Administration well-suited to provost system

by Joel Sawyer

While the shape and size of the University’s administration was never a specific target of University 2000, a number of significant bureaucratic reforms have taken place since the school implemented the plan.
In 1994, the administrative organization of the University was restructured with the formation of three provostal units to run the University’s Twin Cities campus.
“The provostal system is an important link between the central administration and the colleges,” University President Nils Hasselmo said.
The provosts — W. Phillips Shively in Arts, Sciences and Engineering; Frank Cerra in the Academic Health Center; and Gene Allen in Professional Studies — oversee the coordination of budgets and programs of the colleges within their provostal unit and serve as the liaison between president and deans.
Before the move to the current provostal structure, deans reported to vice provosts and vice presidents, who then reported to Hasselmo. The former system was awkward because the vice provosts and vice presidents were often the same person and lines of authority were blurred.
“It was unclear who made decisions in the old system,” Hasselmo said.
The current system, he added, provides for better decision making, gives the provosts and deans more authority and holds all administrators more accountable. Deans now report to provosts who report directly to Hasselmo.
The restructuring effort in the University’s Academic Health Center is one example of where the system has provided provosts with more authority.
Former provost William Brody began a controversial reorganization of the health center in 1995.
Brody said the health center, which includes seven health care schools, needed to be reorganized to become more efficient and responsive to the changing health care market. That reorganization effort continues today under the leadership of Cerra.
The University has also managed to maintain a relatively bloat-free bureaucracy by maintaining an administration that hasn’t markedly changed in size over the last decade.
In 1984, the number of people who hold administrative titles such as president, vice president, provost, chancellor, dean and their assistants was 130. In 1995, the most recent year for which the information is available, the number had not changed even though several new positions were created and other positions were reorganized.
“There has been no increase in the number of (administrative) offices,” said Peter Zetterberg director of the Office of Planning and Analysis. “Titles have changed but responsibilities haven’t.”
While some positions were being created, others were eliminated or consolidated.
“Most of the reorganization involved reorganization of existing offices and the reassignment of the same responsibilities,” Zetterberg said.
For example, the positions of vice president for research and dean of the graduate school were combined in 1992. That position is currently held by Mark Brenner, a professor of horticultural science.
There have been only two significant changes in administrative staffing in the 1990s. In 1990, the position of vice provost for Arts, Sciences and Engineering was created. The position was later changed to the provostal position currently held by Shively.
The last major change was made in 1995 when McKinley Boston became vice president for Student Development and Athletics. That position was specially created to retain Boston, who was a finalist for athletic director at Florida State University.
Boston is responsible for residence halls, student unions, student activities and both athletic departments.
Other areas of the administration have also remained stable. The Board of Regents, for example has added only one additional employee since 1990.
Not only have administrative positions remained stable, so have system-wide staffing levels at the University.
In 1994, University employees, excluding hospital workers, numbered 30,353. In 1996, the figure was 29,310.
In both years, about 13,100 employees were students.