Given the depth of the crisis in 2009-10, the campus administration initiated a study by global consultant Bain & Co. of non-academic dimensions of campus operations and how they might be streamlined and costs cut. This is BFA’s first cut report on the progress of ‘Operation Excellence’, based on Bain’s interim report.
The Bain Report – First Look
The Bain Report will make recommendations on whether and how the campus budget can be reduced through reductions in administrative costs. The Berkeley Faculty Association is following the Report to help assure that its findings and recommendations are realistic and that the Campus Administration uses them appropriately.
What is the Bain Report?
As the financial crisis on the Berkeley campus unfolded during 2009, Chancellor Birgeneau initiated “Operation Excellence” (OE) to improve the effectiveness and reduce the costs of administering the campus, see:
The Administration contracted with Bain and Company, a global firm engaged in management consulting, to assess and make recommendations on how the Berkeley campus is administered. Bain staff interviewed administrators and faculty and issued an interim report in February 2010 on the structure of the administration and areas in which they judged improvements might be made, see:
The interim report consists of bar charts and other presentations of highly aggregated data with little or no interpretation, analytical or qualitative. OE and the Bain interim report are focusing on simplifying administrative organization, centralizing information technology services, improving energy efficiency, reallocating space, consolidating student services, and consolidating procurement.
Why do we care about the Bain Report?
The Bain Report does not address faculty salaries, benefits, or retirement. It does not directly address how we teach, the availability of GSIs, or the quality of our classrooms. Nor does it directly address how we do our research (except through the procurement of supplies).
Nevertheless, the recommendations of the Bain Report and how the Campus Administration use the Bain Report are very important because it addresses the administrative support of teaching and research. In particular, the BFA is concerned about how the report might affect the quality and accessibility of the personnel who back up our teaching and research.
Our primary concern with the interim report is that it highlights that 55% of those classified as supervisors on the campus have three or fewer people reporting to them whereas supervisors perhaps more typically supervise four or more people. This “finding” is important because an administration with 2000 employees, for example, that has few employees per supervisor will form a very tall pyramid with many layers. Indeed, UC Berkeley’s administrative structure has many tiers, and this means things need to be approved at many levels, with much of the approval simply being repetitive.
The data, however, are also misleading. Many of the “supervisors” with few people reporting to them are not supervisors by the criteria used by UC Human Resources. They are staff in the numerous departments, graduate groups, research institutes, and centers with specialized functions (dealing with accounting, graduates, undergraduates, special research programs, etc). While it may appear that there are too many administrative sub units at the “ground level” where our work as faculty typically occurs, each of the units came into being to serve a special local need. While these diverse needs and how they can best be delivered should clearly be reassessed, the numbers alone do not indicate there is a problem.
Richard Norgaard, ERG & Waldo Martin, History