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Bowles chides chancellors for 'embarrassing' administrative costs

Posted August 30, 2009

— An email sent by UNC System President Erskine Bowles chided university chancellors for growing administrative costs and told them to target such costs while cutting budgets.

"We have discussed the need to pare administrative costs REPEATEDLY at Chancellors' meetings," wrote Bowles, adding capital letters for emphasis.

"And we have made it crystal clear that any further delay in reducing senior and middle management positions would jeopardize our credibility and standing with the General Assembly and the taxpayers of North Carolina," he continued.

All UNC campuses are cutting their budgets by 10 percent. The new state budget decreases funding by 6 percent, and schools must cut  another 4 percent in case of more revenue shortfalls.

Administrative costs became an issue after a 100-page report found that UNC-Chapel Hill's administrative expenses per student have grown faster than academic expenses. The report said that UNC-CH has 10 layers of management, in which more than half of supervisors oversee three or fewer people. Changing that structure could save the university up to $12 million annually.

Other campuses in the UNC system are studying the report.

Bowles cited coverage of the report by The News & Observer as "an absolute embarrassment." Chancellors must heed the calls for greater efficiency that he has repeated in his nearly four-year tenure as UNC system president, Bowles said.

Administrative costs should be cut and academics strengthened as chancellors determine where to reduce funding, he wrote.

"Hear me loud and clear," Bowles wrote, "we will be looking for absolute PROOF that you have focused FIRST on administrative reductions and solid evidence that you have taken steps to shore up your core academic services."

Without that proof, the Board of Governors will not approve universities' spending cuts, he wrote.

Bowles said he plans to meet Monday with all chancellors to discuss budget cuts.


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  • prn13norm Aug 31, 2009

    Erskine embarrassed. If Clinton did not embarrass you then a few highly paid political cronies shouldn't embarrass you.

  • james27613 Aug 31, 2009

    What a joke, the UNC BOG approved the Easley package after
    the fact when they all knew it was the wrong thing to do.

    When they hire a high wage position the entire HR process should
    be centralized instead of at each university in the system.

    This would prevent the under the table, back room meetings and 'confidential' emails to do the deals.

  • Eduardo1 Aug 31, 2009

    Erskine, maybe its time for you to step OUT instead of IN as the white knight. How long have you been at the helm, without having these cuts made? What kind of cut have you and your staff taken?

  • issymayake Aug 31, 2009


    You might be onto something significant.

    mgratk, I agree with your assessment as well.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 31, 2009

    Yes...this is a total deflection of guilt.

    Once again, the bloated administration study was done on UNC-CH. UNC-CH receives grossly more funding that any other institution in the system. None of the other universities have the funds to have the bloated administration like UNC-CH does.

    However, when they have been pointed out as being the "bad guy", Erskine and the UNC-CH folks have tried to pull everyone else in with them as having done the same thing.

    UNC-CH is the culprit!

  • MakoII Aug 31, 2009


    I'm confused. Are you saying you are FOR waht Bowles did, but still complaining about it because HE did it?

    If a guy does what you want, aren't you happy about it?

    I'm missing your logic here...

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 31, 2009

    This was only embarrassing because the News & Observer reported on it. If it wasn't for the N&O embarrassing Bowles, nothing would be changing.

    Bowles is a reactive manager who doesn't do anything unless he's forced to by being embarrassed.

  • mgratk Aug 31, 2009

    Somehow his words ring hollow to me. I wish I sensed some truth in them, but it seems like just a PR thing.

  • yabo2k3 Aug 31, 2009

    This is all the "Good Ole Boys" club. It is campaign donors, alumni donors asking for favors from the people they support. It is absolutely ridiculous for a Manager/Supervisor/Director/whatever you want to call it to have less than 10 people reporting to them. Then, to have 10 layers of management is absolutely ridiculous: CEO, Senior VP, VP, Executive, 3rd line manager, 2nd line manager, 1st line manager. This is a common structure in a corporation. The UNC system has 4 additional layers on top of this?

    The top three layers should be fired immediately for incompetence. New heads brought in and eliminate 3 more layers. An oversight committee established to determine the necessary levels required.

    Pathetic. UNC has a Hell of a great Business School. Any undergrad could have done a research assignment and found this problem. How come the "educate" at the top could not?

  • MakoII Aug 31, 2009

    Hear that WRAL? The The News & Observer embarrassed them. WRAL couldn't embarrass anyone but itself concerning articles like this on education or government in general.

    Why? Because not only is it's reporting weak on details, it's even weaker on questioning.

    I see MORE questioning into the possibilities of what happened with Mike Jackson that what happened with Mike Easely.

    How about you start doing something called "Journalism", which requires MORE than just "reporting". I can regurgitate other's articles too. But it doesn't deserve a penny of payment.

    Way to go Bowles!