Home Campus Faculty Senators voice financial policy frustration with Ohio U administration

Faculty Senators voice financial policy frustration with Ohio U administration

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Faculty senate gathers for their monthly meeting. Photo by Jordan Ellis.

Faculty Senators expressed frustration with current Ohio University policy, which limits faculty members’ ability to use purchase cards, during Monday night’s virtual Senate meeting. 

A proposed resolution to allow faculty members increased freedom to use purchase cards, or “p-cards” as they are commonly referred to, precipitated discussion of Ohio U’s finances.

In business, p-cards are used to pay for goods and services in business-to-business transactions using the organization’s credit structure, which makes it easier to track expenses while also streamlining transactions.

Many senators supported the resolution, which outlined items that faculty members could spend funds on without needing pre-approval, such as travel-related expenses. Others raised concern regarding potential abuse of such a policy, but many stressed the need for more financial freedom. 

Senator Bill Reader criticized concern of abusing the policy.

“I’ve heard this ‘How can we trust faculty not to abuse things?’, which is ironic coming from an administration, an executive administration, that seems to treat the entire university budget as a personal pcard for all kinds of outrageous expenses,” Reader said. 

He described a circumstance in which he made a hardware purchase that cost more money by following the Ohio U policy rather than purchasing from a vendor of his choice.

“The financial people are starting from a position of ‘no.’ They should be starting from a position of, ‘Yes, let’s see if we can make that happen,’” Reader said.

Senators stressed the need for equity in who is allowed to spend funds across Ohio U. Some Ohio U colleges have chosen to suspend pcards, while in others, certain faculty members are able to retain their pcards.

“We should all be given the respect to have pcards, if any college, such as communication, is given that respect to spend their money well and wisely,” Senator Ben Bates said.

Faculty members have had to spend their own money on travel expenses and annual membership fees to various scholastic organizations because they were not given access to university funds in an expedient manner. 

Supporters of increased access to pcards said that the resolution would only restore privileges that were previously revoked from faculty.

Senators were also unsatisfied with written responses from a series of questions submitted to Deborah Schaffer, Ohio U’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration. 

Bates was critical of Shaffer’s responses, describing the document as a list of links that did not clearly affirm any values that weigh against financial decision making at Ohio U. 

“The responses that were provided occur to me to be nonresponsive and pretty vacuous,” Bates said. 

Ohio U President Duane Nellis defended Schaffer’s responses, saying that they were made in good faith. He also said Shaffer’s responses demonstrate that Ohio U is governed by a guiding set of moral principles in addition to financial responsibilities. 

“I think that the responses that are provided through Senior Vice President Schaffer … provide a lot of detail and weren’t meant to be in any way superfluous or in some way out of context,” Nellis said.

Ohio U Provost Elizabeth Sayrs said Shaffer’s responses are part of a continuing dialogue between faculty and administrators. 

“That’s something that I think is really important to work out, so we come to the same kind of understanding about what our mission is and what our values are, and what those same basic facts are,” Sayrs said. “Let’s keep talking about those until we have the same basis for our questions and answers.”

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