August 22, 2007

University Reorganizes Division of Finance and Administration

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Originally published July 19, 2007
After years of quiet research and planning, Executive Vice President Stephen Golding announced the reorganization of Cornell’s Division of Finance and Administration last month.
Golding is responsible for 1,800 employees throughout the eight units established by the reorganization, according to the CUFA’s website. The focus of the restructuring is the coordination of these eight divisions.
Major changes that resulted from the reorganization, according to a University press release, include the merging of the Office of the Treasurer into the Department of Finance, the establishment of new Office of Environmental Compliance and Sustainability, and the merger of Transportation and Parking and Mail Services.
Golding further elaborated on the broad change to administrational infrastructure, describing the transformation in terms of two major initiatives.
“First, we are aligning our financial management oversight functions, under the Vice President for Finance [Joanne] DeStefano, to ensure we have the necessary resources to manage the financial resources of the University, with the appropriate redundancies,” he said.
DeStefano commented on the responsibilities of the finance organization, saying,“The Finance organization is responsible for recommending and implementing policies and strategies to assure the continued financial strength of the University.”
The integration of the two financial offices aims to facilitate communication of important financial information.
The other aspect of the initiative addresses issues outside of the financial realm.
“Secondly, we are creating an organization which is fundamentally responsible for managing institutional risk around environmental, health, life and public safety issues,” Golding continued.
These issues were at the forefront of administrational policy this past school year, with President David Skorton’s support of sustainability and the questions raised in the aftermath of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
Golding emphasized that the reorganization was not in response to any one specific event
“This is in direct response to the events of the last five or six years,” said Golding. “This is more than just Virginia Tech; this goes all the way back to 911, in terms of the kind of strategies our institution requires.”
Golding added that Virginia Tech is just an example.
“There are many other potential risks that one deals with on a day to day basis. We are putting together a structure that determines we do that in the most efficient way possible.”
Captain Kathy Zoner of the Cornell University Police Department noted that Cornell’s daytime operations bring the campus population to about 35,000, with risks similar to a city of similar size.
“The major difference in the educational demographics is the mean age; a university city will generally have a greater number of adults aged 18 to 24,” she said. “The youth present in the population increases the number of incidents related to that particular demographic.”
One way in which the restructuring aims to deal with these potential risks is by improved protocols and emergency management systems. Golding quoted over 100 new emergency response plans. Specifically, the CUFA is looking at the communication systems, at a variety of technologies that could improve campus communication between students, faculty, and the community in case of an emergency.
“This year’s events have brought into focus the need for a better campus-wide notification system, and there is a fantastic group of people with various expertises working on that issue as we speak,” Zoner said.
For instance, students will submit contact information — “maintained confidentially,” added Golding — that will be incorporated into a communications database, facilitating immediate notification by way of cell phones and other personal communication devices.
Golding also mentioned higher visibility for public safety on campus, in the way of additional personnel, and the possibility of circuit television in certain locations.
“These are ongoing conversations,” he said. “Quite clearly, you can’t take those actions unilaterally, you must collaborate with people across campus.”
Cornell Police has recently been authorized to add ten new officers.
“As it takes about 4.5 officers to add a single officer around the clock, this will be increasing our operational strength by about two officers per shift,” Zoner said.“This, in turn, should mean greater visibility and availability to our customers.”
The changes will have little direct result on daily campus life, according to Golding.
“Hopefully, this will all be transparent … it’s really more in the policies and procedures, that allow us to make sure we are prepared,” he said.
“An important aspect of the reorganization of CUFA is [the effort] to eliminate unnecessary administrative distinctions that exist between individual CUFA operating units, without eroding essential functionality,” a University press release stated.
Golding stressed that the adjustments were to increase efficiency, not to downsize.
“This was not an issue of people losing their jobs. It was all about people being restructured to better deliver the services, doing a more effective job in terms of managing the institutional risk.”
According to the press release, the changes introduce “new administrative approaches in higher education.”
The combination of so many different departments into a single organization has never been done before, according to Golding. He said several other peer institutions are studying Cornell’s “unique, experimental project.”
The combination of sustainability and compliance is also a unique approach.
“We’re putting more emphasis and energy behind what we’re trying to do from a sustainability perspective,” said Golding.
While noting that research and interest in sustainability has been in the works before the recent attention and student activism of the past school year, he added, “The fact that the president is pushing this makes it easier. It makes sense to us to bring it altogether, and he was supportive of what we were proposing.”
The website for the CUFA additionally provided a brief description of each new unit.
The Audit Office maintains the University’s assets and reputation by constant review and analysis of procedures and policy. The Division of Facilities Services maintains planning, design, construction, operation and ongoing projects for all facilities. The Office of Information Technologies leads development of technology for the University and assures the appropriate resources are used towards this advancement. The Investment Office manages the University’s investable funds. The Cornell University Police unit consists of those officials commissioned to enforce federal, state and local laws, including the Campus Code of Conduct. Lastly, the newly established unit for Safety, Health and Environmental Risk Management brings together a variety of business and service departments.
As of now, there are no major plans for further reorganization of administrational infrastructure, and Golding said that the current plans will be implemented by the return of students in August.
Throughout the process the focus has been on improving efficiency of the administration and improving safety for the community, while keeping the routines of daily life intact.
“We’re not building a wall around Cornell while you are away — that’s our challenge,” he said. “We believe in an open campus.”