(Public comments made to the Washburn University Board of Regents on January 29, 2010 regarding the FY11 operating budget)
No One Said It Would Be Easy
As I have watched this administration struggle with the declining revenues and increasing expenses, I wonder if any realistic options for balancing the budget have been given serious consideration.
A look at the financial reports over the past five years indicates that the operating budget has grown significantly. While faculty salaries, health care and utility costs are often cited as the reasons for this growth, it seems that major areas of cost savings have been overlooked.
Administration - The Sacred Cow of Higher Education
I have never seen any analysis of administrative salaries. Has anyone looked at the growth of administrative staff, especially in the IT area, and the salary comparatives for those salaries in various institutions? An independent evaluation of administrative costs could reveal more budget savings than your poorly conceived outsourcing proposal targeted at union employees.
When reducing the budget, some might consider reducing the most recently acquired costs, or those costs not directly related to the core “business” of the institution. For example, there is over $.5 million in the budget for the employee wellness program and the student wellness center. While both of these are nice things to have, perhaps these costs merit further review since they are not related to the core purpose of higher education.
IT - What IT?
Or has anyone given any serious consideration to outsourcing your IT function? An analysis of your expenditures would show that the Banner conversion is a major factor in your inflated operating budget (with over $65,000 spent in December, 2009). And what have you gotten for it? Really. Your current system, or your administration of that system, seems to be causing a great deal of discontent within the faculty ranks.
Faculty - The "Silent" Majority?
It is astonishing to watch your callous lack of regard for the faculty here.
The faculty have taken an unprecedented vote of no confidence in the IT director and this administration has flat out ignored the vote. The faculty have asked for accountability for software malfunctions, and those pleas continue to be ignored.
In the meantime you continue to blame faculty salaries for your skyrocketing costs, encouraging faculty retirements to help contain those costs, while completely ignoring the fact that it is your administrative overhead that most likely contains the most significant potential for savings, without any negative impact on the core mission of this institution.
So, it makes me wonder – have any of you
- read the annual departmental program review reports?
- read the minutes of the Faculty Senate this year?
- read the incredibly thoughtful comments by Dr. Patti Bender regarding the strategic planning proposals?
- held Jerry Farley accountable for addressing any of the issues that the faculty continue to bring forth?
- considered that you should be asking the Faculty Senate President to give this board a report at each of your scheduled board meetings?
Understanding the Value of the Faculty
Do you understand that the faculty is the heart and soul of this institution?
Taking care of them, rather than ignoring them, will reap benefits that go far beyond anything you will get from your excessive amount of spending on advertising. When you look back on your years as college students, how many of you remember a special faculty person that helped shape your path? For me, the ones that I recall are the old, challenging ones, the ones who were themselves an institution, the ones that you are trying to push out the door with your early retirement initiative in order to “balance the budget.”
A good faculty brings in students, retains students, and creates incredible loyalty to the institution. You are undermining that with your actions, and inactions. It has been years since I have heard any board member specifically voice any concern about the views of the faculty here. They have been dismissed when voicing concerns about their own academic programs, their computing environment and the Transformational Experience program.
If you want to cut your expenses without hurting this institution, stay away from the faculty, and start looking at administrative costs.