UC Berkeley Faculty Association

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Op’n Excellence

Operational Excellence is a major program of organizational restructuring taking place at Berkeley. It is a response to the severe budget crisis that began in 2009 and continues to this day. It arose, in part, from widespread faculty concerns about administrative overhead on campus, due to overstaffing at the top, padded salaries and inefficient operations.

The administration has put up a website about OE, where the various “initiatives” are posting their reform proposals. To keep up with the official line, go to:
Operational Excellence Administrative website

On October 1, 2010, SAVE & the Berkeley Faculty Association came up with a set of basic principles for evaluating reform. These have circulated widely on campus and had an impact on the discussion, both among staff and administrators.
Principles for OpEx-SAVE & BFA

On November 1, SAVE and the BFA issued a new, hard-hitting set of proposals for Operational Excellence. We hope these will be taken seriously by the administration, given the real danger of harm to the campus by ill-conceived cuts and staff layoffs.
BFA & SAVE – How Not to Reorganize UCB

SAVE the University has issued a statement calling for a halt to further layoffs until the administration commits to a major investment in overhauling campus informational technology systems, which are a significant barrier to effective work by staff and faculty, as well as to student services.
SAVE – Layoffs & IT

Faculty Survey on Time Wasters and Support Services.
On January 31, 2011, a three-question survey was sent to members of the Berkeley Faculty Association, SAVE UC members, and a smattering of other faculty. Sixty-one faculty responded and the results were are most instructive about key organizational problems on campus that OE and the administration should be addressing:

‘Time Wasters’ – Survey of UCB Faculty

Mid-Term Evaluation of Operational Excellence
BFA board member Catherine Cole has prepared a sharp analysis of where we stand after a year of OE — arguing that the point is not simply restructuring for efficiency, but being clear on the larger matter of what the university is and what it does.

Operational Excellence “mid-semester evaluation”


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

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  1. Pingback: Berkeley Students Occupy Ledge at Wheeler Hall « Student Activism

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