Job duplication issue unresolved

By Ken Goze

After nearly a year of struggle, no concrete findings about job duplication were made at a Board of Regents committee meeting Wednesday at NIU.

The Regents Personnel and Operations Committee entered into a discussion of the number of jobs that are duplicated between the university and Chancellor’s Office levels.

At today’s regular Regents meeting, the committee will recommend looking at the possibility of hiring outside consultants to help ferret out duplication between the three Regency universities and the Chancellor’s Office.

Regent Joe Ebbesen first raised the issue last May but had to wait for bureaucratic red tape to be cleared, including a cancellation at the January meeting because of committee Chairman Carol Burns’ absence.

He said the recent reports provided by the universities which detail job functions are confusing. He suggested an external review to sift through the dozens of positions at the four areas.

Regent Milton McClure said he agreed and urged the committee not to table the issue. “It (the report) doesn’t tell me what I need to know as a policy maker. It’s time for this board to take the bull by the horns and get on with this.”

McClure said questions of administrative bloat need to be answered.

“We’ve heard time and time again that we have the smallest (Chancellor’s) office, yet others say we’re bloated. We say we’re cutting administrators, yet the Illinois Board of Higher Education reports an increase,” he said.

Regent David Murphy said the board cannot afford to drag its feet in the current atmosphere of midyear budget cuts and continuing hard times. He said the board can either tighten its own belt or face intervention of the IBHE.

Debate focused on whether the cost of hiring a consultant would outweigh potential savings. NIU student Regent James Mertes said money already was spent on in-house efforts to find duplication and the board should avoid large consulting fees.

“We’ll be duplicating efforts to determine duplication. We already hire consultants for many different purposes. It won’t be long before we hire consultants to evaluate our consultants,” Mertes said.

Burns said while the universities and chancellor can provide information about their own operations, no one has evaluated the four different operations as a whole.

Ebbesen said reasonable consultant’s fees should be considered an investment rather than expenditure.

“It could end up just being an expenditure (if no duplication is found) but I don’t think so. This is an important subject. We need external, competent people to give us direction on this,” Ebbesen said.

NIU President John La Tourette said the board has to decide how much it is willing to spend to find all areas of duplication. La Tourette said he would be opposed to cuts aimed at specific programs.

McClure said the effort to find duplication is concerned only with administrative staff and should not be confused with individual campus cost-cutting efforts such as NIU’s Committee on Organization, Productivity and Salaries.

The Regents govern NIU, Illinois State University at Normal and Sangamon State University at Springfield.