April 6, 2007
Arkansas State University Jonesboro

Welcome to a new month! The end of the semester is rapidly approaching. I hope each of you had an enjoyable Spring break. I spent most of mine on an accrediting trip to the College of Law at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. This was my first site visit for an accrediting group in almost three years, and reminded me again of how important and successful the American peer review system of quality assurance in higher education has been during its more than 120 years of existence. As we approach our focused site visit on shared governance and strategic planning from a two-person team from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association next spring, I want to devote a major portion of a future issue of First Friday to the accrediting process and how important it is to us here on this campus.

Legislative Results
The Arkansas Legislative Assembly concluded its 2007 Regular Session last Tuesday, April 3, except for a short meeting in May to address housekeeping issues.  Analysis of the bills passed and sent to the Governor affecting our campus and the ASU System indicates the following:

  • General Revenue funds appropriations for operations for ASU-Jonesboro, the System Office, and the Marked Tree campus for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, 2007, are $54,049,588 in Category A, and $3,550,234 in Category B. Total amount is $57,599,822 or an increase of $4,346,197 over FY07 for all three budgets.
  • The second year of the biennium will see an increase of an additional $2,126,700 for all three entities, although $4,865,053 still appears in Category B. This will require cautious budgeting unless and until Category B funds appear in Category A as the result of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration staff tax collection projections.
  • Education Excellence Trust funds are expected to decline somewhat with the reduction of the grocery tax. No specific amounts for the decline can be predicted at this time. Consequently, the university also must be cautious concerning the budgeting of Education Excellence funds.
  • General Improvement One-Time Funds were appropriated and funded for ASU-Jonesboro as follows:
    • $100,000 for critical maintenance;
    • $1,314,429 support for ASU Museum Projects around the State: Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, Lakeport Plantation, and heritage programs at Jonesboro. These amounts may be used to support the current operational needs for the museum functions and thus will free up money used for these functions in the current E & G (educational and general) budget for other uses on the ASU-Jonesboro campus;
    • $250,000 for renovation, equipment and other costs of the Distance Learning Laboratory;
    • $16 million for Wilson Hall Replacement Building. This amount has been appropriated, but not funded. However, we are further along than we have ever been before on this project. It has been authorized by the Legislature, and the possibility that the Governor will fund at least a portion of it this biennium still exits; and
    • $2 million for critical maintenance, which also has been appropriated but not funded.
  • Longevity annual bonuses have been increased $300 for each category as follows:
    • 10 to 14 years increased to $600;
    • 15 to 19 years increased to $700;
    • 20 to 24 years increased to $800; and
    • 25 years and above increased to $900.
  • Salary increases for classified staff are 2% COLA (cost of living adjustment) and are included in Category A funding.
  • In addition to authorized institutional funding, the Legislature also approved funding for need-based scholarships and other student funding programs, support for Accelerate Arkansas (which may financially support ASU-Jonesboro projects), and the ADTEC program in which ASU-Jonesboro will likely provide instruction which will boost our credit hour production and thus help to produce more funding in 2009.

We are very grateful for the money that will be flowing to our campus from the state over the next two years.  However, given the size of the state surplus and the compelling nature of our needs, we hoped for more. Our University Planning Committee and Executive Council will have significant challenges in setting the budget parameters for the next fiscal year, recommending fair and appropriate tuition and fee increases, and making adequate and balanced allocations among the various campus departments and divisions, as well as making recommendations for compensation increases.  This work will provide the basis for our fiscal 2008 budget recommendations to the President and Board of Trustees for the June 1, 2007, meeting.

Faculty Handbook Revisions
I am very pleased to report that this afternoon, April 6, Professor Julie Isaacson and I will present to the Faculty Senate for consideration a redrafted Foreword and amended shared governance sections of the Faculty Handbook. Participating in the drafting of these changes were the members of the Academic Governance Oversight Committee, the members of the Institutional Governance Oversight Committee, and an ad hoc drafting group consisting of Susan Allen, Mitch Holifield, Julie Isaacson, Glen Jones, Lucinda McDaniel, Mike McDaniel, and me. We believe that these changes, if adopted, will address many of the issues dividing the faculty and administration regarding the Handbook and will provide an effective vehicle, through a new Faculty Handbook Committee, for recommending other changes in the future. I express my deepest thanks to all who worked on this project for the many hours that were expended discussing the changes, and the civility and goodwill evident throughout the process.

Commencement is May 5
We hope you will be able to attend the Spring Commencement Ceremonies on Saturday, May 5.  Governor Mike Beebe, a 1968 alumnus, will be the commencement speaker.  Approximately 1,000 students are candidates for degrees at the graduate and undergraduate levels.


Robert L. Potts

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