William Beckner

President Powers speaks at a faculty council meeting on Monday afternoon. During the meeting, the Faculty Council approved to extend the Thanksgiving break by one day. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Faculty Council approved a proposal to extend Thanksgiving break by one day at its meeting Monday. The proposal will now be sent for approval by all faculty members.

According to the proposal, Thanksgiving break would start Wednesday, as opposed to Thursday, giving students three days off. To make up for the lost day of classes, there would be one more day added to the end of the semester and dead days would be pushed back to the Tuesday and Wednesday of that week.

Since the proposal is considered a piece of “major legislation” it is subject to review by the general faculty. Faculty members have 10 days to submit written objections to the proposal. If 25 faculty members submit objections, the proposal will be discussed by the general faculty when it meets at the beginning of the fall semester, said William Beckner, math professor and chair-elect of the council.

“But, it’s incredibly difficult to get a quorum there,” Beckner said. “If there’s not a quorum, the proposal will come back to Faculty Council for discussion.” 

Beckner said if the general faculty votes to approve the proposal, it will be sent to President William Powers Jr., who has the final approval. If they vote against the proposal, it will come back to Faculty Council who will reopen discussion and take another vote. At the council’s March meeting, Powers said he would support whatever the council’s calendar commmittee decides.

Both the Senate of College Councils and Student Government passed resolutions in support of this schedule. Nursing freshman Ashley Levey said she would be in support of the proposal.

“As long as we have the same amount of time to prepare for finals at the end of the semester, I think it would be beneficial to have a longer break,” Levey said.

In March 2013, the general faculty voted against a proposal that was originally passed by the council that would create a two-day fall break in October, citing it would force professors who have lab classes to have their labs start the first week of class.

Faculty Council also approved a proposal to eliminate a University rule stipulating students are required to complete 24 of their final 30 hours in residence at their meeting Monday. According to Mary Rose, associate sociology professor and chair of the educational policy committee, this rule contrasts with procedures in some departments and colleges, which have different rules regarding in-house hours. 

The council also approved proposed changes to course evaluation forms. The UT System mandated a set of five questions be added to the evaluation forms at all System institutions in order to generate consistency. 

Faculty Council also voted for next year’s chair-elect and members of the faculty council executive committee. Andrea Gore, a toxicology and psychology professor, will be chair-elect of the Faculty Council starting in the fall Fall. Jody Jensen, kinesiology and psychology professor, Christine Julien, associate electrical and computer engineering professor and anthropology associate professor Mariah Wade were elected to serve on the council’s executive committee next year.

The Texas Memorial Museum is the main exhibit hall of the Texas Natural Sciences Center. Faculty Council met Feb. 17 to addressed concerns regarding new ways to fund the museum.

Photo Credit: Zoe Davis | Daily Texan Staff

A recent budget cutting decision by the College of Natural Sciences would not only impact the budget of the Texas Memorial Museum but are instead targeted at the entire Texas Natural Science Center, which the museum is a part of.

According to its website, the Center works to create awareness and appreciation of biological diversity, especially in Texas. In addition to the museum, the Center oversees both vertebrate and non-vertebrate paleontology labs, as well as the Texas Natural History Collections. 

Edward Theriot, integrative biology professor and director of the Texas Memorial Museum, said the Center will be organized out of existence starting next fall. 

Theriot said different parts of the Center’s collection have already started moving to other colleges, including the paleontological collection, which moved to the Jackson School of Geosciences last fall. 

“What I have been told about the collections is as of the last discussion I had with [Linda Hicke, dean of the College of Natural Sciences], there was no plan at this time to cut the
operational funding for the collections,” Theriot said. “Technical, web and administrative support will become the responsibility of existing resources at the other entities.” 

Theriot said, as of right now, more than $600,000 will be cut from the Center’s budget starting next semester. Theriot said the center had an operational budget of over $1 million before the paleontological collection was moved. 

At the Faculty Council meeting last week, a resolution was passed that encourages the museum to find independent funding for its community outreach programs. 

William Beckner, mathematics professor and chair-elect of the Faculty Council, worked with the Faculty Council executive council to write the resolution. He said they wrote the resolution after Mona Medhy, cell and molecular biology associate professor, emailed him and asked Faculty Council to consider the museum’s situation.

Beckner said the goal of the resolution was to encourage the museum to look elsewhere for funding. 

“I recognize the financial constraints on the University’s operating budget,” Beckner said. “The goal was to support the museum but not to tell the University how to fund it.”

Medhy said she reached out to Beckner in order to promote discussion about potential solutions to the museum’s position. 

“My point was: Is there any way to help this museum financially, at least in the short term?” Medhy said. “I felt that it was important for our faculty, or anybody who is interested in this topic, to see what the University could provide besides relying simply on the College of Natural Sciences.”

Theriot said he appreciates support from the faculty, but the resolution did not change the museum’s financial situation. 

“Honestly, it puzzles me,” Theriot said. “It doesn’t mean anything to us because that’s what we’ve been working toward since October, when [Hicke] told me that we were being cut. My life and the museum’s life was the same the day before the Faculty Council resolution and the same the day after. It has had no effect whatsoever.”

Theriot said he is currently working on developing a business model to establish a new source of revenue for the museum. He said the museum’s general infrastructure will have to be adjusted to remain fiscally solvent.

“I think the museum and what it does and the services it provides are going to have to be rethought from the bottom up in order to get a good grasp on what sort of recurring funding we’ll have, which should come from admissions,” Theriot said. “The first thing we need to do is get it off of life support and get through this admissions phase, [and] then see where we can go from there.”

Faculty Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Texas Memorial Museum’s community outreach activities be financed independently from the University at its meeting Monday.

The museum, which is set to lose approximately $600,000 in funding this September, currently subsists on a mixture of state and University funding, as well as gift-shop sales and donations.

“The museum does provide an education resource for a number of UT classes, including signature classes,” said William Beckner,
mathematics professor and chair-elect of Faculty Council. “Over a thousand UT students benefit from this.”

Such financial independence would allow the museum to continue its educational role within UT and the region, according to Beckner.

“Our first priority should be the education of students,” Beckner said.

Faculty Council also discussed the response from vice president and chief financial officer Kevin Hegarty to a resolution passed at its last meeting that requested more information about the Shared Services plan.

The Shared Services Plan calls for the centralization of University human resources, finance, procurement and information technology services. According to UT officials, the plan also calls for the elimination of 500 jobs, which will take place primarily through natural attrition and retirement.

In January, Hegarty responded to the resolution with a variety of information, including a list of schools that have volunteered to participate in a pilot program. According to Hegarty, both the McCombs School of Business and the College of Liberal Arts have implemented centralized services to some degree.

“Shared Services for certain activities does have the potential to save more money if we aggregate that to more particular spots,” Hegarty said at the meeting.

Faculty Council chairwoman Hillary Hart discussed Hegarty’s response and said there are 11 departments that are either currently involved in some form of Shared Services or want to participate as volunteers, but none have been selected for the pilot program.

Also at the meeting, President William Powers Jr. addressed the recent weather closures, specifically the series of decisions the University made before closing campus Jan. 28.

University officials sent three notifications between 4:55 a.m. and 11:26 a.m. that day, first announcing normal operating hours and then later closing the campus for the day.

“We get it that it turned out terribly,” Powers said. “It was a very unusual weather phenomenon. We obviously get the point that changing at eight in the morning is not the ideal.”

Pat Clubb, vice president of University Operations, said emergency preparedness officials would now make follow-up calls throughout the morning after they make any decision about closing campus.