Budget reform Faculty and staff members encouraged to review proposal

By Craig Chamberlain

Faculty members seem to have one of two responses when asked about the
campus budgeting reform proposal released last month, says James Barrett,
president of the campus Union of Professional Employees.

They say they haven't seen it or, if they've seen it, haven't had time to
digest it, he said April 11 at an open discussion sponsored by the UPE.
"Mostly, faculty members and academic professionals are only dimly aware of
the plan."

But it is important that they take a look now, said Barrett, a professor of
history. "This is a plan with truly sweeping changes," he said. "It could
have very significant implications for all of us in how we go about our
work."

Approximately 25 people were in attendance to talk about the effects of the
proposed budgeting reforms, outlined in a 62-page "Framework for Budget
Reform" issued March 8 by the campus Budget Strategies Committee.

Questions and concerns raised at the meeting ranged from how the reforms
might affect various departments or interdisciplinary programs, to how a
new Campus Budget Oversight Committee would be formed, to whether the plan
ultimately centralized or decentralized control over the budget.

Several complained that the reforms were difficult to comprehend, but
Jeremiah Sullivan, professor of physics, acknowledged that he, probably
like others, didn't really understand the current system.

"If you don't know where you are, it's hard to know where this will take
you," he said. "The current system is a mess, but it's a mess that we've
learned to live with."

The Framework report was produced by the Budget Strategies Committee after
almost two academic years of work on the issue, which began with a charge
from Provost Larry Faulkner in the fall of 1994.

The first year was spent evaluating the need for reform and analyzing
reforms already made or being considered at other schools, in particular at
the universities of Indiana and Michigan. In a report last May, the BSC
concluded that reform was necessary, noting that the current system "does
not cope with the realities we face."

The task for the second year was to develop a model of a reformed budgeting
system tailored to the UI campus, and that is what the Framework report
attempts to do.

Probably the chief concern voiced at the meeting, by opponents, skeptics
and some supporters of the plan, was about the relatively brief period
being allowed for discussion and the speed with which the reforms might be
implemented. Though the reforms would not begin to take effect for more
than a year, and many details remain to be worked out, Faulkner has said
that he wants a sense by mid-summer as to whether the plan is the direction
the campus should take.

"Whatever discussion we're going to have will take place or not take place
within the next few weeks," according to Barrett. "The plan clearly has a
good head of steam behind it," he said, and is not likely to be sidetracked
unless strong opposition develops, and opposition based on broad principles
rather than details.

Barrett made it clear that the UPE had not taken a position for or against
the reforms, but it was opposed to the timing of the report, late in the
academic year, and the brief period allowed for discussion and comment.

"By the time we understand all the implications [of the plan], it will be
too late," he said.

Copies of the budget reform report can be obtained from the provost's
office, in the Swanlund Administration Building. The report and other
background on the budget reform process can also be obtained electronically
at: http://www.uiuc.edu/colleges/provost/reform/reform.htm.

Questions and comments should be referred to Faulkner, Associate Provost
Walter Tousey, or John Braden, chair of the BSC. Technical questions, or
concerns you would like to see addressed by the BSC, should be submitted in
writing.



UIUC -- Inside Illinois -- 1996/04-18-96