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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Faculty senate discusses legislative issues

The UA Faculty Senate met Monday afternoon for the second senate meeting of the fall semester.

President Hart focused her time in front of the senate on the university and the regents’ legislative request to the state of Arizona.

Hart said that the regents will be asking for $24 million budget restoration—that number reflecting the difference between the $74.4 million in cuts proposed by Gov. Doug Ducey and the actual $104 million in cuts that was enacted by the state Legislature.

“[The requested $24 million] has no importance other than symbolic—that we want to start restoring those cuts, and, as a number, I believe that it sort of lays in reference to the governor as in, ‘Come on, even in your first budget you didn’t talk about a cut that was any bigger than $75 [million],’ ” Hart said.

Hart said this is the first in a series of steps for reattaining funding for public higher education.

Hart then outlined the regents’ efforts to eliminate state’s policy of “sweeping” tuition to manage the Arizona Treasury and then re-appropriating it back to the universities during the annual budgetary appropriation.

While the universities are appropriated the majority of their students’ tuition dollars every year, the state does keep a portion for itself.

“We would like to be able to have—in order to save money and manage our face cash on hand—the dollars our students and their families actually pay,” Hart said.

On justifying the financial request, Hart challenged the state Legislature to uphold its obligations to public education as defined by the constitution.

“We are asking, not for a particularly revolutionary level of support from the state, but for a constitutionally grounded investment by the state of Arizona in its higher education for its citizens,” Hart said. “We are asking that the state and the governor commit to be 50 percent partners with entrepreneurial universities that seek other sources of funding and support.”

In an open comments section following Hart’s address, Cheryl Cuillier, an assistant librarian for the University Libraries, challenged the regents and the university to change its health insurance policy to cover transgender employees—a minority group that is currently excluded from university insurance.

“Every single plan available to UA employees has a specific exclusion for health benefits for transgender services, and that denial of coverage affects not only transgender faculty, but also employees’ spouses and dependents,” Cuillier said.

Cuillier asked that the regents include transgender employees in the regulatory reform initiative currently in the process of being proposed to the state Legislature.

The initiative would make the university system independent from the state’s health care plan, If passed, the reform initiative would not take effect until after 2020, when the state’s health care contract is up for renewal.

Cuillier suggested that, until the reform initiative is passed, the university either provide a rider to its insurance or a secondary policy covering transgender employees.

Other primary topics on the agenda included reports from Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Andrew C. Comrie followed by President Ann Weaver Hart, as well as a handful of informational sessions and open discussions with members of the audience. The meeting concluded with a presentation and Q&A session by Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein.

Comrie’s report began by outlining the accomplishments that the university has achieved in the recent months. He focused on the university’s addition of two new buildings—the newly constructed Environment and Natural Resources 2 building and the recent acquisition of a new location in Oro Valley that will house classrooms for veterinary sciences.

Comrie outlined efforts that had been made to improve the pay of non-tenure track faculty at the university. First, by revisiting salary increases for faculty that had already been made within the English department, then by pointing to new efforts that had very recently been made within the College of Humanities.

“I’m happy to say that we’ve raised the salaries of 32 non-tenure track faculty members across four departments in [the College of] Humanities,” Comrie said.

The meeting ended with a presentation from Klein, recapping to the senate the initiatives and proposals passed at the recent board meeting in Flagstaff.Follow Sam Gross on Twitter.


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