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UB task force questioned spending patterns

The University of Baltimore ranked second in institutional support discretionary spending among University System of Maryland schools but ninth out of 11 in spending on instruction and academic support in fiscal year 2010, according to a faculty report.

The findings, released in February by the University of Baltimore Faculty Senate, show questions over how the university distributes revenue existed before being raised in an American Bar Association Accreditation Committee report issued last week that led to the resignation of law school Dean Phillip J. Closius.

“The comparative figure was a concern,” Odeana R. Neal, president of the faculty senate, said Thursday afternoon. “While we understand everyone is growing administratively, we seem to be growing more rapidly than other institutions.”

Peter Toran, the university’s vice president for planning and external relations, wrote in an email Thursday afternoon that UB is unique in the university system because it has a majority of graduate students and almost half of all its students attend part-time.

“Because of this, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison and therefore doesn’t accurately reflect expenditures,” he said.

Both Toran and Neal said the administration and faculty are working together to increase budget transparency. The ABA accreditation committee has asked the university to submit a report by March with a more detailed explanation for the law school’s contributions to the university, which university President Robert L. Bogomolny has previously said he would provide.

Closius, in a letter announcing his resignation, said the university keeps about 45 percent of the revenue generated by the law school’s tuition, fees and state subsidies. Bogomolny, a day later, responded that said Closius’ figures failed to reflect “costs related to the law school’s regular operations.” After allocating such costs, Bogomolny said, the university kept less than 14 percent of law school revenue in fiscal 2010.

Neal, an associate professor at the law school, said the dispute between Closius and Bogomolny makes the need for budget transparency “more apparent.”

“The gap between what the president says and what the former dean says is pretty huge,” Neal said. “It would be nice for everyone to sit down and review the numbers.”

Uneven growth

The law school’s budget and contributions to the university were not the focus of the faculty senate’s Select Task Force on Budget Trends, which spent almost two months studying the university’s finances before issuing its report at the end of February.

The task force looked at the numbers from fiscal 2004 to 2010, a period that included the university’s transition to a four-year undergraduate school in fall 2007. It compared spending in four areas: instruction; academic support, which includes libraries and deans’ offices; student services; and institutional support, which includes the provost’s office.

Between 2004 and 2010, student enrollment at UB grew at three times the rate of teaching faculty, according to the report. During that same period, spending on institutional support increased 81.1 percent, while spending on instruction and academic support increased 37.4 percent.

The senate report also found that for fiscal 2010, the university used 27.6 percent of its discretionary funds on institutional support, second only to Coppin State’s 30 percent in the university system. The median spent was 20.4 percent.

For that same year, UB used a combined 60.7 percent of its discretionary spending on instruction and academic support. The university system median was 73.2 percent, with the University of Maryland, College Park topping the list at 79.1 percent.

Neal pointed out university faculties across the country are concerned about administrative growth and are engaged in “ongoing fights” for more faculty hires.

“The things we think are unique to our institution are not,” she said.

Setting priorities

Bogomolny attended faculty senate meetings in the spring after the report was issued, according to minutes from the meetings. In April, the two sides agreed there was “disagreements over the budget and numbers.”

“However, it was resolved that the real issue for faculty is the desire to have a stronger voice in priority setting,” the minutes say. “President Bogomolny would like to see a shared governance summit happen quickly and offered to support such an endeavor.”

Toran said the administration plans to update the community at the start of the school year on steps already taken in response to reports by the senate and UB University Council, the university’s central policy-recommending body.

Bogomolny has already begun addressing the faculty’s staffing concern, approving funding this year for nine new faculty members as “part of a commitment” to add 40 faculty members in the next six years, Toran wrote.