As a long-time member of CESF (Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty), I was most interested in the exchange of letters between Prof. Martin Gold (chair of AAUP) and yourself (The University Record, Sept. 5 and 11, respectively). At this time, I would like to take the liberty of commenting on this exchange in an open letter to be sent also to The University Record.
I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of the role played by CESF respective to University decisions on actions impacting on the economic well-being of the faculty, such as flexible benefits, new pay, and VCM (value centered management). In each instance, I have been able to rely on CESF meeting minutes for verification.
With respect to flexible benefits, CESF was not briefed concerning administration decisions until April 17 (by Ms. Bonnie Weber), despite repeated earlier CESF requests for information. Since CESF reported to the Regents on April 21, and comments on flexible benefits were due at the Provosts Office no later than May 1, it was clear that it was far too late for any CESF participation in flexible benefit decisions. A similar time frame for CESF inputs was applicable at the inception of flexible benefits; the specific plan was unveiled only a few days before the deadline for comments. An emergency CESF meeting was quickly called, but the impending deadline negated the possibility of any meaningful input into the plan.
As for new pay, CESF members heard of the relevant committee almost inadvertently; its report was obtained only with some difficulty. Finally, the knowledge CESF had of VCM was gleaned solely from The University Record; providing input was neither requested nor feasible.
Indeed, in its April 1995 Regents Communication, CESF declined to make recommendations on salary or fringe benefits, stating that there had been . . . no substantive administration consultation with CESF on these [i.e., the above] matters; worse, CESF has been informed of decisions only after they have been made. In no case has CESF been advised of the economic implications of these decisions related to faculty compensation.
As you noted, faculty members were appointed by the administration to serve on the Flexible Benefits Committee. On the other hand, CESF members are appointed by SACUA, which acts for the faculty through the democratically elected Senate Assembly. In other words, CESF truly represents the faculty in matters related to its economic status.
Since CESF is concerned with the overall economic status of the faculty, CESF can consider trade-offs that lie beyond the purview of committees concerned with specific programs. Hence, CESF can propose priorities that reflect faculty sentiment. This is yet another reason why substantive collaboration between CESF and the administration would be mutually beneficial.
I am pleased to learn that you have asked Ms. McClain to meet with CESF, and that you are intent on seeking more faculty input. As a member of CESF, I appreciate the opportunity of working more closely with the administration on economic matters that impact the faculty.
Frederick J. Beutler, professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science