Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets
The Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets serves in an
advisery capacity to the president and provost. Its charge is to
review University budgets and make appropriate recommendations.
The committee met four times during the year. At our first meeting,
Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson set forth several issues that were
of concern to the administration and which he suggested might warrant
discussion by the committee. These included:
- funding "start-up costs" of new faculty,
- strengthening the core curriculum, and
- assuring that all departments have sufficient
resources to provide an adequate "quality of life" (e.g.,
copy and phone privileges, computers, and travel allowances) for
The second meeting was directed to the first of
these issues — that relating to start-up costs. Provost Ekland-Olson
indicated that the administration is concerned about the high cost
of bringing new faculty into the campus, especially those in engineering
and the sciences. Such faculty often require laboratory space and
equipment at costs approaching $500,000.
In the course of a wide-ranging (and inconclusive) discussion, committee
members made several suggestions as to how to better manage these
costs. Among them were:
- Be more aggressive in obtaining grants from
NSF, NIH or other appropriate funding sources.
- Reduce expenditures on labs and departments
which are no longer conducting high-priority research.
- Better manage ongoing expenditures for equipment
so that labs are kept up-to-date and there is less need for major
outlays to replace virtually all equipment in a lab.
- Improve cost recovery on patents and commercially
viable research results.
Prior to the third meeting of the committee, President
Faulkner had established the President's Task Force on Efficiency.
Accordingly, in its third and fourth meetings of the year the committee
"brainstormed" as to how the University could reduce costs
without impairing its academic programs. Suggestions included the
- Consider consolidating academic departments.
It was noted that several departments have an especially small
number both of faculty and of student majors. Yet they nevertheless
have a chairperson, a graduate adviser, and a full complement
of support personnel. Any effort at consolidation should focus
mainly on combining administrative functions and must be sensitive
to cultural conflicts.
- Consider consolidating colleges. Some colleges
are smaller than departments in number of faculty and students
and might function adequately as a division of some other college.
- Review research and other types of "centers."
Some centers have probably outlived their utility yet continue
to incur administrative costs and to occupy valuable office space.
- Perform "process audits" to assure
that all administrative functions are carried out efficiently.
Identify "best practices" and encourage other departments
to adopt them.
- Compute for each department ratios of number
of support personnel to number of faculty and students. Question
the reason for seemingly out-of-line ratios.
- Review faculty workloads. Acknowledge that faculty
can contribute to the University in a variety of ways. Faculty
who are no longer active in research should be encouraged to teach
more courses or accept administrative assignments.
- Increase flexibility with respect to length of
courses. All courses need not be scheduled for 15 weeks and assigned
3 credits. Courses of shorter length, if pedagogically sound,
could make faculty more productive and, thereby, reduce teaching
- Reduce paperwork. Whenever feasible, transmit
administrative documents and course materials electronically.
- Review all administrative, maintenance, and physical
plant functions to determine whether they are suitable for outsourcing.
- Be more aggressive in asking donors of buildings
to also fund endowments to support building maintenance and repairs.
- Be certain that prime University land is used
optimally and is not committed to activities that can be carried
equally well at off-campus sites at which the land is considerably
- Review courses with small enrollments. Schedule
required small enrollment courses less frequently, giving students
advance notice as to which semesters they will be offered.
- Review physical plant operations.
- Review the use of part-time staff. Hire part-time
staff only when they are, in fact, cost efficient.