Staff get creative with budget cuts

Yale may have a shortage of money, but there is no shortage of ideas on how to save.

Department heads across the University are in the midst of searching for ways to meet the 7.5 percent cuts in personnel and non-personnel spending. Some layoffs are inevitable, but most personnel reductions being made by leaving open positions vacant. Meanwhile, suggestions are pouring in about how to make the non-personnel cuts, which entail being more frugal with purchased goods and services, said Jane Lee, the director of business operations for Yale College.

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Though the cuts are across-the-board, the solutions are highly localized, which is why the administration is soliciting ideas from the bottom up.

“We said, give us just your craziest ideas, even if you think they’re really crazy,” Lee explained.

And staff responded by the hundreds.

Lee said last week she had received 172 suggestions from staff members about how to save money. Some are repeats — serving less food came up about 10 times, she said — and it is not yet known which ideas will be implemented and which will not. The measures each department will take vary as much as the forms and functions of the departments themselves.

For example, coffeemakers are liable to go, Lee said. There will be less food served in meetings. Every printer will be set to print double-sided by default in order to save paper. Color copying, which is much more expensive than black-and-white, will also be curtailed.

“It adds up,” Lee said.

If departments can find more savings in such goods and services, Provost Peter Salovey said, they may not have to cut as much in personnel costs because, as he put it, “a dollar is a dollar.” Since departments want to avoid, or at least minimize, reducing staff, that creates an incentive to be more creative with reducing stuff.

Yale has made an effort to have wireless Internet in all offices. But since most staff use wired desktops, some are now saying that wireless could be eliminated.

Computers are also currently on a four-year replacement cycle, Lee said. What if this cycle were changed to five years?

One suggestion imagined a centralized ticket sales system for the entire University — from sports to arts — as opposed to the inefficiencies of the current overlapping systems.

Thermostats could be adjusted a few degrees to save on heating and air conditioning. Paper cups could be banned. So could the whole water coolers. So could printing out e-mails.

How about buying only refurbished furniture? What about taking Fridays off during the slow summer months? Could reports and publications be online-only? Do students need physical bluebooks printed and mailed? Do students still need landlines in dorms when everyone has a cell phone?

Some of the ideas have implications that have to be cleared in distant branches of the University. A suggestion that staff could clean their own offices for example, could rub against union contracts. Another idea, to rent out concert halls to external parties, could raise tax issues that have to be considered first by the General Counsel.

As the brainstorming continues, such “little luxuries” will be the first targets, Lee said. She said Yale College is committed to not cutting any program or any element that affects the education that students receive.

In other words, the budget cuts certainly will not force fewer courses to be offered. But their syllabi may have to be printed on both sides of the page.


  • Anonymous

    Adjusting the termostats is a no-brainer. Some of the buildings during the winter months are ridiculously overheated to the point that you are actually sweating once inside.

  • Anonymous

    Food is certainly a big issue,at least in one certain grad school. It seems that every time there's a meeting, class or seminar, food is ordered, and 90% of the time it comes from outside vendors. Yes, I'm as guilty as the rest because I do not refuse the "free" food. It's no longer a treat -- it's expected.

  • Anonymous

    Open alternatives to proprietary software, like instead of Microsoft Word and Powerpoint, are free, convenient, easy to use, and very compatible with all standards. There is also a lot of support available with these types of software. Yale would save a lot from licensing fees.

  • Anonymous

    OpenOffice is an excellent idea. Even with Yale discount s/w is very expensive.

  • Anonymous

    What's sad is the number of things suggested that just aren't at all grounded in reality - like having the university retain travel reward points. It is airline policy to award frequent flyer miles to the actual person who flies, not the person who purchases the ticket. Or "getting rid of wifi". Now that the wireless routers have been purchased, they are a sunk cost. Turning off the wifi doesn't get the cost of the wireless access hardware back.

  • Anonymous

    Fund only as many graduate students as there are really jobs for. From what GESO says, this would save both Yale and graduate students from poverty.

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