University vs. Faculty Clash Over Financial Analysis – Marquette Wire

A quick look at the staff profile of Eastern Michigan University accounting professor Howard Bunsis shows accolades such as a doctorate from the University of Chicago and the 2002 Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award. of the EMU. Bunsis, who in the past has served as a lawyer and certified public accountant, is no stranger to delving into the details of a group’s finances.

Recently, however, Bunsis has performed financial analyzes of institutions across the country, including the University of Arizona, Stony Brook University and the University at Buffalo. These reports analyzed the financial situation of each institution following many universities – including Marquette – which were facing budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other financial complications.

And in August, the Marquette chapter of the American Association of University Teachers, which is not officially recognized by Marquette, published a blog post showing Bunsis’ own analysis of Marquette’s finances on the website of the organization. A group of 53 Marquette faculty members contributed funds for the analysis to take place.

In the summary of the AAUP report, they claim that any further cuts to the FY23 budget are not warranted by Marquette’s current financial situation.

“The bottom line for us is that Marquette’s finances are not currently in crisis, any more than when the university launched its initial proposals to cut faculty positions and restructure academic programs,” said the professor of political science and member of the executive committee of the AAUP section of Marquette, Philip. Rocco said. “As teachers continue to be asked to do more with less, the evidence from the Bunsis report.”

Rocco said Marquette’s own audits, as well as the Bunsis report, suggest cash flow remained positive and unrestricted reserves continued to grow.

In the AAUP summary of the Bunsis report, Bunsis determined that the university is far from financially distressed. The report claims operating cash flow of $52 million in FY21 was “more than enough” to offset any financial loss in tuition fees and other income in FY21.

“Bunsis’ analysis shows that Marquette’s financial situation is stable: there is no urgent need for major cuts or layoffs at any level,” said Gerry Canavan, associate professor of English and member of the Marquette AAUP Chapter Executive Committee. “(I)t shows that faculty pay has not kept pace with our peers…it shows a significant imbalance between administrative and teaching expenses at Marquette.”

In addition to university finances, the AAUP analysis summary also calls for the university’s academic senate statutes to be amended to provide “true shared governance” in all academic decisions involving academic programs, including budgetary decisions.

“Shared governance is not just a buzzword,” said Rocco. “The point of shared governance is that because faculty are deeply involved in students’ classroom experiences and the research functions of the university, their voices must carry weight when the university makes decisions – including tax rulings – which affect the quality of education students receive and the research professors do.

However, after the report was posted on the AAUP blog, the university responded to several statements in the report that the AAUP and Bunsis presented on a “rumors versus reality” webpage on Marquette’s website.

The university’s “rumours versus reality” webpage said the AAUP report contains numerous “misleading or factually incorrect” claims and said the independent analysis is actually an “advocacy piece” on behalf of of the AAUP.

Part of the university’s reasoning behind this claim is Bunsis’ past and present involvement with the AAUP. The university claims that since Bunsis was the former president of AAUP in eastern Michigan, he is not an “independent” source as claimed by Marquette’s AAUP chapter.

“I am currently a member of the AAUP. However, I have not been a local leader since 2016 and I have not been president of the local since 2014,” Bunsis said in an email.

In addition to questioning Bunsis’ credibility, the university also responded by saying that some of the claims in its analysis are in fact factually incorrect.

In its report, Bunsis claimed that the university generated positive operating cash flow of $52 million in fiscal year 2020 that could have offset financial hardships, such as those resulting from the COVID pandemic. -19. Marquette said that was wrong.

Marquette says the $52 million was not accurately calculated within “generally accepted accounting principles.” The university said no year of positive cash flow could explain financial shortfalls due to declining enrollment, tuition cuts and rising operating costs.

The university also has its own independent annual analysis carried out by KPMG, an independent global accounting firm. This process is overseen by the Finance and Risk Committee of the Board of Directors.

Marquette is also in the 35th percentile of 10-year endowment returns relative to institutions that reported to the National Association of College and University Business Officers industry standards.

The university said Bunsis’ comparison of Marquette’s endowment to the S&P 500 index of large-cap stocks is an “unacceptable benchmark for any endowment.”

“In my opinion, the endowment is professionally managed with the appropriate risk-return profile to serve Marquette’s long-term goals. Performance has been better than our peer group average. This is a well-managed portfolio said David Krause, a member of the endowment’s investment committee, in an email.

Krause is also Director of Marquette’s Applied Investment Management Program and Associate Professor of Practice at the College of Business Administration.

However, Krause said the endowment itself is overseen by its own separate committee, independent of the board.

“I know that the Chief Investment Officer and the Investment Committee are independent of the Board, in that we do not accept individual recommendations from Board members or parties that they provide to us. We specifically try to avoid all conflicts of interest,” Krause said in an email.

The proposed FY23 budget will be presented to the Board in December.

This story was written by Benjamin Wells and Megan Woolard. They can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu and megan.woolard@marquette.edu.

Sarah J. Greer