Financial issues have been at the top of every government agenda for the past few months and the University Senate agenda was no different at its first meeting of the year Monday.
University Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Bobby Gempesaw started the meeting with good financial news with the new operating system Niihka. Over a year and a half, Niihka is estimated to save the university over $750,000, according to Gempesaw. While the new open source system will save the university money, the administration’s focus with the switch was to enhance learning, Gempesaw said.
Already more courses are using Niihka. In the past, 76 percent of courses used Blackboard compared to the 80 percent of courses that are already on Niihka.
The senate also discussed the proposed “enterprise universities” proposal. Miami University qualifies to be an enterprise university where it would be subject to fewer state regulations but also receive less state money.
University Senate Chair Steve DeLue cautioned members of the senate to research the enterprise university proposal thoroughly before making any decisions.
“We need to ask some good questions about the enterprise university concept,” DeLue said. “A healthy skepticism is called for.”
If Miami were to become an enterprise university, the state would reallocate 10 to 20 percent of the schools funding, equivalent to $7 million to $14 million.
“We have already lost millions of dollars due to past budget crises and we are about to lose more,” DeLue said. “The current level of state funding is down to what it was in 1991.”
University Senate chair Steve Wright spoke about the current budget troubles Miami is experiencing. The university received the June 2011 state allocation of $5.3 million and was able to have a strong financial closing at the end of the 2010-2011 year. However, the upcoming year does not look as financially solid.
“The new academic year is expected to be more troublesome because we expect a decrease in state funding of 17.4 percent for Oxford,” Wright said.
A proposal for moving teacher evaluations online was presented to the senate by the ad hoc committee on faculty online evaluations progress reports. The committee said moving the evaluations online would save money and allow students to write longer responses. The committee brought up the concern that response rates would be lower if the evaluations were moved online instead of given in class. The committee said they would come up with incentives for students to fill out the evaluations.