On Oct. 11, President Scott Gordon announced the Board of Regents’ implementation of the newly formed University Financial Council in an email sent to all SFA students.
This council was first announced after the Sept. 12 Board of Regents meeting in the wake of Faculty Senate meetings concerning the University’s operating budget.
It is made up of 13 members, including the Director of Athletics Ryan Ivey, Faculty Senate Representative Chris McKenna, Provost Lorenzo Smith, and is chaired by current Board of Regents member Robert Flores. The Council is meant to last for only one year and covers several principal objectives.
The Pine Log reached out to Council Chair Robert Flores, who declined the invitation to interview.
In the recent email, Board of Regents Chair Karen Gantt said the purpose of the council is to “evaluate matters and issues related to increasing communication and understanding of university financial reports and budgets.”
The email also lists more specific goals, including making budget documents more easily accessible to the campus community and reviewing the operating budget to recommend areas for review. Additionally, this council exists in a “purely advisory capacity.”
“The [University Financial Council] largely represents a data validation and process improvement initiative, one tied to the external audit, too,” Faculty Senate Representative Chris McKenna said in a statement to The Pine Log.
McKenna also said the Council “exists to take a hard look at the data using many of the most experienced finance staffers on campus.”
The University has previously stated its goals for more transparency as it pertains to budget accusations made in recent months by faculty members and students alike. According to McKenna, the Council was not “requested by the faculty, [but] the results of its work should benefit the larger university community.”
While the Council will be reviewing the budget, its primary function is accessibility.
“The objective here is really to create a budget and documents and processes that are more accessible to the general public,” Chief Marketing Communications Officer Graham Garner said. “There’s a lot of our processes and our budget documents that are technical that require some greater understanding of accounting to really be able to understand [the documents].”
This move to increase not just access but understanding of budgetary documents is part of the administration’s plan to increase transparency with the community. In this respect, the University Financial Council seeks to look back with the purpose of looking forward.
“[We] have to look back at how things have been done, what’s worked,” Garner said. “What could be improved upon? That helps us determine what the path forward is going to be.”
The budget issue before the Council has been highly publicized in the last few months. While the Council will be tackling the budget, much of the actual monetary issues fall outside of their charge and under the purview of the University Budget Council.
“The UFC and the UBC have some related jobs, but they have some different charges,” Garner said. “The budget is incredibly complex…The UFC wants to make sure students are aware of the process. They want to make sure they understand what the decisions mean, and that they have access to that information. The UBC wants to make sure that the priorities are interpreted in a way that benefits students.”
For more information, students can watch livestreamed Board of Regents meetings or get involved with the Board by applying for the Student Regent position, applications for which are currently open.