Field of Science

How to run a university - cutting costs one paper towel at a time

The Phactor's Scot ancestry makes him very frugal, and no one dislikes waste and inefficiency more.  But at times you have to wonder if the people in charge have any idea at all about how the university works.  In times such as these it's understandable that all units seek ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies.  So kudos to the physical plant for finding a problem and solving it.  Things like paper towels cost a big organization a lot of money what with bathrooms existing in nearly every building and use of them is free, a big employee and student perk.  But in examining the usage data, two buildings were using paper towels at a rate far above the rest, and both were science buildings housing biology, geology, and chemistry.  Physicists in both theory and practice apparently are not messy.  Where could all those towels be going?  Imagine their surprise to discover that laboratories have sinks because people in those labs have to wash things.  So the physical plant decides to cut its costs by simply deciding that sinks other than those in bathrooms are not their responsibility.  Just as the water, electricity, heat, and trash in places other than bathrooms are not their responsibility either.  So does this negate the need for sinks and paper towels in labs?  No.  So now each departmental unit will be buying paper towels, losing the economy of scale, and the physical plant gets to pin a medal on itself for a brilliant cost saving measure.  What they fail to grasp is that academic departments do not get the tuition they earn.  So where will this money come from?  Instead of purchasing educational supplies, the dept will be buying paper towels most likely at a higher cost than the physical plant.  Brilliant, no?  An astute observer will note that not only did not the university save anything, it probably ends up spending more because all one unit did was shift the cost to another unit.  Ah, but now that a dept is spending its "own" money, we will become aware of the wastage and use fewer paper towels.  Yes, let that water you spilled evaporate, it's cheaper than paper towels.  Such are the ridiculous antics at a state university, but they get their marching orders and lessons from the great state of Lincolnland itself.  Our governor has figured out that the university retirement system is a ponzi scheme that is using employees contributions to cover its obligations to retirees, conveniently eliminating the state's obligation to make employer contributions, so now they appear to be deciding that the universities should cover the employer contributions, which will be the biggest unfunded mandate ever.  So if the money is not coming from the state, where will it come from?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Oh, yes, tuition, which has risen far faster than the cost of living because of the withdrawal of state support, and who then is sharply critical of public universities as a result?  Why the very politicians who created the situation!  This mandate would cost each and every student about $1200 more tuition every year, about a 14% increase, passed on to students and their families because the state is loath to raise taxes.  The Phactor also figures the employee contribution would increase as well, thus taking an even bigger bite out of our largely stagnant salaries.  Mrs. Phactor will not be happy about that, and she has threatened to pull the plug.  Yes, this is not empty threat Lincolnland.  The Phactor will be forced to retire, take his money and run for cover.  The whole thinking in our state is just brilliant.  Of course, tea party conservatives would like to nuke public education/indoctrination mills completely.  So the stakes go up!  Hey, you, don't use a paper towel to blow  your nose; carry your own tissues.  My job is at stake!

1 comment:

Carol Steel said...

Even though there is a touch of humor and /or sarcasm in your post, it is pathetic that the paper towel issue is such an excellent example of how universities are shooting themselves in the foot by driving out their educators, the good ones. How much shit can a person endure? Is anyone with a brain running the educational system? Perhaps Mrs. P is right...there is only so much petty crap a person can endure.