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Town meetings start soon to discuss budget cuts, restructuring
STANFORD -- Stanford's budget-cutting and restructuring will enter a public phase in two weeks when Provost Condoleezza Rice begins co-hosting a series of town hall meetings for faculty, staff and students.
The meetings are part of a process announced last fall to eliminate a chronic budget deficit of $18 million to $20 million over the next three years. In letters sent to administrative units in November, Rice asked that they submit by Jan. 14 alternatives showing what services they would eliminate if their budgets were cut 5 percent to 10 percent in each of the next three years.
In an interview Monday, Jan. 31, Rice stressed that the current budget process is not as all-inclusive and all-consuming as the process that targeted $43 million in cuts and income enhancements two years ago.
"We can't mobilize the university community every time we go through the budget process or students won't study, faculty won't teach and research, and staff won't get any work done," Rice said. "This is management in the '90s, which is a constant process of restructuring."
Times, dates and locations for the two-hour community meetings have not yet been confirmed, but Rice will take part in a question-and-answer session on student affairs the week of Feb. 14 with Mary Edmonds, vice provost for student affairs.
During the week of Feb. 21, Rice and Barbara Butterfield, vice president for faculty and staff services, will discuss possible changes in that area and answer questions.
Chief Financial Officer Peter Van Etten will join Rice the week of Feb. 28 to discuss his plans and answer public questions.
Discussing the consultative process in this latest round of cutting, Rice said she has been meeting regularly with the Faculty Senate's Planning and Policy Board, with the University Management Group, the University Administrative Restructuring Group, the University Cabinet and the Council of Presidents. She also has had "scores of staff lunches and employee roundtables," including the major management forum in November. She said she schedules dinners periodically with faculty and, starting next week, will invite randomly selected groups of students to "talk about what's going on at Stanford."
Rice provided a calendar for development of the 1994-95 budget: Through Feb. 20, there will be meetings with deans to discuss preliminary planning directions. School plans are due by March 1. Between March 2 and March 15, the plans will be reviewed and funds allocations will be made.
Various other deadlines lead to presentation of the proposed budget to university trustees on June 9-10. Next year's tuition and the staff salary program are to be taken up by trustees next week.
In her interview, Rice reiterated that Stanford's real budget problem can only be solved by long-term restructuring and reengineering. She also said that the much-talked-about three-year, up-to-30-percent administrative budget figure was not a formal target but a planning parameter.
University officials are hoping to trim $6 million from administrative and academic areas during the first year, 1994-95. In the next two years, the emphasis would be on restructuring and reengineering, including possibly contracting out for some services and developing more efficient information management systems.
Each unit will get a reaction to proposals they put on the table, Rice said.
"People will add that up and say what percentage it is of the base, but we're trying assiduously to stay away from a process that says your target is 8 percent, or 10 percent, or 5 percent," she said.
As for job loss, Rice said she did not anticipate massive layoffs.
"A lot can happen through attrition," she said, noting that attrition accounts for an annual turnover of about 15 percent of staff. "I hope we can handle a good deal of the dislocation that way," she said.
Rice expressed interest in retraining staff members where necessary and possible.
"The world has changed a lot even in the last few years in the skills that it values," she said. "In a retraining effort, you can give people skills that, whether they stay in the university or not, would be very valuable to have."
Asked about staff morale surrounding budget-cutting, Rice responded, "I know it's a tough time to be at Stanford."
"We've not been living within our revenue and that's why we're in this constant kind of turmoil," she said. "We have to go through this one more time and get restructured or we're going to constantly be in this position.
"I hope people will pull together and help us identify how we can do our business differently."
Asked if any departments or schools would be eliminated or consolidated, Rice said that that process "is squarely in the schools right now," with deans engaged in thorough discussions. She said she expected to start conversations with the deans in a couple of weeks.
Some savings can be expected from the schools, she said, but she cautioned that the schools have high fixed costs.
On another subject, Rice said that the recently developed consolidated budget for schools - which will show all income sources - will be helpful in assessing the university's total resources.
She said she had no intention of micro-managing decisions about the use of restricted funds.
"By no means do I want to try to manage other people's restricted funds because that's a disincentive for people to raise them." She said she understood the need for such funds, having raised them herself as a political science faculty member to provide "flexibility in my research and teaching activities."
Rice said she was unable to lay out details of budget plans submitted by administrative units in mid-January because they are still under discussion with unit heads. She did provide a few details in advance of the town hall meetings:
Advising, which has been reorganized under the Registrar's Office, may be restructured once the Commission on Undergraduate Education has reported, she said.
"We're being very careful to do nothing on the academic advising side that will interfere with or preempt what the commission may wish to do with advising," Rice said.
Similarly, "not much is going to happen with Cowell Student Health Center," Rice said, citing the fact that the unit has a new director and that it is being reorganized into the new Stanford Health Services network.
"We did not feel that we wanted to get into a kind of piecemeal reorganization of Cowell, with all that's going on in the health care field right now," she said.
Student organizations will move out of the jurisdiction of Tresidder Memorial Union and go back under the dean of student affairs. Rice said Edmonds "will take a hard look at Tresidder and think about how to provide better services for less money" in the retail operation.
"There will be some budget reductions, and they will come mostly from consolidation and reorganization," Rice said. The implications will be discussed at the town meeting, she said. "I don't believe they are very great."
Rice said that all units had been asked to take part in strategic planning, including the ethnic theme centers. She expressed surprise that the centers mistakenly thought they automatically would be cut 30 percent.
"I don't think anybody ever said any such thing," Rice said. "These are planning parameters that went out to all units and I asked for a strategic plan."
An area of Faculty-Staff Services that cannot be cut - and might be increased - because of government regulation is Environmental Health and Safety, Rice said.
Eventually, changes under Van Etten's jurisdiction may come in the facilities area, Rice said.
A recent restructuring of facilities management that led to elimination effective Feb. 1 of the project engineering division was "unrelated" to the universitywide budget restructuring, Rice said. "That was not part of the plan that was put forward from facilities in the budget process," she said
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