Oct. 1, 2021
Update: New time announced, Oct. 12, 1 to 2 p.m.
Dear UNH Faculty and Staff -
I have heard the frustration many of you have recently experienced in getting your work done. You have shared that you are being asked to do more with less support than ever before. Much of this is because of changes we have made in connection with FAR (Financial and Administrative Restructuring), CERP (COVID Enhanced Retirement Program), UShop (our new purchasing system), STAR (Support Team for the Administration of Research), and especially the move away from BSCs (Business Service Centers) as our primary way of getting financial and employee transactions accomplished. This message provides some detail on why we undertook these changes, what they have accomplished and how we are managing their unintended consequences.
I want to start with some background of why we made these changes. I have known since I became president that our financial situation was perilous due to limited public support for higher education and demographic-based declines in enrollment, and that we would need to make major changes to build financial strength (one of our strategic priorities). COVID made a bad situation worse. In fact, if we exclude grants and gifts, our net revenue has dropped by $25 million since FY19 (fiscal year 2019, which was from July 2018 to June 2019).
We undertook the Huron projects (including FAR) and implemented CERP to address these challenges. These initiatives saved us $43 million in FY22 and put us in a far more sustainable financial situation. Had we not initiated these programs when we did, we would be in desperate straits, forced to cut academic programs and to make other very painful decisions.
Many have asked about our end goal for these changes. Our vision of a future state must involve reduced costs—a reality we all recognize. However, we firmly believe that by updating processes, adopting new technologies and bringing on new skill sets to complement our existing workforce, we can have more efficient and reliable financial and human resource management practices. As we build new systems, there will be self-service tasks where appropriate, and automation of tasks previously done by hand.
When asking staff and faculty to perform tasks that draw you away from your core roles, we will try to make them as streamlined and intuitive as possible. We are very much still in transition toward our desired state, so please know that the current level of burden many of you are experiencing is not what we intended, and that we are working to address the most pressing issues as soon as possible.
Several teams have been meeting for months and even more intensively in the past few weeks to understand and address our current problems. Here are some of the outcomes—current and near future—of this work:
We have a lot more work to do, but these signs of progress are encouraging. I will update you on a regular basis as this work continues.
To share more details and timelines for the ongoing process improvements and ensure that we fully understand the challenges you are all facing, I am inviting you to a Town Hall meeting via Zoom Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 1 to 2 p.m.
I recognize that these changes have been very challenging for you, but I believe that—once we address the current problems—we will be on our way to a more secure and sustainable University of New Hampshire.
With my best wishes,
James W. Dean Jr.