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UNC board vows to cut bureaucracy

Posted July 23, 2009

— University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill officials said Thursday that they are committed to cutting overhead costs after an outside consultant found the university's administrative structure to be unwieldy.

An anonymous donor paid for a study by Bain & Co. to help UNC find ways to streamline operations and be more effective.

Bain & Co. report to streamline UNC-Chapel Hill Expert: Bloated administration not unique

The 100-page report, which was presented Thursday to the UNC Board of Trustees, found that the university's administrative expenses per student have grown faster than academic expenses. It also determined that UNC has 10 layers of management, with more than 50 percent of supervisors managing three or fewer people.

Changes in the administrative organizational structure could save the university up to $12 million annually, the report said.

"I think this report is probably par for the course in higher education," said Bob Winston, who was elected Thursday as chairman of the trustees. "Obviously, there are some areas that we need to change in the way that we run the university. We are going to do that, and we are in the process of doing that now."

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp agreed that officials wouldn't simply review the report and file it away. Some of the suggestions already have been implemented, he said, such as adjusting temperatures in campus buildings to save on utility costs.

Personnel changes will come more slowly, though.

"We certainly are going to work to get rid of those layers," Thorp said. "We'll be announcing changes over the next few months and then over the next few years that will allow us to do that."

Sim Sitkin, a professor of management at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, said UNC's situation is common in corporations as well as education and government. Organizations often create managerial positions as a way to give top employees a raise, he said.

"It's not unique at all," Sitkin said. "What typically happens is things grow in response to a problem, but it's very hard to get them to shrink once the problem goes away or the problem shifts."

Reform is possible, he said, with a lot of hard work and some pain, but a large number of layoffs might not be needed.

"Often, most of those resources can be reallocated because there is a lot of work that's not being done," he said. "Typically, people don't want do it unless there is a real pressing reason."

Thorp said the timing of the study was fortunate because UNC was already looking for ways to cut spending to adjust to the tight state budget.

Bain & Co. analysts will return sometime next year to follow up on UNC’s progress.

"You are six to 12 months ahead of most of your peers in really recognizing and beginning to deal with some of the issues," said Rich Allison, a partner in the Boston-based consulting company.

Other campuses in the UNC system also are looking at the report to see if they could also benefit from the recommendations.


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  • patrick85ed Jul 24, 2009

    If the report would have covered Capital Projects the general public would have really been upset. Every school in the system should have to undergo this process and it should be demanded by us, the taxpayers.

  • Ready2Taxi Jul 23, 2009

    Bureaucracy, whether public or private, exists to expand its mandate, expand its workforce and grow its budget. It's focus is process, procedure, policy. Successfully delivering on it's core mission becomes a happy by-product.

    Bureaucracy reforms only by force - a shareholder sell-off, or severe budget cuts, or by the apppointment of a decisive leader. Real reform requires leadership with vision and integrity. Sadly, all across this country our public leaders are bound by the political status quo of the party machines.

    This story and the consultant's report will be gone inside of a week.

  • nbforrest Jul 23, 2009

    Hadenough, What do you think washington dc is doing!!!

  • whatelseisnew Jul 23, 2009

    Yeah they will grow layers so they can justify them. I have been saying for a long time that the State needs to wean the University System off of the public dole. They have no reason to run efficiently so long as they can munch from the public trough.

  • colliedave Jul 23, 2009

    asking a government entity to cut waste is akin to asking the Sun not to rise in the morning!

  • OpinionatedGuy Jul 23, 2009

    This Report is par for the course here in NC, It will take years to layoff excess personal. Not to mention (but of I will) if state government follows this example, The GOV could give of each a tax break and still be able to fund all those poor children that need tax revenue to so they can be taught... Cancel all travel by state employees (even the GOV and then start cutting EXPENSES... Stop the taxes

  • balog Jul 23, 2009

    Had enough, um, yah ok. I am from the north and it is just as bad if not WORSE up there.

    The good ol boy network is alive and well all over this country. It is the AMERICAN way after all.

  • HadEnough Jul 23, 2009

    Why does it take years to fire someone who is doing nothing?

    It's the North Carolina way. Northerners would never put up with the things that go on here.

  • balog Jul 23, 2009

    Itis, your doing nothing, why haven't you been fired yet?

  • WHEEL Jul 23, 2009

    Why does it take years to fire someone who is doing nothing?