Town Hall Oct. 12: Discussion of Administrative Changes and Solutions Moving Forward

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:

  • UShop training frequency has been increased. You and your teams can register for training here. It is offered every Wednesday and will be offered more frequently if needed.
  • You can now schedule a one-on-one support session with a procurement business partner to assist you with any UShop or procurement-related challenges.
  • More than 80% of all orders submitted in UShop now lead to a purchase order being issued in one day or less.
  • A university-level financial dashboard has been completed and distributed with YTD (year to date) actual data. Similar reporting at the department and unit level will be available this fall.
  • An analysis of financial duties that fell through the cracks in the reorganization has been completed. We are currently reassigning work responsibilities to the appropriate groups.
  • Staffing issues in research are being addressed with the recent hire of two more grant & contract administrators.
  • The Human Resources recruiting and on boarding team is now accountable to support departments from posting of positions through HR orientation of the new employee for staff hires, full-time adjuncts, student hires and faculty hiring (this is still in transition process) and part-time adjuncts via the NS1 form. The recruiting and on boarding team will work with the finance leads, deans and directors to ensure a successful process transition.
  • The HR operations team is accountable for the following employee transactions which have been transitioned from BSCs/finance teams: additional pays, faculty supplements (still in process), salary/rate changes, supervisor updates, all aspects of reclassification transactions, terminations and all aspects of benefits.

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.