Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April 1 Update: Early Deloitte Efficiency Proposals

April 1, 2014, 9:50 a.m.

Early Revelations Shock UI Faculty, Staff

Edward Snowden's revelations regarding NSA abuses have pretty much sucked all the oxygen out of the attention that was formerly focused on Julian Assange's documents.

But a couple of encrypted emails last evening, that had obviously been routed through a number of countries, make me think we're about to hear more from him -- especially locally. [Photo credit: Getty Images; multiple sources.]

Why Assange would care about the Deloitte efficiency study is, frankly, beyond me. He's never before indicated much interest in Iowa, its universities in particular, or higher education scandals in general. Something he wrote suggested he may have seen my blog essay of March 29th, "UI Says, 'Deloitted to Meet You,'" but I think that's unlikely.

Anyhow, it appears that somebody has provided him with some of the pre-inquiry proposals being considered by Deloitte. At least I assume it's too early for Deloitte to have suggestions coming from the Iowa universities' stakeholders. There's no indication who his source might have been, but it would seem it would have to have been someone inside Deloitte, the Regents, or upper echelons of the universities' administrators. Clearly the writing is riddled with the usual "consultant-speak": shared governance, transparent, collaborative, open, data-driven analysis, transformational, ongoing process.

What I have so far are two impressively long lists of suggestions, so I won't try to reproduce all of them here, but just provide some illustrative examples. If I get additional emails from that source throughout the day containing anything worth sharing with you, I'll add them.

It came as no surprise to me that the proposed "efficiencies" are not limited to cost savings, but include new or enhanced revenue streams and sales of assets. The Jackson Pollock painting, with an estimated value of $150-500 million, heads that list.

What is more surprising is the proposal to sell off the universities' "Lakeside Laboratory Regents Resource Center" at Lake Okoboji in Northwest Iowa. Why surprising? As mentioned in my March 29th blog essay, the University of Iowa's experts are perfectly capable of investigating and reporting potential cost-saving efficiencies. One recent such effort recommended the total elimination of ten or so programs, and reductions of up to $400,000 in others. One of the programs it recommended eliminating was the 1909 Lakeside Laboratory subsidy. This would have saved the University some $176,000 a year. Notwithstanding that recommendation, what happened? The Regents not only rejected that suggestion, they actually nearly doubled the subsidy! Why is it now back on the death penalty list? Either it's because of the change in the membership of the Regents, or more likely the idea is coming from another source.

One of the more imaginative proposals is the possible sale of the Pentacrest. There are some references to Marc Moen, but it's not clear if he is the one involved, and apparently there is no specific offer yet on the table from anyone. The suggestion is that Jessup Hall, Macbride Hall, MacLean Hall, and Schaeffer Hall would be demolished. Some sources indicate there's a proposal to replace them with multi-purpose towers, but that's not repeated anywhere in the documents I have. The Old Capitol exterior would be preserved, but the interior would be remodeled into $500,000 condo units, with a cocktail lounge inside an expanded dome. As a part of the proposal to sell the Finkbine Golf Course to a housing developer, it's possible a large glass structure will be built there, matching the architectural design of the UI Athletics Hall of Fame and Museum, across Mormon Trek. The new building would provide space for whatever current Liberal Arts and Sciences departments are currently in the four Pentacrest Buildings and are not eliminated for efficiency during future reforms.

One of the more imaginative possible sales may actually be favored by some faculty: the transfer of the football program to what is tentatively proposed to be named "The Budweiser Bullies," with a lease of the former Kinnick Stadium (to be renamed, "Budweiser Field"). "In Heaven There Is No Beer" is scheduled to replace the National Anthem.

One of the most voluminous collections of ideas involve reductions in payroll -- one of the University's most obvious cost centers. One idea is called "flip the instructors." Graduate teaching assistants will be preferred over adjuncts, adjuncts over non-tenured faculty, and non-tenured faculty over those with tenure. This alone will substantially reduce the cost of instructors.

The abolition of any future grants of tenure was to be expected. [Photo credit: Source unknown; appears in James Dean, "Deloitte Fights Back After Phoenix Four Fine," The Times [London]," October 5, 2013 ("The tribunal found in July that Deloitte had deliberately flouted professional standards when arranging two deals for the Phoenix Four and issued the fine — ten times its previous largest — last month.")]

What came as a surprise to me were two cost-saving measures that I had frankly never heard of before: (a) The abolition of benefits, such as health care and retirement funds. Apparently many American workers don't have such additions to their salaries.

(b) Since professors' pay is supposedly sort of half for teaching and half for research and writing, these components are to be treated separately. This alone will further cut pay in half for those who are not doing substantial scholarly writing.

Research and writing that a Regents' review committee considers "practical," and a meaningful potential boost to Iowa's economy, will be compensated on a per-piece basis, similar to what other freelance writers are paid in the corporate marketplace. (Teaching will be paid for at a relatively generous per-classroom-hour rate when compared with current proposals for an increased minimum wage.)

Well, that's all I -- and you -- have time for now.

If any of Assange's emails have come to you, feel free to supplement my list with whatever from them you care to share in the form of a comment, below.

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