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McBee Scholars Comment on Faculty Involvement in Budget Decisions

Faculty in finance

Members of the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education community, Karley Riffe (McBee Ph.D.) and Sondra Barringer and Brendan Cantwell (former postdocs at McBee) provide perspectives on faculty involvement in university financial decisions in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “The Rise of Faculty Budget Activists.”

The article, by Megan Zahneis, explores increased faculty interest and participation in budgetary issues and university finances.

Riffe, Cantwell, and Barringer offer guidance to faculty members who would like to be more involved in fiscal decisions and budget tracking at their institutions. She recommends that faculty members start small and local, at department-level budgets where the decisions can feel “more immediate,” and faculty more directly understand the impact of financial decisions on their students. 

Riffe cautions that diving into budget reviews is time-consuming and tedious. “What’s being lost by these faculty spending their time on these financial issues when they could be meeting with students, when they could be grading assignments, when they could be contributing to research?” she asked.

Barringer, likewise, recommends that faculty build their knowledge and credentials by serving on college financial committees or boards and reaching out to colleagues who study higher education policy or work in accounting or finance. 

More faculty involvement in institutional finance is not only likely but healthy, said Barringer. But with that involvement, she cautioned, comes responsibility. Barringer advises, “If they want to come to the table and have a voice in those decisions about program closures, then that means they may have to close programs, and that may not be something that everyone likes.”

Cantwell also notes the complexity of university finances and limitations to moving funds between budgets or even lines. He speculates that there might not be “a complete understanding by anybody at the university exactly what it costs to produce something and exactly where the revenue comes to support that cost.”

Cantwell encourages faculty groups to be involved in ongoing and meaningful ways before crises. To develop informed budgetary advocates on campuses, governance groups should support general faculty awareness of institutional fiscal health. Cantwell advises that faculty forays into financial affairs must be “less reactive and more sustained.” 

Read the Chronicle article at: 


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PhD, 2018
Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Associate, 2013-2016
Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2011-2012

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