Efficient and Effective
Committee stops short of reorganizing academic units
By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services
East Carolina University’s current academic structure is “relatively efficient and effective” and not in need of significant reorganization, according to a final report issued by a chancellor-appointed committee April 27.
The organization of 13 colleges under three divisions is not in need of adjustment “unless warranted by budget reductions,” the report states. Chancellor Steve Ballard appointed committee members in April 2011 and tasked them with reducing costs in the face of continuing fiscal challenges. ECU took a 16.1 percent cut in state funding for the 2011-2012 fiscal year following four consecutive years of state budget cuts.
The Program Prioritization Committee did, however, recommend cost-cutting steps. Committee chair Ron Mitchelson estimated the following could add up to $1.3 million in annual savings:
- Reduce campus-wide academic administrative costs by between $1 million and $2 million. Plans to reach that target would be due to the chancellor by Oct. 15.
- Reduce the number of academic departments by four. That includes mergers within the College of Education and the relocation of programs in the Brody School of Medicine.
- Move ECU centers and institutes (including the Center for Sustainable Tourism and the Center for Health Disparities Research) into related colleges to reduce costs and take advantage of joint faculty appointments.
- Seek operational and administrative cost savings and coordination between Academic Library Services and Health Sciences Library Services.
- Conduct efficiency audits any time a high-level administrative office (department chair or higher) is vacated.
All recommendations are subject to approval by Chancellor Ballard.
Mitchelson said those suggestions coupled with the committee’s first phase of work will save the university approximately $4 million in annual expenses. Phase I targeted individual programs for investment, maintenance, reduction or elimination over time.
A handful of academic departments were recommended for relocation or consolidation in the April 27 report:
- Merge Library Science and Business and Information Technologies within the College of Education.
- Merge Higher, Adult and Counselor Education and Educational Leadership within the College of Education.
- Move Physician Assistant Studies into Family Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine.
- Move Clinical Laboratory Sciences to Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine.
- Move the School of Hospitality Management to the College of Business.
- Move the Department of Nutrition into either the College of Health and Human Performance or the College of Allied Health Sciences.
The announcement followed a series of forums held April 9-12 in which faculty and staff asked that colleges not be split and questioned whether cost savings would be worth potential setbacks.
“There’s an element of truth in what they’re saying,” Mitchelson said. “Rearranging the departments is really disrupting.”
Instead, he said, it will be up to departments and schools to find administrative cost savings on their own.
“We’re not telling them how to do this,” he explained.
Mitchelson doesn’t believe a thorough consideration of more drastic measures such as the elimination of whole colleges and wide-scale redistribution of programs caused unnecessary angst.
“We had to go through a discovery phase,” he said. “I still think it leaves the door open for change.
“Everybody feels anxiety during discovery. We had to dig into the units to see where the production was. You’re trying to make the best decisions out of a bunch of bad options.”
The committee also made an informal recommendation in the report: The university must find other sources of revenue to fund academics.
“An effort, equal to the year-long self-examination of the PPC, should place clear focus on expanding non-state funding sources at ECU,” it states.
More information about the PPC and its latest reports are available at http://www.ecu.edu/ppc.