UI will review central administration

URBANA — Sometimes, when he's asked to sign a form, University of Illinois President Robert Easter notices six other names on the signature line besides his own.

"When I see that, I wonder if we don't have too many layers reviewing things," Easter said recently.

Even as the UI prepares to set up an annual review process for academic units, Easter has commissioned a similar effort on the administrative side, at the urging of UI trustees.

The study of university-level administration is in its early stages, with a report expected by next spring.

Given an ongoing slide in state funding and constraints on tuition increases, "we have to look at efficiencies in our operations," Easter said. "Our board is very concerned about redundancies."

The UI spends about $113 million of its $5 billion annual budget on central administration — about 2.25 percent — which includes everything from the president's office to budgeting to university lawyers to the UI Research Park.

Two years ago, the university went through an Administrative Review and Restructuring process that identified $60 million in savings in broader administrative services across the university, such as procurement and information technology. Among the changes: more centralized purchasing and the creation of business centers rather than separate business offices for each academic unit.

But Easter said that effort picked the "low-hanging fruit," whereas the new effort will dig deeper, examining administrative offices for redundancies and value to the UI's core academic mission.

The review is being led by Bill Adams, who retired June 30 as associate provost in Urbana but was hired back for another year as a special assistant to Easter for this project.

Adams said he has been at the UI for 24 years and knows all three campuses and the university administration "very well. I have no vested interest, since I'm not going to be here long-term."

Adams said the review will examine all university-level administrative units, including the president's office, governmental relations, legal counsel, and the vice president for academic affairs, vice president for research and vice president for business/chief financial officer.

The vice president for health affairs, a relatively new university-level office created by former President Michael Hogan, is not part of this review, officials said.

One motivation for the review is to improve efficiency and save money. But it will also look at the scope of each office to reduce duplication and determine whether the money budgeted is appropriate and contributes to the UI's academic mission, Adams said.

"We have a set of core missions we're supposed to be doing — teaching, research service and public engagement," Adams said. "That's our core business. Everything else is to support those things."

Finally, the goal is to set up an annual review process for those units, to formally assess their missions, how they're using their resources, and how they're contributing to the academic mission, he said.

"I think we're facing a constrained resource environment for a long time here," Adams said.

Hogan created several new centralized positions at the university level, including an associate vice president for information technology. Those will be examined as part of the overall review, though they were not a specific target, Adams said.

Seven review teams with representatives from each campus will divvy up the administrative units and report back by early March with their recommendations, he said.

Each committee will be chaired by a dean from one of the three campuses, plus five other members — a "customer" of the unit from each campus, a faculty member with expertise in that area, and a university administration employee who is not from that unit.

Adams said he is working with the chancellors, faculty senates and university administrators on the appointments.

"What I want is a very fair, open process. I don't want to go through something where there are no positive results at the end. This is going to take a lot of people's time," Adams said.

He has no particular savings target in mind, but "certainly we think it's an opportunity for some pretty significant cost savings," as well as improvements in accountability, he said.

A steering committee with representatives from each campus and the university administration, including Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre, will oversee the process, Adams said.

The committees' recommendations will be forwarded to Easter, Pierre and the campus chancellors and provosts next spring, and they will make the final decisions, Adams said.

Professor Nicholas Burbules, who chairs the University Senates Conference and is working with Adams on the faculty appointments, said he was encouraged that Easter described the function of administration as service and support for the campuses.

"This is a very serious review. There are aspects of it that are long overdue," Burbules said. "I think they are looking to make some serious savings."

"If we're facing reductions, university administration has to hold up its share along with every other part of the university," he added.

Randall Kangas, associate vice president for planning and budgeting, said there have been several efforts over the last decade to reduce administrative costs, including a 6.1 percent cut for every administrative unit last year.

Overall, he said, institutional support — centralized business, legal and information technology services and administrative offices — makes up about 5 percent of the UI's total costs.

"You will not fix the university's or the state's budget problems on the back of the administration. There just isn't that much of it centrally," he said. "But every little bit helps."

(Note: Per the comment below, the administrative costs do include most of the salaries for former UI administrators Michael Hogan, Richard Herman and B. Joseph White, as well as the buyout for Lisa Troyer, although part of White's salary is paid by the College of Business. -- Julie Wurth)

University administration budget

FY 2008 to FY 2013

Fiscal 2008: $103.3 million

Fiscal 2009: $107.6 million

Fiscal 2010: $110.7 million

Fiscal 2011: $105.2 million

Fiscal 2012: $125.7 million

Fiscal 2013: $113.3 million

Source: University of Illinois Budget Summary of Operations

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Sid Saltfork wrote on November 06, 2012 at 8:11 am

Do the golden parachute payoffs to Herman, Hogan, Troyer, White, and the other assorted culprits of past scandals figure into the administrative costs?

vcponsardin wrote on November 06, 2012 at 11:11 am
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There are many more that just those four.  How about the cadre of retired deans who supposedly  return to "teaching" (usually meaning they conduct an occasional 4-week ungraded workshop once a year) but retain their full dean's salary nonetheless?

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 09, 2012 at 1:11 pm

The payoffs to the culprits that I mentioned are in the administrative costs with the exception of one of them having part of his salary paid by one of the colleges.  Academia is the last bastion of imitative royalty.

uglyfoe wrote on November 06, 2012 at 11:11 am

I work at F & S and our director for the three years was making $168,500.  He was give a nice raise and now is making $190,00.  In the fy 19999-00 he was making $110,00.  Under he's leadership there is now roughly 190 positions that do nothing but office work.  Of the $61 million in salaries, $13 million is on office and management.  This year alone, the PAA's will recieve over $300,000 in raises for roughly 92 PAAs.  I have more info but so little time.

Reykjavik wrote on November 06, 2012 at 2:11 pm

F&S is known sink for Chicago-style waste.  The good news is that if UIUC can survive while supporting F&S, just imagine the future once they break the stranglehold. Must be major politics keeping it in place.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 09, 2012 at 1:11 pm

F&S may have too many administrative staff; but please do not insult the front line workers.  Their contracts are being negotiated presently.  The flagship university, the U. of I. Urbana-Champaign, is demanding that the employees lose holidays with pay.  Two of the holidays are Christmas, and Thanksgiving.  What a great employer!  Even Ebenezer Scrooge let his employees have Christmas off.  They are to lose the holidays unless they take vacation time off.  Do the other groups on campus get Christmas off with pay?  The all campus holiday during the week of Christmas is well known.  The faculty are off.  Other Civil Service units get the day off with pay.  The university is playing hardball in the negotiations; but at the same time, the university is treating the front line workers like peons.  They do the dirty work that keeps campus running; but are treated with contempt by the elitists in the archaic world of academia.

tellingthetruth wrote on November 06, 2012 at 11:11 am

Agreed, F&S has a huge 'middle' management team, and nothing to show for it.  This department is a huge waste of money for the work that is actually done.   It's tripled in size if not larger since the "Director" took that position in; there is less work and more labor cuts yet they NEED more management.  Funny how that works. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 06, 2012 at 1:11 pm

uglyfoe, and tellingthetruth;  Thank you for coming forward.  More truth should be provided to those who are on the outside of the university.  They need to understand that academia is no different from any other occupational group in enriching themselves at others expense.  The State of Illinois agencies have more management, and middle management than needed.  The recent flap with DCFS was over laying off front line workers protecting abused kids while maintaining an absurd amount of managers.  A huge amount of money could be saved by simply reducing the amount of middle management in state employment including university employment.  

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on November 08, 2012 at 3:11 pm

My issue with F&S is that so many departments fall under this heading.  My biggest pain in the rear is Contracts.  They have a large amount of "managers" and "directors" while the actual staff who review contracts are clerical civil service positions who have no expertise or understanding of contracts or the departments/units that need these agreements.  It takes nearly 12 months to get a contract reviewed and sent through the system when it previously took 3-4 weeks when we had skilled professional handling them.  There's a serious bottleneck problem under F&S and no solutions in sight.

squeaky wrote on November 06, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Sid's observation comparing the administrative bureaucracy at UIUC to the State of IL is 100 percent on point.  The proposed reductions in DCFS front line staff would have violated a staffing consent decree that has been in place since at least 1991.  DCFS was fully prepared to implement the reductions as proposed absent the overwhelming resultant public reaction.  Call me cynical, but I don't expect that the ratio of administrators to support staff will change at F & S with any proposed reductions unless they are specifically directed from the highest levels of UIUC administration.  As things stand now, UIUC probably has one of the lowest levels of employees performing clerical or support functions of any comparable university in the Midwest. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on November 08, 2012 at 10:11 am

The U of I is a mirror reflection of Springfield politically and Wall street financially.

This business of Tenured professors "Serving" as administrators is absurd. They can run this University behind closed doors the way they want by violating ethics, hiding money and then if they get caught they just stop "Serving" and go to their tenured teaching job. How many times does this pattern have to repeat itself before we change the system of University managment?

Also, How much side money in "consulting" fees are they lining their pockets with in the mean time?

Randall Kangas should resign his $187,000 a year position since his only accomplishment is to be a shill and apologist for University managment and we already have Robin Kaler for that.