UNI staff, faculty ask for details on staff reductions

Deloitte: That level of detail isn't known

A driver drives through the gateway of the University of Northern Iowa on Thursday, June 23, 2011, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
A driver drives through the gateway of the University of Northern Iowa on Thursday, June 23, 2011, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG-TV9)

CEDAR FALLS — Less than a week after the Board of Regents discussed aspects of a sweeping efficiency review of its universities that could eliminate hundreds of jobs, University of Northern Iowa employees asked for more details during the first of three public forums.

“What positions does Deloitte see being eliminated?” one person asked of representatives with Deloitte Consulting LLC, hired to conduct the regents’ efficiency study.

“What would be the total FTEs needed to save those funds?” another person asked about Deloitte’s estimated saving of tens of millions in the areas of human resources, information technology, finance and facilities.

Deloitte representatives, during the Monday afternoon forum on the UNI campus, said that level of detail — specific jobs that could be cut or consolidated — is not yet available.

“Wouldn’t it require more research and more detail to even bring this as a possibility?” one employee asked.

Rick Ferraro, a director for Deloitte, said his company hasn’t done that level of research yet because it would be too costly and time-consuming at this stage. The Board of Regents, he said, first must agree that it’s worth investigating further.

“I’m sure it must be frustrating to hear that,” Ferraro said. “It would be silly to invest in doing that step because it would be too costly. The board wouldn’t have an answer for months. I apologize for the frustrating component of this, but, at this stage, it’s just not feasible to say ‘here are the exact positions and the exact numbers.’ ”

When pressed about what types of positions were reviewed, a Deloitte official listed jobs such as secretaries, administrative assistants and clerks.

Ferraro, however, interrupted that list to stress that more data collection is necessary to make those decisions.

“It’s up to the board about whether this proceeds,” he said. “But extreme detail is not available at this time.”

Before taking questions Monday, Deloitte officials recapped details of eight new efficiency opportunities that were presented to the board last week. Those opportunities relate to administrative operations on the campuses and add to four others the Board of Regents already have approved and are working to implement.

Regents will consider whether and how to move forward with these next eight opportunities in November, after the public forums on the three campuses. Forums are scheduled on the UI campus Thursday and at ISU next Monday.

Although Deloitte has not tallied expected savings and staff reductions that could come from the eight opportunities, a 138-page proposal presented to the Board of Regents indicates they could save tens of millions of dollars and eliminate more than 250 jobs across the three universities.

Deloitte officials last week and again at Monday’s forum stressed there are many ways to reduce staff, including through natural attrition and retirements. And, they said, board and university officials will make final decisions on staff levels.

According to regents documents, some of the larger cuts were proposed in the areas of finance and human resources — potential changes to the finance operating models could result in a loss of 61 full-time positions at UI, 50 full-time jobs at ISU and 14 positions at UNI.

Opportunities the board already is moving forward with include improving sourcing and procurement practices; simplifying search committee processes; creating a common applicant portal for would-be students interested in more than one of the state’s schools; and improving a scoring system used to gauge applicants’ likelihood at success if admitted — known as the Regents Admission Index.

The board is contracting with Deloitte to implement its sourcing and procurement changes — although details of a new contract have not been finalized. For the other three opportunities, the board is directing university and board staff to lead those efforts.

The board, so far, has agreed to pay Deloitte $3.3 million.

For the next eight opportunities, Deloitte suggested using a consultant to help implement all but two.

During Monday’s forum, several people asked about academic-related efficiencies. The board has said it’s planning to look at another five academic-related opportunities, but it’s unclear when discussions in the academic areas will occur.