Easter eases workload

by Jeremy Taff

The packet of information Board of Regents members receive before their monthly meetings usually exceeds 400 pages. This month regents opened their mailboxes to find a 55-page docket.
The reduced paperwork means regents will vote on fewer policy changes during their meetings today. Regent Patricia Spence, the board’s vice chairwoman, said the slashed workload has more to do with the Easter holiday than it does with becoming a more hands-off governing body, a goal of the new leadership.
“Some of the major issues have to come up in May and June because we’re still waiting to hear the results of the legislature,” added Executive Vice President and Provost Robert Bruininks.
Although regents will cast few votes, they will discuss a new system that aims to give colleges more authority while increasing their accountability.
The plan focuses on bridging the gap between the administration and individual collegiate units. Instead of focusing on top-down decision making, the administration will seek a consensus with each college on goals. Setting the goals will be the prerogative of the individual units and their faculty and staff.
“If you try to specify every detail of how to build a hammer, you end up with a $600 hammer,” said University President Mark Yudof. “If you simply state that, at the end of the day, the hammer needs to work, you achieve the same goal, but save time and money. That’s what we’re aiming to achieve with the compact system.”
Under the new plan, deans will have more control over their operations, said Robert Kvavik, associate vice president in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
In other business:
ù Regents will discuss how the University should organize and allocate its grant money.
“What we are trying to do is substantially reform how we manage our whole sponsored activities at the University,” Bruininks said. “They account for over $340 million annually of the University’s budget.”
Through this discussion, administrators want to identify alternative funding pools for research besides the traditional grant organizations like the National Institutes of Health.
ù The board will go over the University’s master plan, which outlines prospective construction and campus beautification. Today’s discussion will focus on how campus improvements coincide with academic and financial priorities.
Regent H. Bryan Neel said he feels the present state of the economy and shape of the University warrant widespread investments in the campus buildings. School officials are banking on a significant installment from the Legislature to fund some building renovations and facility upgrades.
A legislative conference committee is still deliberating over the University’s capital budget request and could give the school as much as $172 million.
“It’s time to make a major investment in infrastructure at the University,” Neel said. “The money’s there and heaven knows the University needs it.”