Record number of faculty pass five motions in Council of the Whole meeting


Eric Henry

Students walk around a mostly empty campus during the pandemic.

DePaul faculty discussed ongoing concerns including budgetary restraints, faculty roles and responsibilities in shared governance and curriculum development during a Council of the Whole meeting on Sept. 17.

The Council of the Whole is a special type of faculty meeting where DePaul faculty discussed and passed five motions relating to ongoing faculty concerns and addressed other priority topic areas.

578 faculty attended the meeting, including more than half of DePaul’s 874 full-time faculty members — a large attendance for the unprecedented event.

Faculty convened over serious concerns with President A. Gabriel Esteban’s leadership and the Board of Trustees. Esteban prevented the Board of Trustees Finance Committee from considering an initial proposed budget that was unanimously approved by the Strategic Resource Allocation Committee (SRAC) — the representative body of faculty charged with proposing DePaul’s annual budget.

Instead, Esteban presented SRAC’s second, more financially restrictive budget to the board. While the secondary budget was also unanimously approved by SRAC, it was not their preferred recommendation.

The Board of Trustees Finance Committee rejected SRAC’s second more restrictive budget, and approved their own even more austere budget. While the board has the authority to make budget changes, they did not consult SRAC before doing so — an unusual practice.

The Finance Committee made drastic changes to the budget without considering all the issues raised by SRAC. The Board’s two-year budget includes tuition increases, hiring freezes, continued salary freezes, decreases in funding for academics and research  and underrepresentation of donor gifts and grants — which forces faculty, staff and administrators to do more with less. According to a faculty council press release, this drastically limits “students’ access to a fully world-class education at DePaul.”

“The board’s budgeting priorities outlined in its imposed budget will seriously damage the academic mission of the University which is to deliver high quality education to best prepare all DePaul students for the future,” the release reads.

The Board’s budget also reestablished DePaul’s unusual return to principal practice, which directs a large portion of endowment earnings back to the endowment, instead of reinvesting it in university operations. According to the press release, this practice has helped DePaul’s endowment grow from $420 million in 2016 to $966 million today, while consistently underfunding the school’s academic programs. DePaul anticipates the endowment will surpass $1 billion by the end of next academic year.

“Repealing the arbitrary Return-to-Principal practice would provide the necessary additional funds to the annual budget essential to reinvesting in the educational enterprise,” the release adds.

Straying from DePaul’s shared decision-making process concerns faculty who provide input in maintaining the university’s academic and Vincentian success. According to Faculty Council, the lack of shared governance threatens the University’s long-term academic excellence, trust in leadership and ability to retain premier faculty.

The Council of the Whole discussed the breakdown in shared governance and its implications for DePaul. Faculty also overwhelmingly passed five proposed motions, which must be ratified by a majority of 438 full-time faculty by the final vote on Oct. 4.