Tells Divisions to Slash Budgets; Staff Cuts Possible
By John Byrne
Across campus, College offices are scrambling to
meet a new Dye directive — reduce operating budgets to avoid
“We need to save a million dollars in our operating budget,”
Vice President for Finance Andy Evans said Thursday. “Anybody
in the senior staff who manages budgets must look at their budgets
to reduce 20 percent.” Senior staff members manage such divisions
as the Conserv-atory, Arts & Sciences, Student Life, Admissions
and Financial Aid, Development and Alumni Affairs.
President Nancy Dye and Vice President Evans have told divisional
offices that they must shave 20 percent from their operating budgets,
based on an analysis that revealed areas where discretionary spending
could be cut. In addition, administrators have been freezing and
eliminating positions over the past year. But this, Dye said, may
not be enough.
“Nobody pretends that the discretionary spending cutting is
going to solve the budget problem,” she said. “Frankly,
it’s clear that not every unit will be able to cut that much.”
“It has been a goal not to have layoffs and we continue to
work and see if we can do that,” she added. “But, it’s
going to be hard. I cannot promise that there will not be layoffs,
nor have I ever been able to promise that.”
Dye intends to leave no stone unturned in her search for budget
cuts before making staff cuts. “We are cutting all kinds of
spending,” she said.
Printing and publications, postage and paper use are all being slashed.
More and more professors are availing themselves of electronic reserve,
which allows them to eliminate paper use. “Electronic reserve
would be a good example,” she said.
Dye rattled off specifics, such as consolidating the number of forms
that are mailed to incoming students or using Oberlin Online for
announcements rather than printing them.
Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith noted that while he has struggled
to reduce the Student Life budget, certain contracts, such as those
with photocopying companies, telephone contracts and dining services,
are fixed. He stated that he will have to reduce programming funds
available to student organizations this year.
At the moment he says, there isn’t a layoff discussion. “We’re
not talking about [human resources] right now, we’re talking
about operating costs,” Goldsmith said.
People could certainly be pink-slipped, administrators suggest,
but these cuts will likely be from the administrative and professional
The faculty is largely immune, due to tenure and the importance
of maintaining a strong student-to-faculty ratio, as are the unions
that manage the service trades. Grounds workers, custodians, carpenters,
painters, electricians, administrative assistants, food service
workers and Security staff are all unionized, and each has two-to-three
year contracts with the College.
The Administrative and Professional Staff, however, are not unionized.
These positions include Student Union workers, employees of the
library and those of the computing center.
To stave off layoffs, the College is endeavoring to take advantage
of all possible revenue streams, and to reduce the amount it pays
out to vendors.
“When you start to negotiate with your large vendors, then
you can start to make some significant savings,” Dye said.
“All of our vendors have been making reductions.”
Dye and Evans both noted that a number of the College’s primary
vendors have reduced their annual charges. Aramark, which manages
facilities and operations and Bon Appétit, which manages
Campus Dining Services, have both cut fees significantly. The College’s
Cleve-land-based attorneys also reduced their fees.
This will save the College between $300,000 and $400,000, Evans
Dye also noted that the College has benefited from having more students
on campus than in previous years, since room charges subsidize the
College’s operating budget.
“Bringing students back on campus is important,” she
said. “Filling our beds is an absolute requirement, and it
should be a requirement no matter when.”
In addition, Dye stated that the College is working assiduously
to augment annual giving, which feeds the operating budget. Dye
also noted that the College has changed how the asset allocation
in the endowment is structured.
Speaking to concerns about the falling stock market, she chided
those who believe the College’s endowment is tied directly
to indices like the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The College, she
said, has benefited by moving away from parts of the market that
have been falling out, such as domestic equities.
“You can’t tie our endowment performance to the Dow,”
she said. “We look at many, many, many indices.”
Yet Vice President for Alumni and Development John Hays noted that
the market is an integral part of the endowment’s performance.
“When the market drops, then the endowment projections have
to be adjusted,” Hays said. “All colleges and universities
are going through that.”
But the little things do matter, he asserted.
“We go more with standard postage rather than first class,”
Hays said. “And because many of us travel, we’re very
aggressive in finding the best travel prices. We use the computer
a great deal and bargain the best we can.”
Ultimately, Evans stated that while the process may be difficult,
all decisions will be predicated upon sound principles.
“This process, which is an uncomfortable process, works best
when the community understands that it is being done in a responsible
manner... that we are looking at all possibilities,” he said.