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Business Officer Magazine

Renewal During a Crisis

Many of the changes that took place on campuses across the country in the last two years would never have occurred if not for the economic crisis—and although most were painful, some were highly creative innovations or long-overdue transformations.

This was the premise for the featured session, “When Change Is a Necessity, Not an Option,” led by Brent Ruben, executive director of the Center for Organizational Development and Leadership at Rutgers University, New Jersey; Stan Nosek, former vice chancellor of administration, University of California, Davis; and Phillip Doolittle, executive vice president and chief operating officer, University of Redlands, California.

The two California institutions shared examples of leadership in crafting “silver linings” during the downturn. A leaner, more cost-effective administration was the goal at the University of California, Davis. Nosek detailed the UC Davis journey toward shared service centers that will handle human resources, accounting, and information technology functions for the institution.

Faculty prefer the decentralized model with generalist administrative support at the department level, Nosek said, but “multitasking is not an effective model”—it's redundant, inefficient, and nonstandardized. With the help of a consulting company, UC Davis is now in the initial phase of assessing administrative processes before designing shared service centers.

The University of Redlands, located in an area with a 15 percent unemployment rate and a subprime mortgage crisis, is experiencing a serious deficit challenge. The financial crisis and recession revealed and worsened existing revenue trends, said Doolittle, and the university's budget is not likely to fully recover even when the economy does.

To address the challenge, the university formed a project team headed by a consultant, with the goal “to keep the campus from rolling backward during this downturn.” To close the budget gap for 2010–11, the team recommended a 50-50 strategy: 50 percent from permanent expenditure reductions—including a reduction in full-time faculty positions—and 50 percent from revenue enhancement over a three-year period.

Session participants also shared their own examples of “silver lining” outcomes from their campuses. These included bringing technology support in-house to save $2 million a year; constructing a new building with cash reserves through frugal management; generating new revenue with more out-of-state students; and developing more intentional campus communication about budget cuts.

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