what is your school doing?

The Times has a story about universities making cuts to save money. I am actually one of those believers in the “education bubble” which has yet to burst (particularly for private schools). Here at Columbia we have things like no salary increases, and stopping with planned renovations. The school has also gotten rid of a bunch of maintenance staff. My department is also doing things to cut back (getting rid of the water cooler and public printer). There was almost a riot when no alcohol was served at a Phi Betta Kappa reception at graduation (another cutback). What is your school doing? I particularly like the communications department at UW (Seattle) getting rid of their phones!From the Times:

¶At the University of Washington, the communications department faculty did away with their landlines. (“Phones were our biggest line item,” said David Domke, the department chairman. “We’ve still got landlines in common areas and for staff, but we’re saving about $1,100 a month by getting rid of faculty phones.”)

¶At Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., the women’s swim team held a “virtual swim meet” with Bryn Mawr College, in Pennsylvania, about 112 miles away. Each team swam in its home pool, then compared times to determine the winners. (“We probably saved $900 on bus travel,” said William G. Durden, Dickinson’s president.). Dickinson is saving $150,000 by cutting back on free laundry service for students and an additional $75,000 by eliminating free ESPN and HBO in student rooms. Davidson saved more than $10,000 by switching from bottled water to tap at most college events.

¶At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the traditional bus tour of the state for new faculty members was suspended this year. (“In a recession, people don’t want to see 100 faculty members traveling around and staying in hotels,” said Holden Thorp, the chancellor.)

Oberlin College in Ohio saved $22,300 by scaling back on window washing

Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., is having office trash picked up weekly instead of daily, a change that eliminated three custodian jobs. Carleton, which recently eased teachers’ course loads to five per teacher from six, now plans to return to six courses to save money.

Whittier College in California cut one day of its new-student orientation, saving $50,000. Whittier began “Trayless Tuesdays” last fall, lunchtime food waste dropped to 4.6 ounces per student from 7.4 ounces — and the college saved almost $30,000 a semester after going fully trayless in the spring.

Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., put a cap on students’ free printing in libraries and labs, limiting them to $60 worth of free printing per semester. Next year, students will be limited to $50 per semester.

Colleges are also installing low-flow shower heads and energy-saving light bulbs.

Room phones and voicemail systems are fading away now that the vast majority of students depend on their cellphones. Cornell College, in Mount Vernon, Iowa, estimates that it saved $40,000 by not replacing old voicemail equipment.

Hundreds of colleges and universities are turning down their thermostats to save on heating.

Many colleges are reducing their use of paper by putting admissions brochures, course catalogs and phone directories online instead of on paper.

Rhodes College in Memphis economizes — and gives students work experience — by hiring students in 25 professional staff positions, saving $725,000 a year.

Of these the trend I find the most problematic is the laying off of staff. I always bristle when the least paid/most vulnerable are asked to bear the burden of economic downturns. Call me a softie.

17 thoughts on “what is your school doing?”

  1. I bet if the US News and World Report measured “pleasant odor”, “landscaping” and “frequency trash is removed from offices”, you’d see many fewer cuts in maintenance staff during downturns… It’s possible I spent the afternoon reading Wendy Espeland’s work.


  2. Rutgers cut all faculty land lines starting July 1 (unless you can get your grant to pay for it), reduced mail delivery from twice to once a day, cut trash collection & cleaning (and therefore janitorial staff), has unilaterally decided not to implement union-negotiated pay raises for all staff including TA/GAs, eliminated 100% sabbaticals, limited grad student funding to 6 years TOTAL, limited free printing to $30/semester and defaulted to 2-sided printing. That’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. What I wish they would cut? Extreme A/C in the summer and heat in the winter. Football stadium. Shamus, what do you mean about the education bubble? Would like to hear more.


    1. I mean that schools have been operating under ridiculous tuition increases (5-10% per year). And have been spending in ways that assume such increases can (will) continue. There has been little attention paid to the worry that people might not always be able to pay more and more for education. Luxury sports complexes, dorms that look like 5-star hotels (free ESPN, HBO, and laundry!) and faculty “support” that mean folks like me spend a total of 70 hours a YEAR in the classroom just aren’t sustainable. It’s a bubble. Donors aren’t going to be giving tens of millions, parents aren’t going to be able to pay as much, and something is going to have to give.


  3. A lot of what people mention was done at my school a couple of years ago — we have been in a budget crisis state for some time now. Although canceling this year’s pay raises is new. I’m sure there will be more to come.


  4. Out here at the UCs we started by eliminating staff positions and cutting travel budgets. We then moved to furloughs on senior faculty salaries, and now 8% cuts or furloughs on all staff and faculty salaries are on the way. In the immortal words of Teen Witch: top that.

    Agreed with Shaka that while this is hard for all of us (I’ve replaced the ASA with regional conferences the last two years because I simply cannot afford the flight/additional travel costs on my TA stipend, and I’m sure faculty aren’t happy about losing 8-10K of their income) support staff are often in the most economically tenuous positions and on the receiving end of the most drastic cuts. From my conversations support staff here have responded by canceling cable and internet at their houses and giving up on organic/fresh groceries.


  5. I’m happy (well, not happy but…) to take the 8% cut (which will probably be more like 5%) — tuition is going up, staff are being laid off, and faculty should take a hit as well.

    That said… What bugs me (other than losing top faculty to other states) is calling it a ‘furlough.’ This word does not apply to faculty labor — do I get to cancel class once a month? Have one fewer article at tenure time? Perhaps I can skip those IRB committee meetings 8-10% of the time?


  6. So far, my school has cut down on wine. Seriously, e received a memo devoted almost entirely to how to save money at candidate dinners, department functions, with speakers, etc., by limiting alcohol consumption or making more budget-friendly selections. That’s a Catholic university for you.

    However, also in line with the Catholic mission, we were encouraged to be good stewards with our money while traveling – cutting down on travel expenses by staying in budget hotels, eliminating unnecessary travel, being conscientious about restaurant choices, and so forth – and with miscellaneous expenses on campus.

    I’m sure other things are in the works. Only time will tell what comes next.


  7. newsocprof,

    Agreed on the misuse of the word “furlough” as it relates to salary cuts for faculty. I was somewhat lazily parroting the most recent report we received. You also raise the good point of another round of tuition hikes, which are supposed to account for about 40% of the gap.

    Funding for undergraduate minority recruitment/retention should have been included in my list of one the first things to be hit as well, although I’m not sure if that’s only happened on my home campus or across the UC system.


  8. hey ccc, apologies, i wasn’t calling you out. i just thought the written stuff on the numerous plans to end up at 8% was hilarious because it distinguished between a ‘cut’ and a ‘furlough’ by saying that a benefit of the furlough was that faculty would get a couple of days off — without saying anything about them then being required to produce/teach/etc less.

    on the latter, i think we’re at different campuses so you can consider it uc-wide.


  9. As an incoming faculty member, I am more interested in seeing what happens next year and in subsequent years when the economy (hopefully) improves. Will schools reinstate things that have been cut or are they gone for good?


  10. Lights out in hallways.

    Mail deliver once (not twice) a day.

    Wastebaskets emptied once a week – I recycle virtually everything so not sure what old pattern was.

    Mowing and chemicals reduced (good news) but no effort to really turn the campus green. Little recycling. Goal seems to be to make landscaping look as similar to a golf course as possible.

    Like a comment above, air conditioning is so cold summer school students bring sweats to wear in the classrooms.

    But enrollment is up and predicted to be up 15% in Fall so most are happy.

    Ink jet printers not replaced when they break. You get nothing (print to department copy machine) or maybe a black & white laser if lucky.


  11. At Harvard, where I’ve been on leave this year, it sounds like they have instituted salary freezes. I think there’s an effort to rethink support staff, but when projects are grant-funded (and grants keep coming in), it seems nearly impossible to do the proposed work without additional hiring. Regarding day-to-day operations, I’ve noticed extremely little difference where I am. The quality of food at various events has gone down a bit as has the quantity, to some extent, but that’s about it (and it’s pretty incredibly how much food there tends to be at events here).

    At Northwestern, I don’t know of any drastic changes. My understanding is that the institution is delaying/slowing down some big construction projects, but not sure what else is changing.

    BTW, Jeremy, you can have voicemail removed from your NU phone and not have to worry about this issue. (I’d never bother leaving you a message on your work line, but I do find it convenient for reaching you there.)


  12. Most of the immediate cuts were low-hanging fruit: e.g., hiring pauses, retirement incentive packages, salary freezes for everyone except low-paid workers, pauses on yet-to-be-started capital improvements, and (largely symbolic) reductions in food at events.

    Given how budgets work, we’ll see more significant changes in FY09/10 and FY10/11.


  13. as UC faculty, i tentatively favor the furlough plan or the halfsies proposal over the straight paycut, despite the evasive weaseliness of a “furlough” for faculty who are certain to still do research on these nominal furlough days.
    for the staff, i think it’s fair that if they are to get less money, then they get some leisure in exchange — partly for the intrinsic utility of leisure but mostly so that they can at least save on the considerable costs of coming to campus (most of the staff i know at UCLA live 45-120 minutes from campus and many have children). as for the faculty, i think the furlough is the superior plan because (i’m speculating that) a higher nominal salary has advantages as far as various soft money things go, more summer salary, etc.


  14. I think I may have mentioned this in a comment before, but at Rensselaer we lost foreign languages. Yep, all of ’em. And that’s just for starters. In my department, we lost our undergraduate advisor, and my school lost its media/outreach person. There have been many other layoffs (right before xmas, just to make it xtra mean), plus no pay raises this year, and work has halted on the “athletic village” that was being constructed. Many of our staff are doing twice the work with no increase in pay, to cover for the layoffs. Lots of worries that our teaching loads will be increased, since the budget for adjuncts is being scrutinized. Of course, many of us are especially grumpy about these cuts since our president is one of the highest paid in the nation.


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