UI flooded with budget suggestions

BY ANNA LOTHSON | MARCH 12, 2009 7:27 AM

With more than 10,000 hits and 237 submissions and counting, the UI budget website has been receiving cost-shaving suggestions ranging from sacrificing landscaping and fixing leaky faucets to cutting salaries and reducing paper waste.

And while it has been functioning for just more than a month, David Kieft, the UI strategic initiatives coordinator for President Sally Mason, said his office has been pleased with the thought-provoking suggestions.

“We were wondering if we would get crazy responses, but we haven’t,” he said, noting he has not had to edit out any objectionable content. “There haven’t been a lot of people who have attacked others. The discourse has been at a high level.”

Organized into three categories — energy, human resources, and operational expenses — anyone who chooses is able to make suggestions via e-mail, which are then anonymously posted to the web.

“We wanted people to be able to very freely give ideas without worrying if people would personally respond to them,” Kieft said.

He reads all the e-mails, he said, and then sends them to the appropriate task force, where members appointed to the deal with specific issues.

Recently introduced by Mason, the six task forces will address deferring capital expenditures, reducing support for non-academic enterprises, reducing energy costs, facility and ground maintenance savings, and organizational changes.

Though for the website, the category receiving the most buzz is human resources.

One comment reads, “I think I would recommend that we ask people if they want to cut down to a 32-hour work week, and for those who do want to do that, great!”

Another suggests the work week should be shifted to four 10-hour days.

A less traditional suggestion says to use old scratch paper instead of sticky notes as well as to decrease the offerings in office-supplies catalogues — “there is no need for someone to have a $3 pen.”

As for energy, developing a more sophisticated heating, cooling, and lighting system, which could be better controlled, is a reccurring theme.

“I, for one, think people over-chill buildings in the summer when we could all dress a bit more reasonably and save some money in the process,” one entry reads, as another notes the sweltering temperatures in buildings.

Following suit, many responders also denote wasteful spending tactics, such as over-printing and lengthy brochures, while one suggestion aims to reduce some tasty perks.

“In this horrible time of trouble, I think people would just as soon not eat at a meeting or reception and maybe save someone’s job,” a remark reads.

UI spokesman Steve Parrott said the suggestions have all been commonsensical.

“It’s good to remind ourselves what those things are sometimes,” he said, “We get at the basics and go from there.”

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