By Amelia Orwick
UK President Eli Capilouto addressed the University Senate Council in a meeting that lasted almost three hours on Monday.
The meeting was called in response to a critical memorandum the Senate sent to Capilouto last week.
Capilouto opened the meeting with a 30-minute presentation that discussed university goals and challenges, which was followed by a two-hour question-and-answer session.
The presentation focused on UK’s vision of becoming a “first choice” university.
Capilouto articulated a vision of being the first choice for students, research and service, and health care, UK spokesman Jay Blanton said.
In turning this vision to reality, the university faces several pressures, including financial and competitive forces.
Among the major issues addressed was a controversial university policy that has been around since the 1970s, which many were unaware of until recently.
According to a story by the Lexington Herald-Leader, UK pays 15 percent of administrators’ salaries directly into their retirement accounts. For other employees, UK matches a five percent retirement contribution with a 10 percent allocation, the Herald-Leader found using documents obtained through the state Open Records Act.
During the meeting, Capilouto pledged to put an end to the policy for future administrators, but he is keeping the policy for administrators who have always received the benefit.
“It was not widely known this policy was in effect, and I’m glad he’s making strides to minimize its effects on the budget,” University Senate Council Chair Lee Blonder told the Herald-Leader.
Capilouto also discussed budget concerns expressed by the Senate in its memo.
Since 2007, UK has had about $50 million in recurring budget cuts, Blanton said.
In addition to the significant decrease in funding from state, federal funding for research is likely to be flat or decline in coming years.
In its memo, the Senate expressed concern about the university’s financial issues and the new budget plan.
Bob Grossman, the senate’s vice chair, was pleased to hear that no final decisions have been made about the budget, despite what has been rumored.
“They will be making adjustments to decrease the cuts for those units and programs that they are feel are most important for achieving (university) goals,” Grossman said.
The presentation also addressed online education, which Capilouto believes presents both a challenge and an opportunity for UK.
The University of Phoenix has offered online education for several years, and now institutions such as Harvard are exploring the idea further.
Now university officials are deciding how to allocate their time and resources to grow online education at UK.
University Senate Council members had different reactions to the meeting.
Although they don’t all agree on the paths being taken, they can agree on making UK the best institution it can be, Blanton said.
“This was an extraordinary meeting in response to the memo,” Grossman said. “I’m hoping we don’t need to have meetings like this often.”
In response to complaints about his lack of transparency, Capilouto has agreed to attend more Senate meetings, all of which are open.
“The president’s take was that it was a good, thorough and robust discussion,” Blanton said. “It needs to happen at an institution that is vibrant and is moving forward during this challenging time.”