cause significant problems for any of his students.

“We had to reschedule things, bump things forward and in one case double up on quizzes that we had in discussion so that everybody had the same number of points available to them,” Neubauer said. “It does make everything a little bit more crowded, but I think we can all adjust to it.”

Undeclared freshman Michaela Jenkins said she enjoyed the first day off, but thought the second class cancellation was an unwelcome disruption.

“I was happy when it happened Friday, but slightly irritated on Tuesday,” Jenkins said. “I have a test coming up and I knew my professor wasn’t going to push it back.”

Photo Credit: Natasha Smith | Daily Texan Staff

While the University has announced there will be no centrally funded salary increases from the Tower for the fifth fiscal year in a row, deans are looking at ways to raise salaries within their own budgets.

In an email sent in July, UT President William Powers Jr. informed faculty and staff of the decision.

“I certainly wish we could do more,” Powers wrote. “I’m grateful to everyone on the campus who contributes to the mission of the University and proud of the work you do each day to advance this great institution.”

According to Powers, the University is still trying to offset a $92 million decrease in state funding over the past two years. The Texas Legislature increased UT’s funding by $25 million during the recent legislative session, but Powers wrote it would not be enough for salary increases. 

According to UT spokesman Gary Susswein, the University has not centrally raised salaries since the 2008-2009 fiscal year when a 3 percent increase was given. Susswein said a targeted salary increase was given the following fiscal year. 

Statewide, the average salaries for professors, associate professors, assistant professors and instructors has increased, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. However, the total number of faculty in Texas has decreased. For instance, there were 13,471 full-time professors, associate professors, assistant professors and instructors in Texas in FY 2012; there were 13,440 in FY 2013. 

Faculty Council Chair Hillary Hart said the decision was necessary.

“We do not have the money,” Hart said. “Things are pretty flat in terms of the budget. Those were big cuts two years ago. We’re still trying to recover from that.”

However, Hart said the Faculty Council is working with Powers to increase funding for research.

“There [are] other kinds of benefits other than [a] direct salary increase, and we are working with the president, trying to bring some of those about,” Hart said.

Although there will be no centrally funded salary increase, deans and vice presidents can raise salaries based on the budgets of their respective colleges, schools and departments.

“It depends on what’s in our budget,” said Roderick Hart, dean of the College of Communication. “We’re going to do everything we can to at least come up with some kind of a raise.”

Jaime Southerland, College of Liberal Arts assistant dean, said his college has helped accommodate its faculty and staff in its budget with salary raises.

“We’ve done this for the last four years, so we’ve built it into our budget,” Southerland said. “So we’re providing a 2 percent pool for our faculty and staff.”

Hart said most faculty members understand the University’s decision.

“I’m not hearing a lot of complaining,” Hart said. “What I’m hearing from faculty is ‘Don’t raise my salary at the expense of laying off a staff member.’” 

The University’s salary policy is still subject to approval from the UT System Board of Regents. The regents will meet later in August.

According to Hart, a future salary increase would require help from the Texas Legislature, which will set the next state budget in 2015.

“We know what our budget will be for the next two years,” Hart said. “Next year is not going to be much different from this year. After that, who knows.”

Five years after a thorough, University-backed report, a statistically significant pay gap between male and female full professors has shrunk, but the gap has not disappeared entirely. Female professors who disclose pregnancies to department chairs are given the choice to opt into, rather than out of, teaching classes during the semester when they are pregnant. Today, there are 16 lactation rooms on campus that did not exist five years ago. 

But according to Gretchen Ritter, vice provost for undergraduate education and faculty governance and government professor, there is still much that needs to be done to increase gender equity. 

“We need to remain committed to this work,” Ritter said. “Representation issues at the full professor level and at the senior leadership level are still important issues — there’s a lot of work that remains to be done.” 

In 2008, Ritter and J. Strother Moore, an electrical and computer engineering, computer science and math professor, co-wrote the final report of a Gender Equity Task Force commissioned by the then-newly hired provost, Steven Leslie. Leslie asked the 22-member task force to focus on all that “remains to be done in order to make UT-Austin an inviting and productive place for women faculty members in all areas.”

The report identified nine categories of gender equity issues on campus, ranging from a promotion and attrition gap for advancing female faculty to a lack of awareness of family-friendly policies already available on campus. But today, the progress the University has made proves difficult to gauge. 

The University accomplished certain objectives, including creating a dual-career assistance office, while other goals, including reducing the wage gap, have faced roadblocks because of financial shortfalls stemming from an economic downturn. 

Hillary Hart, a civil, architectural and environmental engineering lecturer, served on the 2008 task force and has held a position on the Faculty Women’s Organization steering committee for 20 years. Hart cited the report’s findings on campus climate as an important part of understanding what it is like to be a female faculty member at the University but said no updated information has been gathered. 

“When I looked at the original report, that was the saddest part to read,” Hart said. “The women faculty, especially the full professors, not feeling that they were valued by their peers, not feeling that they were seen as doing good work, or worthwhile work. The women didn’t feel like they were making a difference.”

The report also found that on average, male full professors’ salaries were $9,028 higher than their female counterparts. University administrators attempted to address this through a series of targeted salary increases in the 2009-2010 school year, but state budget cuts slowed momentum. 

“The salary differential has not been eliminated, but it’s been addressed,” Hart said. “The administration made big strides in 2009-2010, but then all hell broke loose with the budget cuts. So they’re still sort of working on that.”

Ritter emphasized her belief that gender equity is directly tied to the competitiveness of the University.

“In academia you’re in the talent business first and foremost and you want to find the most talented teachers and researchers you can,” Ritter said. “To do that, you first need the broadest possible pool of talent — and if you’re somehow limiting your access to half the pool, you put yourself at a disadvantage.”

On the whole, Ritter said she would give the University’s efforts toward gender equity over the past five years a B grade.

“I think we probably deserve a B,” Ritter said. “By the way, I’m a tough grader, so a B’s not bad. I think it’s unfortunate that the timing turned out to be such that we’ve had so many things we’ve had to be focused on and address, but I am encouraged and hopeful about some of the plans I have heard.”