January 31, 2018
Dear Colleagues,One year ago, almost to the day, 100+ members of the NU community met for the first time to begin the Budget Response Team process. The teams received a bold charge from President Bounds and the chancellors: Rethink how the University of Nebraska does business – reduce costs, develop more efficient practices and at the same time, advance university-wide goals of collaboration and outstanding service to students, faculty, staff and stakeholders.
Knowing we could not simply tweak our way to the goal, the teams embarked on a major transformation of many of our operations. A year later, here are the results: We are in the process of reinventing ourselves organizationally and operationally in key functional areas — facilities, energy, human resources and payroll, IT, and procurement. Communication, printing and travel are examining their work to achieve needed economies as well. Every team is striving to maintain a strong service orientation to the university community even as they reduce costs.
Fiscally, we’ve saved $6.6 million in real dollars, with twice that amount expected in 2018. Ultimately, we anticipate finding a total of $30 million – it won’t be easy or painless, but we aim to get it done! And, we are doing all of this in a relatively short timeframe, made even more pressing by the urgent fiscal challenges our university is facing.
The campuses have a right to be proud of this work. The fact is that although most of us will be negatively impacted by BRT changes in some ways, we should not lose sight of the reason we went down this path in the first place – we needed to protect the academic core as best we could – educating students, making new discoveries through scholarship and creative activity, and engaging with the community.
Ultimate ImpactThink of it, for every million dollars we save through the BRT process, departments and colleges are buffered from having to find that million dollars among their degree and certificate programs. Likewise, students and families are shielded from having to make up this 30 million-dollar shortfall through commensurate tuition hikes. I can’t stress these outcomes enough, especially as we face additional cuts in state funding and their potentially broader and deeper impacts.
From Last January to NowThe BRT process began with a focus on business operations. Consequently, the BRTs were populated primarily by individuals who lead and manage those areas. They are intimately familiar with the structures, technology, software programs, and best practices within each function – and are the ones within whose areas the most significant changes will happen. Their efforts have been steady and deep – they have spent long hours researching, planning and working through many levels of detail, while still doing their daily work to keep the institution running.
At the same time, we knew all along that wide input from faculty and staff – the ones who feel the impact of the work that is done in business operations – would be essential. To that end, the feedback period for many of the BRT proposals began last fall and is continuing in earnest. The campuses have responded with relevant critiques and useful suggestions. Teams are listening. For example, you may remember that campus feedback led to the tabling of two proposals related to benefits. Renewed work on those ideas is underway, informed by what the HR team heard from you.
And, just a few days ago, several hundred faculty and staff members attended or tuned in remotely to Travel BRT listening sessions conducted at UNL, UNO, UNMC and UNK. Participants offered critiques, explained special circumstances about which they had concerns, and suggested changes. The feedback is still coming in via email from individuals and groups. All of it is being considered and will help shape ultimate policy implementation.
These are just two examples of the impact your input is making on the long-term implementation of BRT-inspired strategies. Allow me to pause and say thank you. It is a significant enterprise in which we are all engaged.
We’re Still Seeking FeedbackAdditional BRT team representatives will visit campuses this semester to gather input related to proposals focused on desktop printers, university vehicles, communication strategies, printing and other issues associated with approved BRT proposals. I hope you will attend the listening sessions and open forums being planned. You may also address any BRT strategy using the feedback link at the end of this update. Finally, some teams plan to ask faculty or staff to serve on advisory groups to help guide the implementation of certain strategies. We’ll share more about this facet of the process in the coming weeks.
Bottom line, I urge you to take advantage of opportunities to make your ideas known and to help shape BRT strategies in support of our academic mission. I can’t promise that every suggestion will be adopted, but I can say every one will be heard. Now I’d invite you to read the updates below from each BRT group. They exemplify the spirit of cooperation, commitment to excellence and the focus on our mission that have defined this process from the start. I commend your work over the past year, and I look forward to continued progress together in the year ahead.
Senior Associate to the President