Field of Science

Problem Solving 101 - Higher Education Sets the Example

Here's a wonderful example of bureaucratic problem solving in higher education. The physical plant at our fine institution was looking for ways to cut their operational costs, just like everyone else. And some remarkable intellect figured out that the science buildings were using way more expensive paper towels than other buildings because - gasp!- laboratories have sinks, and sinks need paper towels, and labs need sinks because biology stuff is messy, hands get dirty, and so on. A candidate for outstanding administrator of the year found a way to cut costs by transferring the responsibility for laboratory paper towels to the academic department. Ta Da, the physical plant saves money. Now understand this, all central administrators are in the business of counting beans in the form of credit hours generated, and academic departments who are the only units that cultivate this particular crop are regularly dunned if their credit hours decline, however never, ever are the academic departments ever given the tuition generated. This of course would solve many of the problems right away, and credit hour generation would certainly become important if the people making them got the rewards, but the clear risk is that they might decide they don't need an assistant to the night manager in charge of paper towel distribution. But academic departments when faced with a new cost and a budget that has been static for more than a decade adopt their time honored approach - passing the cost on to students via laboratory fees, which themselves were instituted because not enough of the tuition money made its way back to departments to buy what was needed for teaching laboratory courses. Oh, but increases in fees and tuition are a real no-no right now, bad PR and all that, so the bean counter-in-chief of our particular college declares that this new cost CANNOT be passed on to students. This is a zero sum game, folks. So something has to give, and you may rest assured that our overall budget for such purchases was not what we would call flush. Yikes! Don't say flush! We'll end up buying our own TP! So we will have to do without something that we previously had thought we needed for educational purposes to buy paper towels, or like a nice little day care center we can have all the students bring little towels to lab classes, and that would be OK since it won't show up on the balance sheets. In the meantime someone somewhere is getting the award ready for the person who excelled by cutting costs so well. The same person shall receive the Phactor's short-sighted detriment to education award. Well done everyone!

No comments: