Additional cost-saving proposals will be reviewed

One of seven teams within the campus cost-cutting Operational Excellence initiative may soon be another step closer to seeing its proposals enacted.

After proposals from the student service initiative team received guidance from the initiative’s program committee, the coordinating committee — composed of one staff member and one faculty member from each of the seven teams and three student and faculty leaders — will now make a recommendation on each proposal to the executive committee, which will then make a final decision. In total, over 40 proposals are slated to be considered by late August as the initiative reviews them in its effort to save the campus $75 million annually.

On June 23, the coordinating committee will consider making recommendations on five of seven proposals from the student service initiative. Two of the proposals — tools to reduce the costs of residence hall meal plans and a car share service for campus — have already been approved by the executive committee because they required no investment to launch, according to Bill Reichle, communications manager for the program office.

Among the remaining proposals is the creation of an “Academic Commons” that would present one web interface for students to access certain campus services which are now separated, including financial aid, academic standing and class registration.

According to Reichle, this proposal is requesting $7.3 million in funding from the initiative, coupled with another $5 million from outside funds. It will purportedly generate $400,000 in short-term savings through the retirement of old systems and an annual $540,000 in “run-rate savings” by allowing those employees previously dedicated to maintaining old systems to direct more focus elsewhere.

Reichle said many of the cost savings stemming from the student services proposals are not “capturable,” instead representing gains in efficiency by allowing staff to focus on certain “core activities,” such as advising students as opposed to filling out paperwork.

“OE is not as fiscal as it’s been portrayed in the public perception thus far — it’s trying to create improvements and efficiencies,” he said. “Many things on the Berkeley campus have been held together but have not been kept up in the best improvements on technology.”

Later in the summer, student services will present additional proposals to the initiative, including a physical one-stop service center for currently separated transactions on campus.

In regard to analyzing the proposals, Bahar Navab, president-elect of the Graduate Assembly and a member of the coordinating committee, said she looks at a proposal’s impact on students and whether it can achieve its intended goal.

“Sometimes we get a lot of proposals that by themselves might be great, but we only have a limited pot of money to distribute,” she said.

To bolster student involvement in the initiative, the establishment of a DeCal course for undergraduate students and a stipend system for graduate students are being discussed, she said.

Badr Albanna, initiative liaison for the student government, said the goal behind such measures is to allow students serving on initiative committees to be accessible to the campus at-large.

“We appreciate the openness of the Operational Excellence programming office to include students,” Navab said. “But students aren’t always the top priority in Operational Excellence — we’re not always included in all the conversations.”

J.D. Morris is an assistant news editor.