Administrative Changes, November 16, 2009
Although there have been a few things that have occupied our collective attention as a University over the past year, one that I have continued to think about off and on has been the role of administration on our campus. I have wanted to be deliberate in my thinking on this matter since our University has at times been perhaps a bit cavalier about administrative organizational change.
(The flip side of that coin is that most discussions about administrative organization are excellent sleep aids, so you may want to read this lying down if you have any history of narcolepsy.)
All joking aside, how we structure our administration says a great deal about what we value and stand for as an institution. Many of you have heard me say things to the effect that we exist as a University to provide an environment for teaching, learning, and discovery. All of us with jobs at CSU who are not employed to do these things are here to facilitate the success of those who do.
From my first month as the interim president, I’ve been working to cut our administrative costs and to facilitate a more effective, efficient, and service-oriented administration. Statements like these are prime fodder for jokes in any big organization, and I readily acknowledge that our bureaucracy certainly can always stand to improve. I also know that, particularly in times of budget reductions, any discussion about administration has the potential to be incendiary. I am also fully cognizant of how lean administration is on our campus, and whenever we reduce budgets in administrative support services, the majority of the e-mail complaints we receive relate to declines in service.
I share the above observations in the context of our ongoing budget challenges. As we approach the FY11 Planning & Budget process, we in the administration have a responsibility to demonstrate our commitment to cost containment and making difficult choices. And I believe we must do so in a way that respects the most critical service needs of students and faculty, reorganizing those areas where we have an opportunity to become more focused and streamlined, while minimizing the impact of any changes on the academic side.
With this in mind, I have decided to eliminate another existing vice president position by combining the responsibilities of the Senior VP for Administrative Services and the VP for Finance into a single position, the Vice President for University Operations. This change fits with my sense that administrations should be organized around the functional activities of the organization. At a University, we house and educate our students while conducting scholarly work and applying our discoveries for the benefit of society. This, to my mind, is what we refer to as “the academic core” and it is managed by the Provost and Executive Vice President. The remainder of the organization supports this academic core via recruiting, fund raising, external relations and communications, athletics and an on-campus supporting infrastructure, and it is this last area that will now be managed under the VP for University Operations.
We should acknowledge that the roles of Senior Vice President for Administrative Services and Vice President for Finance were traditionally combined at CSU, and they were split in recent years because of the difficulty in finding a single person with experience across both portfolios — covering areas as diverse as human resources, facilities, and finance. In deciding to recombine these roles, and when considering the right person to take on the dual role, I was not focused on finding a person who had managed each of these areas. I was instead interested in someone fully vested in Colorado State University, someone who had worked closely with these VP divisions as well as with the academic colleges, someone whose work ethic and commitment to a service administration would help overcome any lack of specific experience in a given subset of the division. I am pleased to inform you that Amy Parsons, most recently our campus’ deputy general counsel, has accepted my offer to serve in this combined role. An alumna of CSU (Liberal Arts, ’95), Amy has worked tirelessly as a member of my Cabinet, demonstrating the integrity, intelligence, and expertise that have made her a respected voice on our leadership team. She has worked closely with both of these divisions and understands their responsibilities and challenges. Most important, she is an individual who asks “Why?” and “How?” before thinking about “Why not?”, and she understands the primacy of the academic core. Please join me in welcoming her to this new role.
In making this announcement, I must also acknowledge the dedication, hard work, and service that Tom Gorell and Allison Dineen have given to our University while serving in the separate vice presidential roles. Both are longstanding, accomplished members of our campus community who have earned our gratitude for their leadership and commitment to building excellence within their separate divisions.
They’ll both work with Amy during her transition into the formal, combined role starting December 15. Tom has stated his desire to retire after FY11, and between now and then he will be returning to his previous role in the Provost’s Office as Special Assistant to the Provost. As you may recall, Tom previously served as Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, a position that has since been eliminated. Tom’s transition back through this office can assist Rick in managing some of the tasks left unfinished when we made that administrative adjustment. Allison will remain with the University Operations division as a Special Assistant to the VP. Her knowledge and experience will serve us all well as we continue to navigate the difficult budget waters that lie ahead. Please join me in thanking both Tom and Allison for their service in these roles.
In addition, I have eliminated the title “senior VP” from our central administrative system. I am a fan of reasonably flat organizational structures, and the “senior” title was implemented with a pay increment that we think we ought to forego in the current budget climate. The people who have served our University as SrVPs will now hold the title of VP, and they remain valued assets of our community, trusted members of my Cabinet, and they deserve our thanks for their efforts.
Finally, a word about our organizational structure. One of the advantages of adding a chancellor to the CSU System was to allow the President to be more active both on campus and off, particularly with alumni and fund-raising, given that the Chancellor would handle state political relations. Because of this change and the flattening of our organizational structure, which gives more direct reports to the Provost/EVP, divisions that feed and support the academic core — the VP for Enrollment and Access and the new VP for University Operations — will report to the President.
If any of you who have read to this point are having trouble sleeping, a revised organizational chart has been posted to the Spotlight section of President’s Office web page. If that doesn’t put you out, I advise you to reduce stress, increase exercise, and see your doctor.