Faculty Senate passes motion asking UB Foundation to make budget public

On December 3, 2013

  • Senator Martha McCluskey, a law professor, supports the Faculty Senate’s push to request administration make the UB Foundation’s budget public. “As faculty, I believe it’s our mission to oversee the academic mission of this university,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting. Aline Kobayashi, The Spectrum

The Faculty Senate has passed a motion requesting UB administration make the UB Foundation's budget public - something the non-profit, private organization, which handles the millions of dollars in donations UB receives annually, is not legally required to do.

At Tuesday afternoon's meeting, 38 senators physically stood up in support of the motion. Seventeen senators voted against the proposal, which calls for administration to treat UBF's budget as it does UB's general budget - subject to Freedom of Information requests and open to the public.

UB administration has yet to make a decision regarding the motion, according to a university statement. The university will review and consider the resolution after it is formally presented to the president; a formal response will be provided to the Senate after "careful consideration of the resolution," according to the statement. 

Senator Kenneth Dauber, the English professor who made the proposal, expects administration to respond "positively to the request." He said there is nothing in any law that requires UBF to keep its books closed and the university "may claim the right" to deny the Senate's request and "they may or may not have that right." He feels there is no reason UB wouldn't "accede to the request."

"It's to put the funding, the budgeting of the associated groups that are really operating as arms of the university, in the same category for the purposes of disclosure," he said.

In 2011, Buffalo newsweekly Artvoice took UBF to court. The publication wanted to make the private organization subject to FOIL because it's part of a public university. Artvoice lost the case.

"There can be serious deliberation about the future of the university, what areas should receive priority funding, which should receive less funding, but based on solid information that everybody has available," said Dauber, following the motion's passage. "I think it's good for students. It's good for faculty. It's good for administration. It's good for the citizens of New York State."

Those who supported the motion say they promote "transparency" and want to oversee how the donated funds are spent within the university. UBF has a "size" of about $1 billion, according to a Q&A session held by UBF director Edward Schneider at a previous Senate meeting Oct. 1.

Tuesday's meeting was the first Senate meeting this semester - and since at least 2007 - where enough faculty senators were present to have quorum and vote on a motion.

At the November meeting, only 37 members were present - 14 short of what was required to vote when Dauber first presented his motion.

Some of the 17 senators who opposed the motion questioned its necessity and purpose; some felt the motion wasn't clear in what it was requesting.

Senator Robert Wetherhold, a professor of mechanical engineering, said he felt unsure about what problem the motion aims to solve and he was uncertain if UBF has a duty to respond to the request.

He was concerned about the volume of information being asked for and said it may not be appropriate to put before the public.

"It seems like you're waiting for problems," he told the crowd.

Dauber responded to the concerns of if there is truly a "problem" present by saying it would be useful for faculty to be aware of, especially if they're unable to get funds to, for example, hire someone in their department. He said faculty need to know "if there's no money because there's no money or because money is being allocated to other things which are perhaps not a priority we would approve of."

Senator Donald Grinde, a transnational studies professor who also serves as a SUNY Statewide Academic Senator, said that members of the SUNY Research Foundation are pushing schools to be "as transparent as possible" and that other schools operate with public foundations.

Senator Martha McCluskey, a law professor, suggested a committee be in charge of pursuing further action after a response comes from the university.

The Faculty Senate will not meet again until Jan. 29.


email: news@ubspectrum.com

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