Dec. 2, 2008

Turn off the lights and print on both sides: More ideas for cost-cutting are voiced at forums

Staff offered an array of cost-savings ideas at an open forum Dec. 1 in the Biotechnology Building, from turning off computers at night to teaching employees how to set up their printers to print on both sides of a sheet of paper.

"The idea behind this forum is to get our creative juices flowing," said employee-elected trustee Beth McKinney '82, who hosted the forum. "We want to get people talking." Subsequent sessions were held Dec. 3 and 4. All three forums were sponsored by the Employee Assembly.

President David Skorton initially solicited cost-saving ideas from students, faculty, staff and alumni in an Oct. 30 statement on the effects of the national economic crisis on the university community. The university, he said, had set up a "suggestion box" for students, faculty, staff and alumni to submit recommendations for cost savings. He repeated the request for suggestions at two administration-sponsored November public forums.

At the Dec. 1 gathering, Kelly Speiser, a campaign assistant at Alumni Affairs and Development, suggested installing motion sensors on lights that are currently left on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. She also recommended rethinking how and why divisions sponsor events. "Are we doing things just because we've always done them that way? Or would people actually prefer something different?" she said.

Nancy Doolittle, director of Human Resources Communication Services, suggested creating a list of five easy ways that every campus member can cuts costs -- "something that's easy to remember." Any reduction in operating costs will help preserve university jobs, McKinney emphasized. "The money that is saved is helping on the personnel side. Personnel is this university's biggest expenditure."

The university is seeking to streamline operating costs and to identify $30 million in savings over the next three years, short of job cuts. The administration has formed a Campus Savings and Efficiencies Committee to gather and analyze the suggestions. By Dec. 23 the group will present its initial findings to its steering committee, led by Joanne M. DeStefano, vice president for financial affairs; Mary G. Opperman, vice president for human resources; and Paul Streeter, interim vice president for planning and budget.

Many of the hundreds of suggestions submitted so far involve energy efficiency, said committee co-leader Micci Bogard, project manager in the budget and planning division. "Our utility bill at Cornell is $25 million a year. If we could figure out a campaign that says 'Turn out the lights,' that could be a huge savings."

Eight subcommittees are focusing on printing; utilities; grounds and building maintenance; hospitality, catering and business meetings; transportation; information technology; procurement; and other areas.

Staff, students, alumni and faculty are encouraged to share suggestions at http://www.cuinfo.cornell.edu.