Two more meetings of the Task Force Groups of the LSU Transition Advisory Team, the Technology Task Force and the Revenue Generation Task Force, took place on Thursday, March 7, at LSU. This was the second meeting for each group.
Task Forces have been formed to focus on specific areas of priority in the realignment process. During these meetings, testimony is provided by national and local subject matter experts. Reports and findings are discussed and input from the public is heard. Information from the Task Force meetings will become part of a final report to be submitted to LSU’s Transition Advisory Team and ultimately to the LSU Board of Supervisors.
The Technology Task Force is looking at the changing culture, promoting efficiency and encouraging innovation. Academic research, administration and leveraging data to drive innovation is being reviewed.
Lee Griffin, co-chair of the Finance and Revenue Sub-Committee, welcomed the task force members to the meetings and provided an overview of the Transition Advisory Team’s recent discussion with Ohio State President Gordon Gee, which took place on March 5. More information on that meeting can be found at http://www.lsu.edu/ur/ocur/lsunews/MediaCenter/News/2013/03/item58828.html.
Griffin asked the Technology Task Force to consider potential savings opportunities, to consider user groups that can be combined for efficiencies and the costs of common items on each campus that could be pooled together.
Griffin told the group that their job is to come up with suggestions that are the most efficient and effective and to find the best solutions that they can.
Brian Nichols, LSU chief information officer and executive director of risk management, opened the Technology Task Force meeting discussion by providing information on the needs and expenses related to email and telecommunication – dial tone and long distance – for each campus in the LSU System.
The group talked through email use, the email needs at each campus and the potential opportunities for email services in the future.
A major topic discussed during the Technology Task Force meeting was LSU’s collective, potential buying power and the ability to leverage vendors to get the best price for everyone, instead of campuses having to pay more individually for services.
In looking at telecommunication cost, Shelby Keith, LSUS chief information officer, said that dial tone is an area that cost savings and efficiencies can be found right away.
“This is an area that is very ripe for doing something almost immediately; I hope that we look at this,” Keith said. “I think this is an area that we can act upon rather quickly, and this is an area that wouldn’t impact people in a way that email would.”
In discussing long distance, the group indicated that there are also efficiency opportunities that can be utilized in that area of telecommunication.
The Revenue Generation Task Force is focusing on identifying new revenue streams. Areas of revenue generation include self-generated streams, governmental (primarily federal) sponsored research and monetized assets.
William L. “Bill” Silvia, president and CEO of the Pennington Medical Foundation and co-chair of the Technology and Operations Sub-Committee, said that many people have called the budget situation a crisis, but a crisis has a beginning and an end.
“What we really have is a trend,” Silvia said. “We have to address that trend of a decline in state funding … and plan for that in how we can find revenue streams that are stable.”
Patrick Martin, director of finance and administrative services at LSU, gave an overview of how LSU has privatized services such as dining, the LSU bookstore, concessions, and mailing and copy services on campus.
“We’ve had some very good successes,” said Martin, who added that through privatizations, the university has to make sure it has a very solid staff to manage the contracts to ensure that the highest quality services are still being provided.
Martin provided an overview of the university’s auxiliary model – the areas on campus that are operated from self-generated revenues. These areas, which include Residential Life, Athletics, Student Media, Student Health Center, Parking, the LSU Golf Course and Auxiliary Services, don’t receive state general fund or tuition dollars. They are 100 percent self-funded and self-sustaining.
With the university’s auxiliaries being self-sustaining and the operation model already being in place, they are set up as areas for future privatization opportunities.
“Privatization makes a lot of sense in a number of areas,” Martin said. “We have been aggressive at LSU in looking into those … and there are many other areas that are worthwhile to explore.”
Currently, there have been no System-wide privatizations, but other campuses besides the Baton Rouge campus have had experience with privatizing services.
“One of the challenges is the needs are different on the different campuses,” said Martin.
Some vendors’ operations are set up for a large campus, while others work well with smaller ones.
“It doesn’t always make sense to go with one vendor,” Martin said. “That may or may not make sense with all operations.”
Todd Barre’, LSU AgCenter director of budget and institutional research, shared potential revenue sources and the challenges and opportunities associated with each.
“The challenges are all around us,” said Barre’, who added that there’s no one perfect revenue stream out there.
Some of the areas Barre’ discussed included tuition flexibility; the ability to charge tuition by the hour; and the importance of having modernized, state of the art facilities.
“All of our campuses are run well enough that we are not going to price ourselves out of the market,” Barre’ said. “We’re a tremendous value and will continue to be a tremendous value.”
The Technology and Revenue Generation Tasks Forces will next meet on March 22. Online video streaming is available at http://www.lsu.edu/tat for all reorganization-related meetings for those who cannot attend in person.
The names of Task Force Group members, along with all the Transition Advisory Team Sub-Committee members, are available at http://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015/subcommittees.shtml.
More information on LSU’s reorganization process can be found at www.lsu.edu/LSU2015. Information on the site includes meeting schedules, minutes and video and presentations from past meetings.