This is a double surprise -- to students and to maintenance staff. There was no notice to people affected, much less input from them on how cutbacks might best be handled. And this is just the beginning.
Watch for others.
Now some Friday morning thoughts from Fact Checker.
The Herald-Sun and its higher education reporter Neil Offen have had several stories recently uncovering important information -- slowly, fact by fact -- about Duke's financial crisis. Unfortunately, Offen does not use his archives to cross-check what he's just been told, for there is often conflict with data that Duke's administrators were touting just weeks or months ago.
For example, interviewing Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke's new, very well spoken vice president for human resources, Offen reports on Wednesday that Duke will "save" about $15 million per year because 294 employees have taken early retirement offers that gave them higher pensions earlier than they expected. We'll overlook that Duke's mouthpiece, VP Michael Schoenfeld, previously said the number was 295 and we'll round it at 300 for easier analysis.
On July 1, when 825 employees were first offered early retirement, the ever pleasant and communicative Tallman Trask, executive vice president, said that if 200 accepted, Duke would save between $15 and $20 million per year.
So how do savings come in at the lowest end of his projections -- even after 300 took early retirement, not 200?
It is discrepancies like these which defy reconciliation that are undermining the credibility of the Brodhead administration.
It is also the lack of specific information -- this morning we learned about cleaning the dorms; be assured there are many other areas that will be affected which I will list in a moment. All this makes a mockery of our administrators' oft-repeated pledge of "transparency" in all matters, but particularly in handling the crisis brought on by the world-wide financial meltdown. See Lange, Provost. See Blue, Trustee chair. See Annual Report, discontinued under Brodhead without a murmur. See website posting of President's quarterly Reports to Trustees and VP for PR's reports, discontinued under Brodhead without a murmur.
The careful reader of Fact Checker will also remember my pointing out that all of the early retirement offers were given to low level employees in an atmosphere of "take it" or face layoffs. Readers will also recall that all 4 speakers and the PR man moderating on stage at the April 21 explanation meeting were middle-aged white males, giving fresh meaning to Harvard Prof. Henry L. Gates Jr's declaration that his years at Duke reminded him of a "plantation."
The Brodhead administration has placed the entire burden of Duke's budget crisis on the people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Not one administrator has thus far been touched, and as Fact Checker is fond of pointing out, the bloat includes 16 academic deans of Trinity College who overlap with 10 Deans of Arts and Sciences who overlap with 10 Vice Provosts. Not to mention the platoon of new vice presidents and vice chancellors that Brodhead has added in his first five years.
There is also the question of size of the faculty, which has crept up from 2364 in 2003-2004 (before Brodhead) to 2730 in 2007-2008 and probably around 2850 at the moment.
This is not an economic situation; it is a moral one, to spread equitably the burden of our economic crisis.
(As for layoffs, the Herald-Sun's Offen revealed several weeks ago that two employees in the Primate Center were indeed let go. Fact Finder has been aware of no follow up, and of course The Chronicle has not bothered to seek these two individuals -- out of 33,325 working at Duke -- and show we give a shit about them or find out how come they're the big fulcrum in our budget battle).
Worse, in the Herald Sun report, Cavanaugh says the administration may drop (hint: the fix is in on this one, he just won't say so) entirely its plan to offer early retirement to higher paid employees. This clashes with what we've been assured.
Let Fact Finder remind readers of the procession of promises: on April 21 we were told such a plan was being formulated. Cavanaugh himself at one point said details would be announced early in July. And in mid-summer the university flack said details would be available by the end of August.
Dr. Trask, mindful that you do not answer e-mail or other requests, Fact-Finder nonetheless calls upon you to state:
A) what was the total salary of the 295 employees. We could not help scoffing at your earlier claim that $20 million might be saved in 2009-2010 if 200 retired because anyone with a Duke MBA could figure out this means $100,000 each -- and that ain't the salary of the grounds keepers, secretaries and food workers whom you attacked.
B) How many of the people who took early retirement are being replaced. After all, these people were not offered a deal to leave because their jobs were expendable or their duties combined. Rather they just happened to be old enough, and just happened to work at Duke long enough, so that their age and service totaled at least 75.
A good example of the need to replace -- and thus negate the savings -- is provided by the campus Police. You know, the people with badges and guns who protect sophomores from being shot and graduate students from being killed. Three lieutenants took early retirement, along with two patrol officers.
Dr Trask, this is still within the scope of your responsibilities (this not having been stripped away from you like athletics) so please assure us. What is the status of getting police replacements, of putting crucial new leadership into a police department that the Chronicle previously revealed to be falling apart. (*See Archive, Elliot Wolf's seminal columns).
And while you are at it, tell us if you still think armed cops should still be replaced with security guards earning less. You know, people hired from an outside contractor so we can avoid their health insurance and vacations, and of course never have these pesky pension issues. Fact Finder would like to relay your answer on this to the parents of our classmate who was just shot during a robbery in an area that Duke Police patrol, though it is off-campus.
C) How much will the first year retirement checks total for all these people? I trust you have subtracted this cost from what you regard as savings.
D) How is the retirement fund going to pay for 295 people getting checks immediately, for longer in their lives and at higher payouts than actuaries ever dreamed of. How much will this cost Duke in new contributions to its retirement system, which has lost 24.5 percent of its assets since the last annual report was issued.
Fellow Dukies, we have much work to be done in the budget area. We have yet to delve into how we will achieve the "smaller Duke" that President Brodhead has correctly defined as necessary, if in the first year of a three year phase-back, our budget is "flat" -- meaning these clowns in Allen Building are not saving anything at all.
Oh.... the budget is "flat" ....meaning the same as last year ... on even-numbered days.
On the odd numbered days, you'll hear them coo to each other they've cut $50 million.
No need to reconcile. Just shout GO DUKE