Urbana-Champaign Senate members ratified a statement and resolution on the furlough policy and cost-cutting measures during a special meeting Jan. 25.
Senators also discussed their ideas on long-term savings and revenue-generating solutions for the university's current fiscal crisis.
Senate Chair Joyce Tolliver read the statement, which acknowledged the need for cost cutting and pay reductions, and also stated that faculty members' responsibility to students should remain "paramount."
"Our current difficulties must not be allowed to compromise the good-faith relationship between (students) and the university," the statement read.
Finally, the statement encouraged UI leaders to impress upon state leaders the need for the state to generate adequate revenue so the university can continue its mission of education, research and outreach.
The senate resolution implores leaders to streamline administrative costs and not create an undue burden on faculty members to report or gain approval for furlough days. It also states UI faculty and staff members should clearly communicate the furlough consequences even when faculty members avoid taking them on teaching days.
It also says both the public and legislature "be educated of the need for a rational tax policy and university appropriations that recognize the vital contribution made by the university to the state, so that parents and students can afford and access the high-quality education that a truly great public university is designed to provide. ... "
After the statement and resolution were ratified with a few changes to the language, senate members talked about the need for cost reduction and their thoughts on what might be necessary in the future.
The furloughs, Tolliver said, as burdensome as they are, are only a symptom of a larger issue with cash-flow problems in the state.
Several members discussed the problem of ever-lowering state appropriations that place a higher and higher financial burden on students. If public higher education is to continue, the state must come up with permanent ways to fund it, they said.
Chancellor and Provost Bob Easter said the decisions the university makes as it goes through the current situation will determine what the future holds.
Much of that success will depend on being open about the process, added Easter, who is serving on an interim basis.
It's apparent to most people at this point that the fiscal crisis will require staff reduction, he said. "We're going to have to become smaller."
The process will begin with voluntary separation and retirement incentive programs, which were formally announced this week. The programs allow qualifying employees a chance to leave the university with a 50 percent payout of their current annual salary, with a $75,000 limit. (See story, page 1.)
Meanwhile, although the university would prefer the impact on students to remain as small as possible, faculty members do have the "right and freedom" to take furlough days on days when their classes are scheduled, said President Stanley O. Ikenberry, who is serving on an interim basis.
Senate members soon began a discussion on how the UI might begin examining its funding sources.
Douglas McDonald, a professor of chemistry, noted that as the state's contribution to higher education gets smaller every year, the university will have to come up with funding sources separate from undependable state appropriations. The keys to doing this are tuition increases and increases in endowment, he said.
George Francis, a professor of mathematics, said the state's lack of funding continues to put a larger burden on parents.
If the trend continues, at some point the UI stops being a public university, he said.
Several senate members discussed how raising out-of-state tuition could better the university's financial outlook.
Someone suggested recruiting from other Big Ten Conference schools. Another person rebutted the idea, saying that more students from Illinois opt to attend other Big Ten schools in surrounding states.
Ikenberry said that the current financial problems shouldn't cause the university to stray from its mission of serving the people of Illinois.
"We should be reluctant to walk away from the families and communities we serve," he said.
But in the meantime, he added, the university should be communicating to those families exactly what is at stake if the state's funding continues "not to be in command of its expenditures or revenues."
Scott Jacobs, a professor of communication, suggested that perhaps getting the public's attention requires more visible efforts. "I think we should look at more dramatic ways," he said.
He suggested the way to get everyone's attention about the furlough and cash crises would be to completely shut down the university for a day.
Another professor suggested using such a day as opportunities for public engagement through measures such as teach-ins.
Some suggested grandfathering out academic programs that don't serve enough students.
Ikenberry said although there are no easy answers, much of the solution will lie in communicating to elected officials the need for a reliable payment schedule while alerting the public of what dangers lie ahead if the state's appropriations cuts continue.
"You can't budget cut your way out," he said.