August 17, 2023
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Welcome to the new academic year! I hope you had a restful summer and are now ready to welcome over 47,000 students and 280 new faculty who are joining the Cougar family for the first time this fall. To the staff who have joined during the summer, we offer you a warm welcome as well.
Here is a quick update on items of interest to you. If you have any other items of interest that aren’t covered here, please do not hesitate to ask me or your vice president.
Budget Proposal for 2023-24: We will present the University’s budget to the UH System Board of Regents for their approval during the meeting next week. A detailed budget proposal will be posted on the board website prior to the meeting; however, I offer some highlights below.
Change in Revenue Sources: This year’s revenue sources are different from previous years because (a) the legislature has appropriated additional General Revenue funds to offset inflationary pressure in return for freezing undergraduate resident tuition (while this funding is less than the amount requested by university system chancellors, it is something we can be grateful for because it keeps education affordable for students); (b) there is a negative revenue shift for UH because our proportion of statewide enrollment declined during the last biennium; (c) the Legislature earmarked one-time dollars to support the Texas University Fund (TUF) in anticipation of voter approval in November; and (d) we will not be subsidizing athletics to the level we were before as a result of our joining the Big 12 Conference.
Investment in Talent Retention: Our top priority is talent retention, and that is where most of the new general revenue is being invested. It is worth noting that since the pandemic, we have continued to invest in faculty/staff compensation by (a) flexing HR policies to allow supervisors to adjust salaries within their budgets; (b) funding equity compensation to staff for Phase I and Phase II; and (c) allocating merit and promotion raises last year. This has been a difficult exercise and it would not have been possible without everyone’s unwavering support in serving the core mission and moving the University forward.
The budget proposal allocates a 2% merit pool toward all eligible faculty and staff. The pool will be distributed to unit supervisors for further distribution. Funding for salary increases related to promotion and tenure is allocated in the budget.
The budget provides funds to address market equity for faculty (including non-tenure-track) and for Phase III of market equity for staff. As the total amount cannot be absorbed in this year’s budget, the increases are being split over two years. More details will follow from Provost Chase and Senior VP Raymond Bartlett after the board meeting.
The budget funds an increase in minimum wage for hourly staff from $13 to $15 per hour.
Part-time faculty and graduate students are, and have always been, recruited and compensated by departments based on expertise and priorities. UH Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness will assist by providing national and/or state data for each discipline and we strongly encourage colleges and departments to benchmark their numbers against the market and keep compensation competitive. Provost Chase will distribute additional funds to colleges based on their performance on student access and success measures. Colleges are urged to prioritize competitive compensation for part-time faculty and graduate assistants.
Funding Research Plan: We requested the Legislature to fund a $1 billion endowment to support UH’s research plan in support of making the University of Houston a top 50 public university. The Legislature approved the creation of the Texas University Fund (TUF), but we still need voter approval to receive funds from the endowment. The Legislature authorized bridge funding as cash for this year in anticipation that in future years the endowment income will cover the spending. Given this context, we are authorizing the recruitment of 20 research faculty this year. We have also allocated funds for faculty start-ups and Research Core Facilities, as per the research plan. Funding for ASPIRE professors and chairs, where endowments have been completed, is also included in the budget.
Mental Health:The budget includes funding to create a pilot first-year student experience that includes resiliency and mental health awareness. Work on Agnes Arnold Hall, including temporary screening, additional security and a refresh of auditoriums has been completed per the plan. Students have 24/7 access to mental health support providers and we will be enhancing these services beginning in September. CAPS staffing needs have been addressed by ensuring competitive compensation and filling of vacancies. Also, efforts are underway to place counselors in select colleges for easy access to students. You will receive further updates in a communication from Provost Diane Chase, Senior VP Raymond Bartlett and Interim VP Dan Maxwell next week.
In the coming months we will undertake efficiency exercises (academic and administrative) to ensure that we position UH to flourish, considering challenges created by the national trend of declining student enrollments and disruptions generated by the global pandemic.
November Ballot and Constitutional Amendment: We are grateful to the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker and the entire Texas Legislature for giving us a pathway to receive $1 billion in research endowment. As I mentioned earlier, for us to receive this endowment, Texas voters must approve the amendment to create TUF (Texas University Fund) on the November ballot. It is critical that we work diligently between now and November to educate the voters on how and why their approval is beneficial to the state and our collective future. The endowment income will help us recruit additional faculty and build shared research facilities that can help us bring more federal research dollars to the state. Adding faculty will also assist in reducing the student-to-faculty ratio and helps us graduate more students to enhance the state’s talented workforce. Please help us by passing the message in your sphere of influence.
Senate Bill 17 – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: As you likely know, the legislature passed a bill (SB17) relating to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offices and activities on college campuses. Since its passage, VP Dona Cornell has worked with other Texas university systems and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop an initial policy document, which is ready for circulation to the campus community for feedback, as per our process of shared governance before adopting any policy. VP Cornell has also developed answers to questions most frequently raised on the topic. Since the University has to be in full compliance no later than January 1, 2024, University of Houston Institutional Compliance and Ethics will be distributing three documents (policy under review, FAQs, and a copy of SB17) to every unit on campus with the expectation that units will work with their vice presidents and make the needed changes to ensure that we remain true to our mission of providing opportunities to each and every student to learn and graduate while fully complying with the law. We have a similar obligation to our faculty and staff to create a workplace where they can realize their maximum potential.
I ask you to provide your constructive feedback when the policy is posted for review on Monday and to work diligently to comply while adding value to our mission. This policy, in its final form, will be presented to the UH System Board of Regents at their November meeting.
College of Medicine: The Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine has enrolled its fourth class of students and expects to graduate its first class in May of 2024. The seniors have gone through a heroic journey, starting their medical training in the middle of the pandemic. They have proven to be resilient, committed and passionate. Soon these students will be providing health care as doctors and serving the community. On another note, the UH Health Family Care Center, staffed by Fertitta Family College of Medicine faculty, now offers you the convenience of having your primary care doctor on campus.
Athletics and Big 12: On July 1 of this year, the University of Houston joined the Big 12 Conference, which is now a group of 16 strong brand schools. The excitement and anticipation are palpable. Football season tickets have broken all historical records and basketball season tickets are sold out. Houston Cougars open their season on Sept. 2 against UTSA and the first conference game is scheduled for Sept. 16 against TCU.
Again, welcome back! I wish you a very successful semester and a great year. I hope to see you around campus and at different events.Go, Coogs!