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Time-consuming process is producing lots of cooperation
The first phase of Stanford's effort to cut, consolidate and otherwise reorganize itself out of a $43 million budget problem consumed at least five person-years of intense study, according to one participant's back-of-the-envelope estimate.
That effort was just to determine the size of the problem, build a structure to address it and allocate how much each segment of the campus would be asked to cut.
Now the process shifts to the 20 schools, academic support units and vice presidential areas for decisions that undoubtedly will consume many more person-years of deliberation.
During the summer, while the Cabinet Committee on Budget and Strategic Planning, headed by Provost James N. Rosse, was laying the groundwork for change at Stanford, leaders of the units worked quietly and behind the scenes to brainstorm various levels of cuts would affect them. Those ideas were submitted to the cabinet committee in early September.
Meanwhile, the cabinet committee sent "liaison teams" to learn about and become advocates for each of the schools and other units. These teams were made up of administrators and faculty members, including a number of professors associated with the Faculty Senate Committee on Education and Scholarship at Stanford.
Putting senate committee members on the liaison teams was "the best thing we did," said Prof. Charles Kruger, senior associate dean of engineering and deputy chair of the cabinet committee. That provided broader faculty representation and better coordination between the cabinet committee and the independent senate committee.
Broad participation of the academic deans and other senior officers led to the unit guidelines and central initiatives spelled out in the 12-page announcement by Rosse and President Donald Kennedy.
The deans formally and unanimously endorsed the plan at their Oct. 17 University Cabinet meeting.
Getting to that point, the academic deans had discussions that Rosse characterized as "honest, tough and supportive." There were also a "few tense moments," he said.
In the old days, individual deans hesitated to reveal their cards in each other's presence, Rosse said. Now they put all their cards on the table as they examine programs from each of the other schools, getting "some pretty tough questions asked and answered," he said.
The cabinet is now "welded as an effective policy organization," Rosse said with pride.
Kruger independently observed the same phenomenon. The collaborative effort, he said, has had a "very positive effect in bringing together the cabinet as an institutional decision-making body."
Now that budget-cutting guidelines have been established, the units are to engage in broad consultation with their own students, faculty and staff, as well as clients from other units, Rosse said.
To guarantee equity across the institution, the cabinet committee, and especially its executive committee, will continue to oversee the process, with lots of help from the liaison teams.
Because all seven academic deans participated in extensive discussions, "they have a good idea of what they expect from each other and what we expect from them," Rosse said.
The liaison teams will continue their role as communication channels between each unit and the cabinet committee. Another task is to assure broad consultation and communication across units.
A new unified liaison team will be named soon to work closely with Humanities and Sciences -- by far the largest and most complex unit at Stanford -- to study its planning process and help establish priorities, Rosse said. During the summer, three separate liaison teams reviewed the distinct components of the school - humanities and fine arts, social sciences, and natural sciences.
Rosse said the that program put forward by Humanities and Sciences had been "well worked, but of, course, it had not benefited from a broad-based discussion within the school, and it was not based on a full and careful appraisal of what needed to be done.
"So we're less comfortable" with the Humanities and Sciences target than any of the others, he said, "so we want to make sure we have a strong liaison team in place."
Meanwhile, Rosse has asked the senate committee, chaired by chemistry Prof. Richard Zare, to monitor the planning efforts, particularly in the schools.
"They started out by constructing a vision of what they thought was important and they will finish up by helping put that vision in place as we come out of the process at the other end," Rosse said.
"Their performance so far has been spectacular and their most important work -- for which they will get the least attention - - is yet to come."
Consultation within units will take different forms, depending on the type of organization, but in each case will be "broad-gauge," Rosse said. "If it isn't, we're in serious trouble."
The units now have until January to develop detailed planning documents. That deadline gives officials a chance, Rosse said, to "convince ourselves that the necessary amount of discussion has taken place" before preparing an overall budget plan for April presentation to the Board of Trustees.
Some units already may be acting on anticipated decisions, Rosse acknowledged. Deans, for example, must decide soon how to proceed with faculty searches and graduate student recruitment. By Jan. 15, "some things will have become essentially a fait accompli."
Rosse said he has asked unit heads to keep the liaison teams apprised of all decisions, large and small.
When the massive process is complete, some might ask if all the effort was worth it, said Rosse, who could have used his authority as chief academic officer and chief budget officer simply to develop his own plan.
But the plan that is taking so many thousands of hours to develop "will be a better plan by virtue of consultation."
More important, Stanford's different communities "will have an opportunity to buy into it, to see what goes on in other parts of the institution."
That learning process, for example, led to a discussion on the importance of staff and support organizations at the Oct. 10 Faculty Senate meeting that "could not have taken place last spring," Rosse said.
"It is awfully important for us to have this degree of consultation and buying in and understanding and cooperation," he said. "It's going to build a strong institution."
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