Web site to follow UI's future financial decisions

Web site to follow UI's future financial decisions

RBANA – With furloughs a reality and other budget cuts looming, anxious University of Illinois employees say they want more information about the UI's financial decisions.

Several committees have been created to help administrators decide how to allocate shrinking resources, but some faculty members say they don't know much about that process or where to go with suggestions.

The UI's Urbana-Champaign campus is creating a Web site to provide information about the budget review and give students, faculty and staff a chance for input. The idea is to create a central place where people can find out as much as they'd like about the decisions being made and how to get involved, UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.

Called "Stewarding Excellence at Illinois," the Web site should be launched by the end of next week, she said Friday. The exact Web address hasn't been chosen, but it will be linked to the UI's home page, www.illinois.edu.

It will include:

– A organizational chart of the committees making budget decisions, along with thumbnail photos and e-mail addresses of the members.

– A list of the guiding principles behind the budget process.

– A timetable for decision-making and a calendar of meetings by various committees or academic groups, so that faculty members can attend if desired.

– An archive of all communications and documents sent out regarding the budget-review process.

– A "Frequently Asked Questions" section with answers to common questions.

– A virtual suggestion box. An idea can be submitted anonymously, in case an employee is uncomfortable sharing it with a supervisor, or by name if a person wants a reply, Kaler said.

– A page with links to helpful data, resources on campus, and how the UI's peer institutions are coping with budget problems.

– A calculator so employees can determine how furloughs will affect their paychecks.

"What we're trying to do is put in as many useful resources in one place as we can," Kaler said.

Users can also subscribe to an RSS feed to get e-mail updates when something new is posted to the site, she said.

The budget review began in fiscal 2009 and continued into this year, with departments being asked last month to prepare for potential cuts of 7 to 10 percent. The university then announced Jan. 5 that 11,000 employees would have to take four to 10 unpaid days off between now and June 30, to save $17 million.

At a meeting Friday of the faculty-student senate's Executive Committee, several professors raised concerns about faculty involvement in those decisions.

Professor Nicholas Burbules said the senate budget committee has been frequently consulted, and the campus created an ad hoc budget committee, which includes faculty, to review the "nuts and bolts" of specific proposals.

Other professors said many faculty aren't aware of those efforts and agreed with Burbules that more "transparency, publicity and clear lines of input" are needed. Too often, "misinformation can result when people think they know what's going on," he said.

Kaler hopes the Web site can address those concerns.

"We'll do our very best to make sure people know about it and know how to use it," she said.

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