The TCU Faculty Senate met for the first time this semester on Thursday afternoon.
The senate briefly heard from Provost R. Nowell Donovan about the status of the university’s dean searches before listening to a presentation from Professor Robert Vigeland about TCU Promise.
TCU Promise is an initiative that works toward sustaining commitments to current, former and future TCU faculty and staff. Last summer, a task force committee was convened to investigate changes in retiree medical benefits.
Vigeland, professor in the Neeley School of Business and chair of the task force committee, summarized the issue, explaining that retiree medical plans would take a significant hit.
The task force report showed the differences in the old and new plans. According to the report, the old plan focused on defining the benefit plan, whereas the new plan defines the contribution plan.
Now, eligible retirees receive $203 per month to purchase coverage to supplement Medicare if they enroll in a certain type of plan. The old plan allowed eligible retirees full access to the university’s group medical insurance plan.
The changes are the result of rising medical costs. In addition, post-retirement benefits appear as a liability on TCU’s financial reports. However, the report shows no evidence was provided that proved decreasing the liability for retiree benefits would increase TCU’s borrowing costs.
“We question if this change was even necessary,” Vigeland said. “TCU’s financial situation is sound. There are lavish expenditures in many other areas, such as construction, executive compensation and athletics.”
But administration made the change. Neither the Faculty Senate, Staff Assembly, nor the Retiree Association were consulted, though they are directly affected by the change.
Faculty, staff, and retirees were notified through an email from Human Resources and a letter from Chancellor Victor Boschini after the decision had been made in February of 2013.
“We feel as though this was a missed opportunity,” Vigeland said. “We have been unable to identify any consultation whatsoever with faculty or staff before the decision was made.”
The task force has found several issues with the change, including the fact that the liability still exists and will continue to grow as the TCU workforce ages. Retirees with significant prescription drug needs will face higher medical costs, and current employees are deferring retirement in fear of not having significant medical benefit coverage.
Donovan explicitly endorsed future action by the Faculty Senate.
“I think that the senate should go ahead with this,” Donovan said. “Don’t let administration off the hook. But let’s do it in a way that doesn’t destroy the relationship between faculty and administration. I think that we [the administration] will respond positively.”
The task force is asking for a “prompt action by the Faculty Senate and a prompt response from the Administration.”