Thursday, December 12, 2013

Denim blues

A e-mail came out this morning saying that as long as we don't have meetings outside our office, we can wear jeans all next week.

Jean days have been coming up quite frequently over the last several months. It's clear that someone has read in some team building book that casual days can improve employee morale.

Our morale certainly needs improving.

You see, it was announced several months back that the university needs to tighten its belt. I'm not surprised at all; several pundits have been saying for years that academia was floating a bubble to rival the housing market bubble before that explosion. The increase in administrators and the corresponding year to year increases in tuition were unsustainable. The value of a college degree is nowhere near the cost of attaining one.

Back twenty years ago, needed expense reduction was accomplished by offering early retirement and doing lay offs; the resultant brain drain took years to rectify. The university does not want to go through that again.

At the same time, it's been acknowledged that our administrative staff is severely bloated, a fact I thoroughly agree with. In ten years we have added over 650 administrative positions. Our own area vice president has stated more than once that we have...too many vice presidents. We are up from seven sixteen years ago to somewhere around thirteen now.

Now matter how it's sliced and diced, no matter the commitment to keeping the salary lines we can, the bottom line is that positions will be eliminated, hopefully through natural attrition, but via lay offs and redistribution of duties if necessary. The current round focuses entirely on administrative, not academic, expenses.

The academic area will be up next, in a year or so's time. Now that will be a bloodbath.

My own area is at roughly the same staffing level as when I was hired sixteen years ago. Still, people in our office are a bit squirrely since the announcements. There are a lot of territorial fences going up, coupled with an insistence that things are so "busy" no new work can be taken on. There's more (intentional or not) undercutting happening, and the demarcation between the office "pets" and everyone else is growing clearer by the day.

Me? Pffft. I'm not personally worried; the more complex the government makes the tax code, the greater my job security. I can see, however, that I may end up taking on additional regular accounting duties. While our office is about the right size, we don't necessarily have the right people in the right positions. Some redistribution of duties is inevitable.

They don't have much to offer us now, hence the additional casual days.

At least we can be physically comfortable...

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