Email Response to Budget Concerns
During the period leading up to the special legislative session to begin July 30, Chancellor Perlman has invited inquiries (via email) from the campus community, to which he responds in periodic emails-to-all. The following text is from Chancellor Perlman's email of July 11, 2002.
Here are my responses to additional comments and suggestions I have received. Continue to feel free to send these to me. I will do my best to answer them.
There is a rumor that Dennis Smith is calling some sort of campus CEOs summit in July with the goal of "streamlining" university functions and eliminating program duplication. According to this rumor, the hoped for outcome is to come away with, for example, a single College of Education instead of three, a single college of fine arts instead of three, a single college of journalism or arts and sciences, instead of three, etc. Colleges that exist in singularity, such as Architecture, might be merged into the new "college of fine arts," for example. Not sure how the governance of the new NU would happen but I guess Varner Hall would need to be vastly enlarged.
This is only partially true. The President has asked the Chancellors to meet and see if there are ways to save money by campus cooperation, avoidance of duplication, and restructuring. He made no suggestion about creating "single" colleges but rather to look to see if collaborations were possible. He suggested also looking at business functions to see for example, if purchasing or facilities management functions could be combined or merged. But he also made clear that none of these functions were to be moved to Varner Hall but should continue to be campus based.
Another writes: "quit forcing people to mandatorily join the retirement plan". I am opposed to this for a number of reasons that would take too long to explain. Another writes: "I feel if we are going to continue to face budget reductions which eventually is going to effect staff pay rates, maybe some other types of "fringe benefits" could be made available to staff as some sort of compensation. (free food, increased sick leave accrual dates, added vacation days.) We would still have to budget for these. My preference would be to give it in salaries. Forcing people to take more vacation days is a form of furlough which we may have to consider.
Another writes: "Create more business centers on City campus to centralize business functions and reduce the duplicative functions (as per President's Smith memo). " We are exploring this suggestion.
Another writes: "Is there really any reason to have so many separate systems for the city and east campuses?" We are examining this suggestion in a number of areas.
Another writes: I'm wondering if there is ANY way one can find out how (specifically) the legislature's vision for the growth of university education in Nebraska is playing a part in the budget cut decisions? I do not sense much hostility in the Legislature toward the University; indeed, there seems to be a very good understanding of the importance of the University to the future of the State. At the same time the Legislature must wrestle with a dramatic decrease in state revenue.
Another writes: I'm not convinced that having one travel agency for the university is really paying off in terms of saving money in the overall scheme of things Under this contract the University continues to enjoy 10-15% discounts by United and American Airlines. No additional staffing was added by UNL to handle this contract; rather, Travel & Transport has borne the administrative cost of this program. Airline travel continues to be a ever-changing market. We are monitoring our agreement regularly to ensure that a single travel agency continues to be in our best financial interest.
Another writes: "While in our budget crisis it seems that looking at some of these high-tech ventures (SAP, Lotus Notes, Blackboard) that have limited influence on our academic mission may be a way to keep the university floating without hurting the important things: faculty, staff and library resources." To replace SAP and Lotus Notes at this point would be an extraordinary expense. I'm told many faculty find Blackboard to be very helpful. We are, on the other hand, attempting to focus on setting priorities for technology so we can better manage its development.
Others wrote with concerns about the potential charging for bus passes and the high cost of phone and telecommunications. The bus pass issue was raised by a recommendation from the faculty-student-administrator parking committee and will be considered next Fall. In the meantime no decision has been made and wide consultation will be implemented. We are carefully examining our telecommunications systems looking for cost-savings. We do have some long-term contracts with carriers that may limit our flexibility.
One colleague, who I'm sure represents the views of many, wrote: "I would urge you to look hard at opportunities for cuts within administration itself. " We are, of course, looking at ways to reduce the administration beyond the reductions in administrative costs in the first round, as well as academic programs. The APC procedures under which we operate provide: "Strong academic programs depend upon effective and efficient support functions to achieve the primary mission of the University. The evaluation of support and service programs should, therefore, be based primarily upon how they contribute to the performance and strength of academic programs, with consideration given especially to cost effectiveness and efficiency." I believe in this statement. I also believe that we are for the most part thinly administered and that one consequence of reducing administration is to download administrative burdens onto faculty.
Another inquires why we continue to rent space in Miller & Paine when we have space in Whittier. Most, if not all of the units in Miller & Paine are paying rent from revolving and not state tax dollars. In fact we have very little space on this campus. Whittier, except for the few rooms we currently occupy, is uninhabitable having neither heat, airconditioning, or fire safety. The costs of bringing Whittier to a usable shape are substantial.
Another inquired about using mandatory temperature standards for heating and cooling to save utilities. We tried that before in the 1980's. It was not popular and many individuals circumvent the system by having portable heaters or opening windows which ultimately results in more discontent and higher bills. When we refit buildings we have tried to move to individual room thermostat controls. In those buildings friendly persuasion to be moderate in consumption is a better idea.
Finally, one colleague wrote: "Why not consider holding small cracker barrel sessions of no more than 30 minutes in length with departments that request such a meeting." Within the demands of my schedule, I would be delighted.
I hope these are helpful. I'm sorry it is taking so long to respond. Keep up the good work.