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September 3, 2002

Project to make most of Emory resources

By Michael Terrazas

To prepare Emory for the fiscal realities that lie in the immediate and mid-term future, the University is launching a “budget equilibrium” project this fall, designed to make the entire Emory enterprise more efficient.

In early August, President Bill Chace sent a letter to vice presidents, deans and directors announcing the initiative; the president’s letter is reprinted in its entirety in this issue of Emory Report.

What lies ahead is an expansion of a process that began more than two years ago when schools and departments were asked to identify 3 percent of their budgets that could be redistributed to higher priorities. Last spring’s discussion and subsequent modification of University employee benefits packages was the second phase, and this fall’s effort represents another step. In fact, it is an expansion of efforts that are under way in several schools.

“This project is part of a normal budget and management process to bring into equilibrium our very substantial resources and our University priorities,” said interim Provost Howard Hunter, who chairs Emory’s Ways and Means Committee. “While I was still dean of the law school and Rebecca Chopp was provost, we went through a similar experience; that was an excellent exercise in that it helped deans and others focus on the core missions of the schools and departments.”

The detailed data collection for support units will be spearheaded by a small working group of four people: Bill Cassels, associate provost for academic space planning; Charlotte Johnson, senior vice provost for administration; Ronnie Jowers, vice president for health affairs; and Edie Murphree, associate vice president for administration. The four will be working closely with budget managers, deans and department heads from all over the University. The objective is to find more efficient ways to employ existing resources. They will begin by compiling information in three ways:

• A central e-mail address,, has been established through which anyone in the University community can confidentially suggest ways to create efficiencies and/or save money for Emory. Suggestions need to be received by Sept. 30 to affect the next budget cycle.

• All administrative and support units are being asked to provide a range of data on their particular areas—including staffing statistics, organizational charts and committee activities, as well as a functional breakdown of area responsibilities listed by priority. These data will be reviewed in September by the Council of Deans in collaboration with the working group to generate ideas for further consideration.

• The working group also will interview many of the University’s vice presidents and directors to gather additional input and ideas.

Once the support unit data are compiled, the working group will submit a preliminary analysis to the Ways and Means Committee in October, which in turn will review the information and submit a list of preliminary recommendations to the President’s Cabinet.

“As a part of this process, I will be appointing a consultative committee made up of faculty members from all parts of the University to be sure that academic priorities remain at the forefront of discussions,” Hunter said. “While the working group will be focused on cost analysis for support units, deans will be evaluating school programs to identify similar efficiencies.”

“There will be easy-to-implement ideas,” Jowers said, “and there will be ideas that will require in-depth financial analysis, ideas that need more thinking about how the organization is structured. Therefore, the project will be a continuing process.”

The working group emphasized that it hopes many people will take advantage of the e-mail address and assured that all submissions will be kept confidential. “We’re anxious for people to participate,” Johnson said. “You never know from where the good ideas are going to come.”

The hope is to identify particular expenditures that could be reduced, eliminated or redirected to the core mission of each unit. The working group also will be looking for duplication of effort, outsourced activities that could be more economically accomplished in-house and, conversely, other areas that might be more efficient if outsourced.

Emory is not alone in its endeavor. Other colleges and universities around the country have gone so far as to institute hiring freezes or even job cuts to cope with the economic squeeze imposed by the combination of a national recession, reduced endowment income and spiraling health care costs, which themselves include rapidly increasing costs in hospitals’ and doctors’ insurance, more expensive medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, and shrinking Medicare payments from the federal government.

According to Geoffery Mock, editor of The Dialogue, the faculty-staff newspaper of Duke University, Duke is considering double-digit percentage increases to employee health insurance premiums, and the Duke Medical System has had to institute workforce reductions.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on Aug. 26 that Dartmouth College is seeking to cut another $1.6 million from its FY 2002–03 budget (ending June 30, 2003), which already had been trimmed $3.3 million from the previous year. For FY03–04, the report stated, Dartmouth is looking to slash an additional $5.7 million. And, as early as March, the Chronicle was reporting that Stanford University instructed all deans and administrative departments to prepare budgets for the following fiscal year that assumed a 5 percent reduction in funds.

Locally, the University of Georgia instituted a hiring freeze in February on all non-faculty positions. At that time, Gov. Roy Barnes instructed all state agencies—including the University System of Georgia—to reduce their operating budgets by 2.5 percent for the current fiscal year, and to reduce budgets for FY02–03 by an additional 2.5 percent.

News like this is not likely to make the financial crunch any easier to swallow for Emory budget managers, but it illustrates the fact that the University has plenty of company.

“We are fortunate to be in a strong financial position, and, therefore, we have the luxury to be able carefully to examine our expenditures as well as our potential revenue sources so that we can continue to enhance our teaching and research missions,” Hunter said.