Powers touts potential costs savings and efficiencies in endorsement of report


In a speech Tuesday, President William Powers Jr. endorsed a report that claims it would yield the University $490 million over 10 years.

The report is the collection of findings by the Committee on Business Productivity, a group of 13 business leaders commissioned by Powers in April 2012 to find efficiencies in the University’s non-academic services.

The report, titled “Smarter Systems for a Better UT,” proposes a series of reorganizations, rate increases and prioritizations to achieve its end goal.

In his speech, Powers said that while universities are not “simply businesses,” they do exercise some business functions, such as supporting information technology, reimbursing travel and buying resources from outside vendors.

“In these areas, they ought to be following the best business practices,” Powers said. “As a recipient of both tax dollars and tuition dollars, to do otherwise is to betray the public trust. For any public institution, efficiency is a moral imperative. But it also is the smart thing to do because it can free up much-needed resources we can redirect to our core missions of teaching and research.”

Three primary areas are identified by the report: asset utilization, technology commercialization and administrative service transformation.

The report outlines several proposals, such as raising dorm, food and parking rates; selling excess power produced by the University’s power plants in the open market; increasing the licensing volume of the Office of Technology Commercialization; and reorganizing the information technology, finance and human resources operations of the University.

The authors of the report also argued the need for an “operations czar” or “project manager” that would oversee the implementation of the recommendations. In his speech, Powers appointed Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, to do so.

In 2002, then-president Larry Faulkner commissioned a similar though much larger group of business leaders and citizens — mostly UT alumni — to produce a report that would outline an academic vision for the University. Known as the Commission of 125, the group’s 2004 report created a 25-year timeframe.

Powers ended his speech with a story about the Pope’s decision in 1586 to create a 344-ton obelisk. Powers said the implementation of the proposal, like the obelisk, will need to be done “one logical step at a time.”

“Because they were successful at this, many more obelisks were moved around Rome in the following years, one of which weighed 510 tons,” Powers said. “If we get this right, there’s no telling what else we’ll be able to accomplish, and there are other areas of our operations that will need our attention too.”