As the leaves begin to change their hues and the Major League Baseball playoffs commence, a slightly lesser known sign of fall approaches: the first meeting of the Faculty Budget Advisory Committee, Hopkins' longstanding economic-state-of-the-university forum.
Founded in the 1970s, the FBAC was established to give faculty a vehicle to learn about the financial condition of the university and issues that impact the Johns Hopkins workplace. In past years, committee members have listened to talks from senior level administration on topics that have included endowment, administrative costs, grant management and how faculty salaries at JHU compare to those at peer schools.
The 12-member organization, which represents the eight academic divisions, will hold the first of its fiscal year 2003 quarterly meetings on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Homewood campus.
Frederick Puddester, executive director of budget and financial planning and analysis, says the committee's founding and primary mission is "to give faculty a better understanding of the finances of the university."
"Through their representatives on the committee, the faculty have a voice to bring up areas of concern to the senior administration here," says Puddester, who prepares and monitors the university's budget of nearly $2 billion. "It's pretty open as to what the meetings' agenda items will be. The committee really sets the agenda, whether they want to talk about tuition, faculty salaries, endowment, indirect cost recoveries for research or whatever."
At each FBAC meeting, Puddester and other senior administration present the financial summary that has been submitted to the university's board of trustees; it includes updates on economic indicators such as operating costs, capital projects and divisional budget balances. Meetings also include special presentations requested by the faculty. Last year they were given on divisional faculty salaries and the new Access to Financial Information system, a user-friendly online tool for principal investigators to manage and monitor their research grant accounts.
Committee chair Donald Steinwachs says the FBAC gives faculty an opportunity to look inside the workings of the university and to weigh in on issues that impact the institution.
"As faculty, I think we bring a different perspective and level of insight to the table," says Steinwachs, chairman of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Much of the money that comes into the university relates to faculty research activities. And we are the ones, to varying degrees, involved with the day-to-day education of Hopkins students. So I think we can provide suggestions and insights that the administration might not have thought about in the same way."
Steinwachs says one "vital function" of the FBAC is to link faculty from across the divisions, bringing together individuals who might not otherwise meet.
"There are many things we can learn from each other: what works, what doesn't and what might need fixing," he says.
This will be Steinwachs' second consecutive year heading the committee. A Hopkins faculty member since 1973, he previously served as chair for a period in the 1990s. As a committee member, Steinwachs says, it's his job to communicate to his Bloomberg School colleagues all the information he gathers at each meeting, and to periodically take the pulse of the faculty to gauge their concerns.
According to Steinwachs, items on this year's agenda will likely include faculty salary structure and the impact of major investments in new campus facilities and classroom technology.
Steinwachs says there is some concern among the faculty that taking on additional debt could negatively impact the university long term.
"On the salary issue, we are trying to assess how competitive Hopkins is by comparing data from other universities and also all the divisions. For instance, we'll compare what the salary is for an economist at Homewood, an economist at SAIS and an economist at Public Health," he says. "Generally speaking, the committee is concerned with the quality of our work life and the quality of a Hopkins education, and how the university uses its available resources to better both."
Steinwachs says that despite its long history, the FBAC "may be too-well-kept a secret." He says he welcomes suggestions and ideas from faculty, staff and students, and encourages them to contact their divisional committee representative.
The 2002-2003 FBAC members are Donald Steinwachs and Noel Rose, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Craig Townsend and Peyton Young, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; Kevin Hemker and Michael Paulaitis, Whiting School of Engineering; Jeremy M. Berg and Gabor Kelen, School of Medicine; Karen Huss, School of Nursing; Roger Brunyate, Peabody Institute; Sheldon Greenberg, School of Professional Studies in Business and Education; and Gordon Bodnar, School of Advanced International Studies.
For more information on the Faculty Budget Advisory Committee, and to view minutes of previous meetings, go to www.jhu.edu/news_info/faculty_budget.