Regents plan for

by Nancy Ngo

The Board of Regents added a new word Thursday to the University’s policy lexicon: decentralization.
In a meeting heavy on discussion and light on policy changes, University President Mark Yudof furthered his goal of increasing the accountability and self-governance of colleges and departments.
“I expect next year’s report to be much more outcome-oriented,” said Bob Bruininks, executive vice president and provost.
The meeting highlighted two major decentralization strategies. The first, dubbed Compacts, requires deans and administrators to set academic and financial goals for colleges and departments. The other policy, Incentives for Managed Growth, directly allocates tuition to individual departments instead of through central administration, as was done before.
Regents and administrators said both policies have to work together to be effective. But they anticipated problems in the process of changing the University’s traditionally centralized policies.
“We have to be very careful,” said Regent David Metzen. “There are tremendous cultural changes here. There are going to be a lot of bumps.”
Former University President Nils Hasselmo implemented Incentives for Managed Growth July 1, 1997. Yudof inherited the new budgeting approach of giving tuition money to colleges based on enrollment.
“I am not an advocate of IMG,” Yudof said.
For each student enrolled in a class, the host college gets 75 percent of the student’s tuition money. The other 25 percent goes to the college in which the student is majoring.
Yudof said he does not want to penalize departments that can’t bring in high enrollment numbers, such as those that don’t offer courses required for graduation.
Also, others fear competition between instructors wanting to increase enrollment numbers might dilute curriculums.
“The concern is that teaching will be watered down and there will be grade inflation,” said Victor Bloomfield, professor in biology and chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee.
The goal to decentralize authority also must be met with more accountability by departments, Yudof emphasized. A similar policy coincides with IMG to increase this effort.
Regents saw for the first time an example of a compact, a list of mutual goals between colleges and administration. Regent Michael O’Keefe said he wanted to make sure the goals were comparable to those set by the regents for the entire University.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 35 meetings between administrators and deans have taken place to outline the compact strategies.
In coming years, college administrators will analyze details such as faculty pool and enrollment numbers to see if they meet standards set in the previous plans. If not, planners must decide on more realistic strategies.
Yudof modeled the Compacts initiative after a similar program implemented at the University of Texas, Austin. By placing more accountability on colleges and departments, the method fits into his goals to decentralize administrators’ authority.
“Mark proved he could make it work in Texas,” said Mike Martin, dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences. “All the deans I know believe it has a real opportunity to improve the way we do business.”