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This page contains comments posted by members of the Cornell community pertaining to Efficiency.


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Conserve Energy

I recently had an ergonomic assessment completed for my office workstation in Warren Hall. A service available through the university (college?), there was no cost to my program. To my surprise, one of the analyst’s observations were that there was too MUCH lighting in my room from the bank of overhead florescents, given that the vast majority of my work involves looking at a computer screen. She recommended removing up to half of the bulbs. Presumably this is a not uncommon recommendation, and would save energy costs (categories sustainability and efficiency and financial) in a number of offices. - David
As an alumnus and recent hire at Cornell University, I am surprised that the university does not seem to have implemented an institution-wide conservation program to cut down on energy and resource use. Basic steps such as minimizing office waste and turning off lights when not in use would probably only save the university a few million dollars per year, but in tough economic times, these small measures could allow the university to retain dozens of faculty and staff positions. The environmental impact of these conservation measures would also be in line with the university’s mission of being a responsible member of the larger community. - Scott
I’ve always been concerned, working in an older building, about energy efficiency. In the summer is scalding and we have to have window a/c units. In the winter you have to weigh whether you want your heat on because once it’s on there’s no adjusting it and it can get unbearably hot. I often see windows open with the heat on, seems like a waste to me. I know upgrades cost a lot of money, but in the long run this would improve energy use/waste. - Tami
Ask students in dorms to unplug televisions, computers, computer screens and microwaves when not in use as they consume power unnecessarily. - Sara
Heating at CU seems very inefficient. Many buildings have been renovated into something that wasn’t originally designed throwing off the original intended heat distribution. Office cubicles also prevent heat from distributing properly. I’ve seen so many individual space heaters which I’m sure gobbles up electricity and may even be fire hazards; some are even left on all night. - Carol
From midnight until 5am, the wrestling center was fully lit up, along with the Bartles gym, and Schoellkopf scoreboard. This occurs on a regular basis. - Anonymous
Can you run EZ back up during the day so that people can turn off computers over night? - Anonymous
As I was driving home from a friends home Sunday evening around 8pm, I looked across the hill to see Schwartzkopf Field brightly lit. I thought about two things.
1. Keep temperatures in all buildings between 65–68 degrees. This is to include the dorms. The kids don’t need to have the rooms at 78–80 degrees.
Also if what about having more games during the weekend daytime hours. Save on the energy output from the lights.
These are just a couple of thoughts that crossed my mind.
In the winter it is easier to deal with the cold of the environment inside is slightly cooler. - Anonymous
Electricity use: The new Merrill Sailing Center (on East Shore Road) appears to be lit up all night long. I live nearby and have wondered why we’re wasting power on that—especially in the off season. In my own office at East Hill Plaza, we’re constantly turning the lights off in the empty conference rooms. We’ve even put up signs asking people to turn off the lights (so far with little success). We inquired about installing auto-off systems in the conference room, but we’re told it’s too costly to make the change. (We’re a cost recovery unit and have tight budgets). This is short sighted. Please consider implementing some efficiency incentives across campus. - Julie
Cornell-run computers across campus could be set to put their monitors in standby after a short period of time. Right now many monitors are left on 24/7 without standby, each of which may burn 100W or more. - Anonymous
Some of the buildings provide for the heat to come on automatically, depending on a date on the calendar. Why not have the heat come on as the weather deems it necessary? We often have enough warm weather into late fall/early winter that would allow the heating system not to be needed. - Maureen
Replace single-pane windows in Day Hall and other locations with double-pane, low-E windows. In our office, there is a bitter draft on cold days that makes the working environment uncomfortable and wastes significant energy. Unless the university has a really good deal on its heating system, it must waste a considerable amount of money too. Especially with various opportunities through NYSERDA and such, I imagine Cornell could finance such improvements in a way that doesn’t hurt in the short term and saves in the long term. - Ari
What if we were to not do Fall break but tack on those days onto Thanksgiving break. A lot of energy is expended trying to bus, fly , train home for the holidays only to turn around and try to make it back to campus. The students do not feel rested when they return. It seems to only add to the stress of the semester. - Anonymous
As elementary as it seems, turning off lights in classrooms, dormitories and bedrooms, etc. can make an appreciable difference in energy use and cost.
Wherever possible, use new energy-efficient bulbs. - Nancy
At the Adelson Library to reduce electricity used we turn on the lights as needed. During the summer we often do not have the lights on until 3pm or later in the afternoon. We turn off the computers every night. A task that only takes a few minutes. We have reduced the wattage in the bulbs we use and have noticed no difference. The higher watt bulbs were recommended by the lighting designer but the lower watt bulbs work just as well, are more efficient and a less expensive to replace.
In most offices many people could have desk lamps to enhance their personal task lighting. - Jacalyn
Many rooms and offices have defective or broken heating systems. Fixing these would reduce the need for small electrical heaters that seem prolific during winter months. For example, my office and the two immediately-adjacent offices have had heat control issues for several winters now; we just had someone from the repair shops in and he only got it half fixed. So I still need to use an electric heater to keep my room above 50F, while next door ranges from 65–85 degrees. - Anonymous
Lighting control projects should be continued to cut down on energy costs. - Michael
I think it would be great if Cornell would install motion-activated light switches in academic buildings and lecture rooms on campus. Too often, it seems, lights are left burning all night with no one using them which, needless to say, is a huge waste. - Anonymous
It would be a good idea to set the heat to a lower temperature during the winter and the a/c to a higher one during the summer, especially in some rooms on campus where the settings are too extreme. I have heard of people who, for instance, use heaters in the summer because the a/c is too cold, and I have seen many windows open during the winter because the rooms are too hot. In my opinion it doesn’t make sense to have rooms hotter in the winter than in the summer, the comfortable temperature, whatever that is, should be the same or, if anything, should be higher during the summer because people usually dress more lightly.
Another thing is that the heating and cooling systems could be checked throughout the campus to see if they are working properly. For example, for at least the last 2 or 3 years the room where my office is in Rhodes Hall had both the heat and a/c on all year long, functioning at the same time, and there was no way to turn one of them off (this was finally fixed this year). - Anonymous
In our department we have hundreds of computers, none of which are optimized for energy efficiency. We also have an IT person who occasionally makes sure our computers are updated. But pretty much all of the computers just stay on all the time, because nobody enables all of the automatic power saving features, which can be configured to avoid inconvenience while also saving lots of electricity and waste. If a mandate could go out to ensure that all PCs regularly undergo efficiency tests, we could probably save thousands of dollars in wasted electricity. - Justin
Just turning lights off during non-office hours would cut back considerably. Here in CCC we put forth a conscious effort to turn off the lights on the way out.. there are times when I come in on the weekend and most of the lights are on, which is a little discouraging, but I am not afraid to ask ‘is anyone here?’ before turning off lights on my way out. However, I have noticed that the Seneca Place offices are lit up day & night, weekends, weeknights… I know that some of AA&D have to put in odd hours to cover the needs, however, just a click of a switch on your way out should help cut the electric bill. - Julia
Dear President Skorton, I have worked on the Cornell campus for over 18 years and have always been concerned with how little is done to create energy efficient buildings. Many of the buildings have single pane glass. Thousands of dollars could be saved by retro-fitting buildings with double pane, tight-fitting windows and by caulking all the leaks around those windows. It’s a simple solution, but necessary not only for energy efficiency but for the comfort of all employees and students. Many offices use electric heaters to make up for poorly heated rooms that are the result of insufficient attention to basics—proper windows. It sounds simple, but this university is bleeding energy and dollars due to a lack of addressing this issue. Thank you for offering this opportunity, and I applaud your voluntary salary reduction move as truly spot-on in times such as these. - Lynn
The Orchard building (#1100) was built in 1950 and is in sore need of new energy efficient windows and doors. I’m sure the cost of these upgrades would pay for themselves in less then 5 years and would save the College much needed dollars in the future.
I would also like to see our new Wine Lab’s roof covered with solar panels to generate electricity to help with the power needs of our building. Cornell should be a leader in renewable energy usage. - Hugh
Automatic timers on room heating and automatic motion sensors on room (esp. bathroom) lights. Since this is an expensive overhaul, in the meantime, official-looking signs can be printed up reminding people to turn down the heat and turn off the lights when they leave a room. There are many rooms, especially department, TA, and faculty offices, where the heat is left on at full blast overnight, over weekends, and breaks. - Carl
In my high school, when classes were going on they dimmed the lights (so about 50–75% of normal light) and during passing periods the turned the lights back on all the way. Maybe we could do something similar at Cornell. This could definitely apply in the dorms when people are sleeping. My freshman year in Dickson, the lights were on all the time. We could save energy by dimming the lights from like 12am/1am to 7am. This could also be done in academic buildings…but I’m not sure what happens there since (thankfully) I am not in academic buildings at night. - Elizabeth
Most of the buildings on campus are much warmer than they need to be. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see people open exterior doors to cool off an extremely warm, stuffy room. The same is true in dorms. Many students keep their windows open. - Anonymous
Keep the stadium lights off during the daytime! - MJ
My radiator in the Plant Science building is too hot to touch, and my room is 85 degrees, even though the radiator is turned off as hard as possible. So I open the window. What a waste! This is the same problem that has existed for the last 40 years in my office, despite periodic valve replacements.
This is a common problem in Plant Science that could be solved by installing better valves, preferably thermostatic. - Peter
notice on my drive in every morning that the lights are on at Schoelkopf field pretty consistently. This morning it was 7:55, fully light, but I still saw lights on, at least today it wasn’t the big overhead ones. Seems like they could be turned off as daylight comes and save a lot of electricity. - Anonymous
There are approximately 40,000 - 50,000 computers associated with the campus community. Unfortunately a significant number of these devices remain on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, particularly at the departmental level. Very significant energy savings would be realized if we mount a campaign to alert departments and the wider campus community concerning the means to reduce overall energy conservation of both computers and monitors and many other peripherals and digital devices. Use of standby and sleep modes where ever possible would make a large energy saving possible. Reducing the vampire power consumption of portable digital device chargers through wise use of inexpensive power-strips completes the picture.
It is important to note that computers are also be less vulnerable to attack when in ‘off’ states, improving the campus network security to some extent as a pleasant side-effect. - John
I freeze in the library during the summer! When I lived in a dorm, I had to open a window to reduce the heat to a comfortable temperature. I think that both heat and a/c are excessive on campus. There’s no need to make people so uncomfortable and waste so much energy. Structural improvements as well as adjusting temperatures would help.
I’ve heard that drastic temperature changes make people more susceptible to illness, which is yet another reason to keep temperatures reasonable in the winter. - Anonymous


Instead of spending a lot of money to turn Olin Library into a lounge for undergraduates, make the HVAC and safety changes that need to be made without moving the books to the annex or adding lots of new lounge chairs and fancy bookshelves without books. - Aaron

Expenses and Purchasing

I think it would be worthwhile investigating allowing more extensive use of P-Cards. They have strict limits at Cornell, beyond those at peer institutions, and I wonder if this is making Cornell less efficient (reimbursements surely take more time for administrators and those doing the purchasing). - Anonymous
Departments are being charged back high amounts and for what seem like unnecessary trips in connection with work done by facilities for departments. There needs to be a careful look at what the request is and the detail included therein (i.e., will need a ladder, etc.) and then to send facilities representatives with the required tools/paper for notes, etc. so they do not need to make repeated trips for the same purpose and charge not only for time spent at the site, but commuting, etc. Also, possibly orders for materials could be handled in a more efficient manner.
We’re trying to manage budgets with no guide for what we will be charged from internal units, unlike when we’re purchasing or working with external vendors. - Anonymous
Consolidate all advertising across campus ie through one agency to get better service and better buys for advertising space. This would have the side benefit of aligning all CU advertising. - Anonymous
We must spend a lot teaching PE courses. I’ve wondered if the requirement for PE was really necessary. That (perhaps touchy) issue aside, I see that Smith College has for some time employed students who happen to be trained instructors in various PE specialties to teach other students in PE classes. It seems efficient: it would spread more financial aid to qualified students thus employed, and I assume it would be much cheaper than hiring FTEs for that role. - Andy
There currently exists no ability to renew books borrowed through the heavily used Borrow Direct system. If a book is still needed when it comes due, one currently orders another copy of the book from a different campus, waits for it to arrive, and then sends the overdue copy back to the lending institution. If we were able to renew Borrow Direct books it would cut the costs of needlessly shipping multiple copies of the same text. - Anonymous
Expense reports eat up immense amounts of staff time WITHOUT ADDING VALUE TO THE MISSION. The documentation threshold is way too high. Clerks in business offices end up questioning many expenditure documentations, meaning the accounting cost for the trip goes way up.
It is a waste of staff time, inefficient, and adds no value to the institution or to who we are here to serve: students and the citizens of NY.
Give clerks the freedom to use common sense and make this system more efficient. - Todd
I suggest that the university mandate the use of cell phone allowances

paid through payroll and stop the practice of paying cell phone bills directly. I believe this practice would have the following benefits:
- Tremendously reduce administrative costs. A cell phone bill paid directly by the university has to be reviewed by the employee for personal calls and also has to be reviewed by the Business Service Center. A transaction must be processed to pay the bill (generally a p-card transaction). Overages resulting from personal use must be repaid resulting in yet another transaction that has to be processed.
- Eliminates IRS risk. Since cell phone allowances processed through payroll are taxed there is no risk of an IRS audit.
- Keeps people out of trouble. Abuse of the personal use limitation on unit owned devices can result in disciplinary action including termination. Abuse of the 10% personal use limitation can happen intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, the allowance method eliminates this risk since there is no personal use limitation. The cost of investigating abuse and hiring new employees is high.
Does Cornell really want to be in the cell phone business? I personally believe it is a waste of administrative effort. I also believe the university should adopt uniform allowance amounts. - Robert

Financial Aid

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I think a pause on un-committed projects is a very reasonable remedy in the short-term, in order to better assess where the University’s feet are, so to speak, and how to stay on them. It is important to re-affirm the stability of the jobs on campus, because it is the fear of instability that ends up being the most potent destabilizer (as we’ve seen with the world’s financial institutions this year).
I want to emphasize that sustainability and efficiency go hand in hand. At a time when the wasteful ways of the past are revealing their full costs, Cornell can emerge even further ahead of the pack by sticking to the efficient, sustainable path. Reducing reliance on grid-tied, external sources of energy, HVAC, food, water, and resources, and increasing the University’s ability to produce what it needs on-site will ensure that in the near future when other institutions are struggling just to keep their infrastructure intact, Cornell will be protected by the smart, long-term decisions we can make now.
In summary, we must not forget our commitment to long-term solutions that involve conservation, sustainable sources of utilities and resources, and ultra-efficient improvements to the infrastructure and processes of the institution. The pay-off of these difficult decisions will only magnify as the unsustainable methods of the 20th century reveal the true scope of their costs. - James
1. Streamline the Courses of Study process using a searchable central database. Please make the Courses of Study interactive with PeopleSoft enrollment, too. This would eliminate double entry and may reduce the number of shadow systems.
2. Allow loading into PeopleSoft HR, so that HR Records does not have to reenter the data. Although time saving, it may not significantly reduce FTEs.
3. For some units, the Service Center does not make sense. It just increases the number of people who review a document. Making staff responsible at the source would save time and money. - Diane
To follow Diane’s suggestion regarding the service centers, may I add that there seems to be little ability to see total costs for individual budgets without undue access restrictions. For instance I am unable to see even all my personal trip reimbursements without entering each trip individually. Unless I carefully look over my own accounting, the University system doesn’t allow me to see all transactions for the year. Our financial support personnel are in the same boat; they have to ask the service center for a separate accounting even for transactions that they are processing for the Center.
How can we as a whole truly evaluate where spending can be curtailed if we can’t easily look at even our entire personal spending, let alone a whole department or center? - Anonymous
Thinking through the challenge of internal communication as a university is one way we could improve efficiency. When is a paper mailing the right choice? How could email be used more effectively (dozens of lists with overlapping audiences, policy that sets very high barriers to reaching everyone on campus, etc.)? What ways work well for people whose jobs don’t involve a computer? What newer communication methods should the university use, particularly to reach students? Each unit trying to figure this out for themselves is not effective, nor is it a sound use of university resources. - Beth
I agree that it would be wonderful to be “one university”. Please, however, when considering efficiencies, remember that we are not yet “one university”. Our colleges have different missions and visions and as such our students may have different needs and requirements. I am particularly talking about Career development, Counseling and Advising, Registrar, and Admissions. I am in CALS and have dealt with all these offices in our college. I do not believe that these could be combined into one unit (I have heard talk about this before). These people in these offices are some of the finest in our college and know our students intimately. As a CALS professor of Merit and Advisor of the year, I know that my job would be much more difficult if we did not have these resourses in our college.
Thank you. - Anonymous
Cornell Career Services seems top-heavy. - Anonymous
I have worked for Cornell for 5 years, and the biggest waste of time I’ve seen so far is the use of business service centers. When I first came to work at Cornell it was at MAE where I was responsible for processing travel reimbursements, and payment request along with supporting faculty. I filled out the web forms sent them to the traveler and then did the payment request and sent it to our accounting office where they signed off and sent it to East Hill. It was a quick turn around, and everyone knew what was going on. Now I work at DNS where I do the travel reimbursement and it get sent to the BSC who then reviews it and sends it to the traveler who signs it and sends it back to the BSC for the reviewer to prepare the payment request which is sent to someone else to authorize and then it is sent to East Hill.
At MAE, I would do a payment request for an invoice and it would go to the accounting office to be approved and then sent to East Hill. Now at DNS, I do the payment request, it goes to a reviewer at the BSC who reviews it and then sends it to someone else to authorize it, and then it goes to East Hill. All of this oversight is causing delay in processing payments as well as using valuable people skills that could be used for more important task.
My recommendation would be to reevaluate the BSC’s and their procedures to see if time and assess is being managed efficiently. - Anonymous
New to Cornell. Worked in management for IBM for years. We set up a department to look at efficiencies in every department/division. We asked 3 questions. 1. did the operation/task being performed add value to the overall goal. 2. what was that cost (labor hours, materials, etc) 3. Was the task necessary or could it be centralized (duplication) We called the effort ABC (activity Based Costing) Every action / movement has an associated cost with it. We centralized numerous operations, eliminated needless tasks and made people available for new opportunities. Can Cornell do something like this? - John
When departments and units hire students, they commit to a certain number of hours per week, but the work load from week to week is not consistent. As a result, departments essentially pay students to work on their homework during slow times. This is a waste of time and money. I suggest the university hire students as part of a centrally organized labor pool that loans students out to departments for non-academic work and charges them by the hour.
There are several advantages to this approach. (i) Easier for students to apply for jobs. Students on FWS can be given priority. (ii) Easier for departments to have student help when they need it without having students at loose ends during slow times. (iii) Departments are freed from the frequent hiring of students and advertising of jobs. I think departments would gladly pay a fee on top of the student’s hourly wage for the use of this service and still save money over the course of the year. (iv) Let’s face it. There is always work that needs to be done. The labor pool could maintain a list of low priority jobs that students could be sent on during uncommitted hours. I would think Custodial Services and Grounds could always use an extra pair of hands, if it comes to that. How about those paths on campus that aren’t maintained during the winter! - Anonymous
Utilize more conference calls for meetings rather than wasting work time traveling across campus for meetings. Staff would be more productive. This is the norm in the corporate world. - Anonymous
Current inspections for Campus Life buildings: OFPC, City of Ithaca and Ithaca Fire Department. As I understand the issue: OFPC has jurisdictional authority to issue the Certificate of Occupancy for CL buildings but the city and fire department will not accept OFPC inspections and continue to do their own. Each inspection occurs at different times of the year and often conflicting code interpretations present themselves. I feel this is something that EH&S needs to work on collaboration to consolidate the inspection process. - Karen
Please consider doing a comprehensive audit of a unit. For instance we have had a HIPAA audit, and IT audit and now a risk audit. One a year over three years, they are time consuming, require us looking at some areas again if not for the same data for similar. This is a waste of unit time and is costly. - Anonymous
STOP requiring medical excuses. By professors requiring an excuse when a student is sick they are:
- not building a trust relationship
- not showing student how adult world functions
- requires students to be seen for health appts to get an excuse when self care would have been appropriate, now they have used a valuable appt for a visit that was not necessary.
Some faculty even require a special letter from a doctor which is again using resources that could better serve our campus. - Anonymous
Make each college or professional school utilize same processes. In order to send out health history information we have to work with undergrad and grad which are pretty efficient then each professional school,,why????
The health history is just one example. Every time we want to alert a unit or make a change 7 different colleges need to be notified in different ways. - Anonymous
Performance dialogues take a tremendous amount of time. It would seem like we could utilize a short form for those staff who are performing expectations and only use a long form for those who need more coaching.
Hours and hours go into producing a written document that frankly is not as useful as talking to a person, writing a paragraph and then setting goals!
Help give us some time to do our other work! - Anonymous
Improve use of facilities (Rooms, labs, outdoor spaces, etc.).
There is a definite challenge in finding and securing facilities for use when looking at a divisional level and even more so at a University Level. In my experience, I have seen two general issues:
Groups/personnel hold spaces for “Potential use” that never materialize. This actually stops personnel within the same department or division from being able to use the space.
There is a lack of good information and a process to request spaces on a University level. I believe this second one is due to a lack of an effective system/process and a mentality of “This space is for my department or my division and not for your use”.
These issues causes several problems:
People that need space can not find it.
Inefficiencies in searching for spaces - lost labor hours.
We overstate the use of space - show a space as used, since it was booked, but no one actually showed up.
We create a perceived need of additional space.
We hurt our efforts to raise revenue through Conferences.
While I do not have a specific recommendation, I believe there is a need by the University Administration to review two areas:
Ways to incorporate a One University mentality on space. There does need to be a balancing act between the departments, the divisions and the University, but there is certainly room for improvement.
Improved business processes/systems - the financial model for using space, viewing availability/requesting space, interactions between departments and divisions in relation to space use, etc.
Note: There has been some progress towards using Resource 25 as a system for controlling spaces University wide, but I believe it is only used on a limited basis and it is only a partial solution. There truly needs to be a mental change before any system/business process changes will be effective. - Bill
Increase utilization rates to gain economies of scale
Advertise the services we provide
Measure success by utilization rate
Cut services that don’t get used much or support the mission indirectly or not well
There are many good services on campus that people don’t know about. If they were used more they would enjoy greater economies of scale. For those close to the mission of the University it may make sense to have very high utilization rates for a smaller number of service offerings.
For instance, CIT offers a large number of very good services. Unfortunately the faculty don’t always know about them. Doing more outreach might improve economies of scale and make it easier to determine which ones to cut. - Anonymous
Evaluate how data access is restricted, and make sure people have access to the data they need to do their jobs.
We’ve taken the approach on this campus of restricting data very tightly. This has led to perverse and expensive work-arounds. In our college we spend a great deal of time and effort determining the research effort that our faculty do in research centers. If the access was set properly and we standardized hour accounting and reporting practices, all the effort gathering and reporting on this data could be replaced by a simple Brio query that could be run at will.
Doing this sort of thing requires working with people in the academic departments where the mission is delivered to determine what data they need to do their work. We may need to explore adding PI Netid field to some of the data marts as well.
While we do need to manage access appropriately, I suspect this is an example of other similar situations where people don’t have access to the data they need to do their jobs.
Impact: Should save some labor directly. Will likely lead to better reports and decisions leading to more money savings. - Anonymous
Advocate for more use of existing video conferencing facilities and expand the facilities large and small to keep travel costs down. Clearly we will travel less, but, by providing video con facilities and know how, our faculty and staff will not loose all the benefit of the curtailed travel. - Anonymous
Considering closing at lunch and opening offices late. This will allow the receptionist time to get focused work done and may permit decreasing the need for receptionist backup. - Anonymous
1. In my position I get data informing me of projected and actual overtime (OT), for planning purposes - I am doing an analysis to see whether there was change in the level of OTs paid since President Skorton’s message re the challenges we face in today’s economic environment - I was wondering if there has been a directive from upper management about minimizing OTs, specially those that are not critical/necessary to the programs, without sacrificing the quality of service we provide to all our clients. Another area where I think we can save some money is to minimize, if not eliminate, overpayments (happens when an exempt employee gets terminated, and payroll is not informed on time, or informed after the fact).
2. I, also, would like to suggest that we closely monitor the leaves filed by exempt employees, specially leaves that accrue, to ensure that the university is not double paying retirees, and other employees that separate from CU. Encourage supervisors to pay more attention to the performance of their staffs.
3. In my unit, we have been very frugal in utilizing office supplies - our director has requested from all of us to minimize color printing, personal printing, attending non-critical conferences, downplaying office parties/celebrations (we promote dish-to-pass for our networking and morale booster gatherings) - all of us have started doing our little share and we intend to continue with these practices, even after the economic condition gets better.
I hope my thoughts/suggestions help in any way - I love Cornell and would really hate to see it go through tough times without the support from all the staffs - more power to you, President Skorton, and hope that someday I will get to meet you personally - it will definitely be an honor to have that opportunity! - Anonymous
We have a couple unit libraries on the Cornell campus which have their public PCs centrally managed. This allows for PCs to be shut off over breaks, such as Thanksgiving, using the program “Deep Freeze”. Investing in increased centralization to other areas of the library system and across campus (does CIT do this for the public PC labs that are shut down over breaks?) could result in significant cost savings.
Also, the typical investments of better heating/lighting systems, expanding the “cooling water” project reach to additional buildings etc would provide cost savings.
Space Utilization - Space is at a premium on campus. Having been involved in the scramble for class space at the beginning of semesters and helping with providing meeting spaces I wish there was a better way of managing classroom and conference spaces. - Anonymous
A search for “Cornell University” on the NYS Comptrollers Office unclaimed funds web site returns 33 hits. Admittedly, some of these amounts may be small, but it is Cornell money none the less. An effort should be made to recover these funds. - Walt
We teach a large number of sections of language courses each semester. Roughly the same number of sections has been offered year after year, for decades, at the same times, and with the same number of students (since enrollments are capped). And yet, each semester, our staff and the Registrar’s Office have to “hunt” for classrooms in which to place these classes. It makes no sense, and is an extremely inefficient use of staff time, to reassign classrooms for each language section each semester. Since the schedules, the number of students in each section, and the number of sections, remain pretty much the same, why can’t there be designated classrooms set aside each term for language teaching? Most universities have fully equipped language classrooms, in the same building as the offices of the instructors, or nearby, that are designated for language teaching. Our instructors and professors have to go all over campus to teach, sometimes back to back classes on far distant parts of the campus from each other, and the chances of these classes actually being properly equipped are slim at best. - Kathleen
Why not follow the lead of the more than 140 other universities that have banned smoking on campus? There would be an immediate savings in maintenance costs - no more picking up cigarette buts outside of buildings, emptying smoking stations, etc. In the long term, it should lead to lower health and fire insurance rates. - Anonymous
Faculty and TA - Semester Office Hours
It would be time, energy and cost effective if the teaching staff could enter their own office hours in a CU system such as the email directory.
Thank you. - Sue
Centralize make-up final exams. Currently, a student must notify his/her TA that he cannot make the exam. The TA must collect information to verify the conflict and check in with the professor. Then the TA must notify the department’s room reservation coordinator. S/he must request a room. Then everything goes back down the chain and the TA must proctor the exam.
A better system: Centralize make-up exams. All students with conflicts submit a common form directly to an office (like the registrar) that has the ability to verify the legitimacy of the conflict and directly books the room. This office then requests exam materials from the professor. The exam room can contain multiple people taking multiple exams, proctored by only one person. The chain of people involved is smaller, the number of rooms required is fewer, and the number of work hours utilized in proctoring the exam is reduced. This system is employed by other peer institutions and works extremely well. - Anonymous
I believe Cornell would benefit from an integrated student service center, which combines the services of Bursar, Registrar and Financial Aid. Although there would be one-time costs associated with creating a suitable work space, the long-term benefits would be better service to students (i.e one-stop), as well as gained efficiencies from combining departments and cross-training staff. Many peer institutions have made this transition and have benefited greatly from doing so. - Kristin
As a long time employee of Cornell I am still amazed at how the University comes to almost a complete standstill in the days leading up to the Christmas break. Dec. 22, 23, and 24 if they fall on a weekday, are still regular workdays. While the University may save some money in ‘closing’ some office’s early, most of the unnecessary expense comes from paying employees to ‘not’ do their jobs. My suggestion is this, employees use their vacation or sick time to be away from their jobs, why can’t the vacation time accrual be cut back so we don’t pay so many people to not work. That way if someone has no vacation time they might think twice about taking the day off or they take it with no pay. Salaries are one of the largest expenses here and if we lower the vacation time earned we might be a much more productive place.
Another huge expense is the ground beautification. I stand with the others that suggested to eliminate the planting and re-planting throughout the year. They throw out huge numbers of perfectly good flowers, plants and bulbs each year. And while they are at it, they can cut back on the mulching every spring. That is totally unnecessary not to mention the cut in salary costs to do this.
I hope that my suggestions will be seriously considered. - Monica
While human resource costs undoubtedly are the most critical to manage, I would assume that given the size of the campus and the physical property, that there might be ongoing opportunities to identify property management efficiencies as well. In the property industry, often rebidding contracts, outsourcing non-core functions, and reducing work scope for services with low marginal contribution to tenants are targeted first, with switches to energy efficient lighting and equipment being rolled out as budgets are available to do so.
In the real estate investing business at Morgan Stanley around the world, we regularly seek to lower the cost of energy, cleaning, and security while taking a hard look at ensuring the highest and best use for each property to optimize the revenue side as well. - Anonymous
1. Squeeze more use out of paper; i.e. one company uses scrap paper (the back-side) for faxing before recycling, and as a result saves substantial money on paper costs.
2. What would happen if we simply ceased printing ALL publications of ANY type for 3months? 6months? How much would we save? Could we use that staff to perform other important tasks that we can’t afford to fill in the immediate.
3. Eliminate hosted business luncheons for staff:staff, and create strict policies regarding external hosted business luncheons with cost restrictions, and special approval guidelines.
4. How much money does Slope Day cost? Could stopping that for a year or two reduce the student activity fee making their education more affordable? Would they be willing to make that sacrifice?
5. Cut back substantially on the amount of food that is prepared and offered at CU Dining. While it’s important to provide nutritious meals with a wide variety, I think this deserves some examination.
Thank you for letting me share! - Barb
The financial downturn may be an opportunity to retrench or eliminate academic programs that have not shown signs of success in the past and seem unlikely to reach distinction in the foreseeable future. This, of course, would involve pain but, in the end, would strengthen the University as a whole.
More importantly, the reconfiguration of existing programs of high quality offers the possibility of achieving greater distinction at reduced cost. I refer, for example, to the current fragmentation of undergraduate business courses now conducted separately in CALS, the Arts College ,ILR and the Hotel School. - Anonymous
Do we really need a separate department of plant breeding and genetics in CALS? This is the only department of its kind in the USA. At most land-grant universities, members of the plant breeding faculty are members of the crop science or horticulture departments. We have two departments in Bradfield/Emerson hall with essentially the same mission. Both departments are small (11 or so in Plant Breeding and 15 in Crop and Soil Science). If you really are serious about improving efficiencies and saving $, then this is an obvious place to start. This set-up cries out with inefficiency with its duplication of Department Business Managers, main office support etc.-and these offices are contiguous with each other! I will watch this one closely to see if common sense plays out in dealing with the current budget crisis or politics as usual. - Anonymous
Add an additional week off after the employee winter holiday. This time would come from the employee’s vacation time (article 32 from the 2005–2009 agreement between Cornell University and Cornell Service and Maintenance Unit, UAW). This would reduce by one week, the vacation time that could be used throughout the year for every employee. With everyone off at the same time, there would be no need to back up each employee during this extended vacation period.
Replace Kronos with a more accurate and dependable payroll system. There is a lot of waste when this program rounds up time.
Utilize video conferencing to cost effectively link the Ithaca and New York City campus and eliminate the Campus to Campus bus system. This would save both time (travel time) and money (bus repairs, bus fleet maintenance, diesel fuel, bus parts, meals, lodging, etc.). When there is a need for staff to travel between campuses, there are other bus companies (Short Line Bus Co., Swarthout Coaches, Inc., etc.) that provide this service at a lower cost.
Construct an electric trolley car system on the Cornell campus to reduce greenhouse gases and bus and automobile traffic on the main campus.
One line could run from the South side of B-Lot to Central campus via Campus Rd. to East Ave. and return to B-Lot via Tower Rd.
Another line could run between A-Lot & North Campus and Central campus over the center of the Thurston Ave. Bridge. - John
This could be done more efficiently by taking a picture of the Arts Quad and painting the red sacks in. This would be less expensive. It has the advantage that one could try many different arrangement of the sacks.
It would also spare people the pain of looking at this ugliness.
Spending money on something like this when you are laying off staff is obscene. - Michael
Get rid of cafeteria trays! - Anonymous
This might no be popular but I would would suggest that you eliminate the current enterprise system for facilities. This will reduce cost in the following ways.
1) Eliminate bid process and cost estimating (staff reduction)
2) Eliminate billing function (staff reduction)
3) Increase productivity by reducing down time (time when unit is without work or doing administrative work).
This will require:
1) projects and maintenance be prioritized
2) Central funding for unit based upon campus needs for services.
Essentially, you will be buying a basket of services at a fixed cost and management will be charged with making it as efficient and effective as possible to give us the most bang for the buck. This will eliminate the disincentive to fix problems (which can lead to injuries) due to the cost allocation associated with the current system. - Anonymous
This suggestion is also about sustainability. I believe that all faucets, sinks, and toilets on campus should regularly be checked for leaks. A leaky faucet can waste 100 gallons of water per day (Drinking Water Quality Report 2009, City of Ithaca Water System and Cornell University Water System).
Personally, I know that there is a faucet in my campus building that has been leaking for at least four years (since I arrived here — it may have leaked before that). I have noted this to the building manager, but it has not been fixed the last time I checked. I suspect that this is happening all over campus.
The waste of water and money is absolutely unnecessary. - Anonymous
It seems that adjusting the university calendar could save significant dollars in energy, staff time, etc. I know that changing the calendar is not a simple task but, in many ways, it could be one of the least painful changes we face. One example concerns the Fall semester, specifically the Thanksgiving holiday break. With just 2.5 days of scheduled classes that week, many students leave for vacation on the weekend preceding Thanksgiving. Why not make the Thanksgiving break the entire week and add those 2 days of classes to the end of the semester. As it is now many students are away from Ithaca for the whole week anyway and then have just one week of classes, typically, after Thanksgiving before the study period begins. Since the last days of most courses are typically devoted to course summaries and course evaluations, the 2 days of classes added to the end of the semester (perhaps, reducing the study period) would not affect course content substantially, nor student study time significantly.
Closing the university for the whole week of Thanksgiving would reduce energy use, building maintenance, ice and snow removal, heating plant operations, water consumption, etc., etc. - Rod
Fix dripping faucets all over campus, especially in the basement of Sage Chapel, custodial closets, etc.) - Beth
Send out a message to turn in phones, turn off jacks where appropriate, turn off computers, etc. where desks are now vacant because of SRI or layoffs. - Beth
Cornell could save money by reducing or eliminating the number of traffic booths. I count 4, and when I’ve been taking my daughter to visit colleges, I never see them. There are usually directions on the web where to go, you can print out (or purchase) the parking permit online, and the process has been pretty smooth. We park, go into an admissions building, and meet with people there to answer any questions and get directions and tours. The booths here also cause a lot of congestion on the roads for passing cars due to the space they take.
I believe I heard Cornell is building an admissions office at East Hill Plaza. Another idea I had was to offer bike tours of campus. You’d need to purchase 20 or so bikes, but it would promote substainability, healthy lifestyle, and be a comfortable way to see the major parts of campus. Building bike lanes from East Hill to campus would help. You could still offer bus or walking tours. There are a number of bike enthusiasts who would be willing to lead these. - Anonymous
It often takes the grounds crew a long time to shovel all of the walking pathways throughout the university, especially on the slope. It is a long and tedious task that hardly ever gets done in a timely manner. In the meantime people often slip and fall and get hurt. The university should invest in ATVs with snow plows attached to the front. They could save costs on labor and get the job done better and faster. - Blair
I attended the Strategic Planning Open Forum today (10/1/09). Thank you for providing such a forum for sharing information and ideas. On my way back to my office I was thinking about a comment someone made during the forum - that across campus there are many units re-inventing the wheel. The example given was event registration. I then thought about my time in a Business Service Center and the substantial amount of effort required to implement new university policies such as the Cell Phone Policy and the new Procurement Policy. Every unit/business service center has to figure out how to implement the changes. Each group likely puts together a team who figures out how to communicate the new policy, develop departmental procedure and then actually implement. Wouldn’t it be better if a single university team developed an implementation framework complete with sample communications, procedures, etc. that the rest of the units across campus could then just implement. It would at least give people a starting point and would presumably help encourage standardization of practices and efficiencies. Some people are really good at developing efficient business processes or developing implementation plans. Can’t we leverage this knowledge and turn it into cost savings?
Our policy development and promulgation process needs to go a step further to integrate the implementation of the policy as part of the process. A prime example is the new IT Policy 5.10 “Security of Electronic University Administrative Information”. I can’t imagine how much time and effort is being spent by individual units to figure out how to comply with the provisions/requirements of the policy. Each unit will have to invent their own wheel. Should each unit spend time investigating different encryption technologies and solutions or should we pick one as a university and develop a centralized method for rolling it out efficiently? Do we need a hundred different people researching encryption solutions or do we need a handful?
I think a unified implementation strategy for new policies could result in time savings/cost savings, promote best practices, improve internal controls, and standardize processes.
We have university policies but we do not have university procedures. - Robert
Combine duplicate offices such as college admissions/registrar’s offices. - Pam
Has anyone discussed the inefficiencies of having the same major offered in multiple colleges? From an administrative perspective, it is inefficient for staff and from a student perspective, it is confusing and can cause a lot of run around. - Anonymous

Human Resources

For many years, I have failed to understand why the university forces employees to put in “39 hours” a week on their timecard, when, due to slowness at appropriate times of the year (i.e. winter break, other “intercessions” like spring break, etc), employees may well choose (with their supervisor’s/unit’s approval based on need) to take more time off during this time.
I believe the standard for “full time” at Cornell (at least according to Employee Degree requirements) is 35 hours. During slower times, can’t employees work 35 or 36 or 37 hours (for example) without then needing to “add in” 2–4 hours of personal or vacation time, if they would like more personal time that week?
Personal time being limited to three days a year (a paltry amount for healthy people who can’t use their sick time, even for “mental health days” which apparently is frowned upon but secretly practiced nonetheless), people are then forced to use their vacation time even though not on vacation (when they would rather save it for “real” vacations).
I imagine this especially applies to second shift (of which I am one) and third shift employees, quite a few of whom work at other jobs/projects during the day, and when the unit they’re in decreases hours (to no evening hours, for example) during intercession, have to work day hours, which 1) may be inconvenient for them given they were hired for evening hours, and 2) if working reduced hours to address the inconvenience, have to put in personal or vacation to “make up the 39 hour work week.”
The university would save money by 1) not paying the 1–4 hours of salary if employees worked less than 39 hours (but 35 or more), and 2) not paying out in earned vacation/sick time since those are pro-rated to the hours that employees actually work.
One can also argue that this can also happen during the academic year (Cornell is not rollicking busy for various departments at various times)….as long as the employee spends the majority of their year at full-time level (meaning between 35–39 hours a week) in order to qualify for full-time benefits, one should not feel the need to use personal time if one would rather save it for special or emergency occasions.
The university can find many ways to be more efficient during “intercession” times…. Especially during the holiday season, when I think many people want more time at home and less of the workweek.
If they need the money, give the employee the option of “putting in” vacation or personal time if they need the full 39 hours of salary. If they don’t, but value the time, give the option of not having to put in time, if the unit can do without them. This should work out for everyone if schedules are arranged so that people have time when they need it, across the board.
It’s been my observation here after 15 years that the “leave without pay” option is rarely used, and frowned upon. If the unit is able to arrange coverage, but would prefer not to pay (and the employee agrees), why not?
I gather that from the many calls here to reduce to a 4 day work week (or cutting to 35 hours, etc), that many here are starting from the initial assumption to save jobs at all costs….but I suspect also (if you look at social/work research at all from recent years) that many people may be tired of the race race and the emphasis on work over life….Workaholism came into vogue in the financially healthy 80s and hasn’t really left in terms of being overcommitted to one’s work (to the exclusion of other pursuits).
It has been said and written about many times in recent years (over the last decade or so), that many people (mothers for example, especially young ones from Gen X, wanting to be home more with their children in a return to a more nuclear family arrangement) are opting for/wishing for more personal time, for health/fitness, family time, spiritual pursuits, travel/educational sabbaticals, and so forth.
I think that for many, time is becoming valuable than money, even in an economy like this where the dollar doesn’t stretch very far.
Cornell is ranked consistently as being one of the best places to work, and deservedly so, for the range of programs out there to help with family life, educational pursuits, professional and personal training, mass transit benefits (kudos for encouraging sustainable practices, although Cornell needs to do more), time away (extended time) programs, and so forth…It never ceases to amaze me what is available from Human Resources.
However, if Cornell really wants to be cutting edge in terms of working environments (and thus attract more qualified employees here), survey your current employees in a more specific survey than this, regarding work/life arrangements, and look at current research about what employees really expect out of life and how an ideal working environment would work for them? What is an ideal working environment?
Many “options” -such as leave without pay, the concept of mental health days, flextime, flexplace, etc…are actually not used widely if at all, and in many areas are frowned upon as being used, even if Cornell officially allows it (thus making the employee uncomfortable about broaching the matter at all with their supervisors, due to very traditional work environment/human resource theories that are still in place. (Cornell HR is doing its best…this isn’t necessarily carried out in units, however).
I may be optimistic about human nature, but I believe the majority of Cornell employees are not out to bilk the system.
There is a great fear among employers that letting employees have more time away will be detrimental to their units. I would argue that a healthier, less frazzled workforce, if cleverly managed by efficient scheduling, are more productive, happier employees, who are liable to be more efficient with their time. In particular with the ever continuing specter of higher gas prices, telecommuting, flexplace/flextime should be more popular, but it’s not. In many service-oriented units, this can be difficult to manage, if provide at all, but there should be accommodation made when possible.
Happy employees provide the best customer service; are more efficient; and are more likely to produce great ideas at being sustainable and productive at work.
President Skorton when he first started here, advocated his commitment to a healthier workforce, where there’s more balance between work and life. I applaud this, but don’t see the real-life application yet.
There is also increasing focus on sustainability, but not enough (I’m a natural resources/comm major from Cornell, so this is of particular interest to me).
At the minimum, look at the usage of time and productivity during intercession breaks….there are savings to be had here, if employees, given the choice, could work less. You would save salary time, vacation/sick time, and energy usage (amongst the many other resource-saving ideas that have been mentioned already). - Anonymous
For many years, timecards (and now COLTS input) for hourly employees have needed to be submitted Wednesday afternoon, before an employee has actually finished work for the day. My department tells me that this is required by the payroll office. Employees are apparently supposed to guess the remaining hours they’re going to work. Then if they guess wrong, they have three unsatisfactory choices: Ignore the error, and be underpaid or overpaid; submit a correction, which adds complication for both them and their supervisor; or informally (and probably illegally) correct it by adjusting their hours for the next time period. Requiring early submission of time adds substantially to accounting effort, and breeds disrespect for the system.
I imagine the payroll department must have some internal reason for this apparently crazy system, but it’s hard to believe that it would be a very convincing one if they took into account all the trouble it causes the rest of the campus.
Why can’t they just wait until the end of business Thursday? Then instead of having a week to process pay checks, they would have six days. Does it really have to take seven days, and not six, to send out a bunch of computer-generated checks?
An aside - the COLTS II user interface is awkward and confusing (far worse than its predecessor). Any chance of getting it cleaned up? - Anonymous
Starting with the new fiscal year convert exempt employees (or just faculty and administration) to monthly payroll and shift payroll one day later, to the 1st day of the month. We can live with the change and it offers two advantages to CU and one to employees.
A monthly payroll should reduce the marginal administrative costs of making two payrolls per month. More critically for the short term, a one day later payroll would effectively shift the 12th month of the payroll to the next fiscal year for the year the change is implemented. That would not reduce costs but it would shift significant payroll costs from the implementation year to allow an additional year for economic recovery and for other budget cuts to take effect.
For employees, this would reduce our annual IRS reportable income for one time only by shifting the final 2009 paycheck to 2010. - Anonymous
Streamline job posting services. Cornell Career Services uses for job postings and on campus recruiting. Many departments handle job postings on their own and email their students, etc. They could free up time and create more full time and summer opportunities by referring employers or academic institutions to post on this service. JGSM and Law School have their own systems and they should because they’re professional schools. But the Graduate School and departments could use our system. - Anonymous

Increasing Revenue

No suggestions yet.

Information and Technology

Review your EZBackup charges and look for ways to reduce those costs by tweaking what you are having backed up. In the ECE Techshop were were able to initially reduce our costs by 30%. - Lisa
At ECE, we studied our current overall Printer Environment and reviewed each department’s printer usage and needs. We inventoried the hardware, determined its age, questioned the users about paper and toner usage and from that discovery we developed a plan to consolidate and share printers across departments and in turn we can provide better support and immediate savings.
Our study revealed several areas for improvement.
1.) We found areas where the end-users could utilize the larger shared network copier printer for their printing instead of having their own office printers. This allowed us move a MultiFunction Printer from that office down to another office to replace a broken printer instead of buying another. Savings = $650.
2.) We found 4 different printer brands within the department. We decided to choose one vendor as our main supplier for printers eliminating different printers, different toners, parts, accessories, drivers, etc. We chose HP as our standard and in doing so, we can now provide standardized support, we will be able to match and share the toner cartridges across the departments, and the costs for fuser kits and other parts will be easier to purchase and extend the life of the printers. Savings = estimated 100 man-hours annually.
3.) We determined the bare minimum printing functions that each end-user needed and based the printer model needed on that level of usage. B&W, Color, Print, Copy, Scan and Fax, Networked or USB, Duplex and Legal sized paper. Savings = $100-$200 less per printer in each area.
4.) Printers will be replaced after they are completely at end of life. When they die out, they will be replaced with HP models utilizing the needs assessment plan. Savings = 1/3+ the cost of replacement printers if extended out to at least 3–4 years or longer if possible.
5.) Nix the purchase of any new color printers if the department color printing usage is low. Set a standard, 1000 or less, uses a shared network color printer. Savings = potential $1000 per printer (cost of one color LaserJet and toners to match)
6.) Shop around for the best price on both printers and toner. Not always can you get the best price from the preferred vendors.
With consolidating printers and print usage across the departments, standardizing the printers, toner cartridges, parts and service, the overall savings for our department could be anywhere from $2000 to $3000 annually. This is something that all departments across campus could review and implement to improve printer support and find savings immediately and in the future. - Lisa
Drop the Web Services (such as CommonSpot, Web Design, etc.) It’s over priced compared to the external providers anyway. Team can be reassigned to other much more needed tasks within CIT.
Better option, used the programmers to develop internal applications that replace the expensive external ones (Remedy, CommonSpot, etc.) They can start with the open source initiatives and Cornell Brand them. - Anonymous
Require departments to use Cornell’s EZ-Backup service and subsidize the costs centrally until said departments are converted and economies of scale make the service self funded again without subsidies. Or continue subsidies at a level which ensures affordability for departments across campus to ensure critical university data is backed up and stored offsite.
Many departments do their own backups. Is the data stored offsite? Does it meet the trustees requirement that critical university data be stored 90 miles offsite? EZ-Backup is currently working on creating an offsite data store at Weill Medical that will replicate ez-backup data from the Cornell Campus. - Anonymous
IC links their Blackboard website system to the Registrar, so that class lists automatically upload into Blackboard, and if a student adds or drops a course they are automatically entered into or deleted from the users enrolled on the course’s Blackboard site. If Cornell could implement this, it would save time for faculty/staff, which would help when we try to ‘do more with less’. Similarly, standardizing the Colleges’ progress-to-degree systems (DUST, etc.) and linking them into PeopleSoft would also improve efficiency and avoid duplication. - Anonymous
IT at the University is monstrously inefficient, does not properly leverage the strengths of individual employees, and leads to extreme job dissatisfaction.
1) Make all non-supervisory IT staff non-exempt. Too many departments on campus overwork their IT staff, expecting mandatory overtime every day and week, because they don’t have to pay for the privilege. Many talented IT staff in the area will not work at Cornell because of this practice.
2) Require that desktop support roles be separated out from programmer roles and analyst roles, and that desktop support be handled by a central desktop support unit on campus. This increases efficiency and reduces misuse of IT staff performing less optimized jobs than their talents would suggest.
3) Centralize all IT staff into CIT and require other units to hire those staff out. This would force efficiency across campus by giving a more accurate picture of the actual time and human cost of various decisions, rather than dumping all ill-advised decisions on IT staff and telling them to “figure it out”. - Anonymous
Have we looked at how we might consolidate technology support?
In addition to CIT, many schools and units have their own tech support. Is this efficient? Would there be merit in bulk purchases if all this was consolidated? - Anonymous
I noticed in many of the computer labs that each time a computer is restarted, some software package such as Java or Adobe Acrobat connects to the Internet to download a large update. Often these are 40–50 MBs in size.Then it asks the user if he or she would like to install the update. Since each computer may restarts many times in a day, it is conceivable that each one is using many GBs of bandwidth each month downloading unnecessary files.
This is inefficient since regardless of if the student chooses to update the software or not, the next time the computer is restarted the same update is downloaded again. This consumes bandwidth the university must pay for and may slow down other traffic on the network. In addition it places unnecessary stress on the update servers.
Perhaps automatic updates should be disabled on these background programs since they will be rolled back to the original image after each restart anyway. This would also stop programs from nagging the user regarding weather updates should be installed/downloaded. - Ramu
It has been my observation that Cornell seems to prefer PCs over Macs for offices, even though Macs are easier to use, work right out of the box (without having to install and configure software add-ons) and require far less attention in the long run from (seemingly well-paid) IT personnel.
It is a well-known fact that PCs are notorious for crashing and spreading tons of viruses, malware, spyware, etc. (not to mention they are easily hacked) and yet they continue to be the recommended computer on campus. Since the newer Macs can boot up into either Windows or the Mac OS (using Parallels), I think that people should be using iMacs to conduct business. I bet that switching to Macs would save you a bundle. It may cost you more initially (since Macs are an investment), but you do “get what you pay for” with a cheap PC in the long run, and so I strongly believe that if you did a cost analysis you would actually see savings in the long run. - Anonymous
Since many departments, organizations, and colleges host events and conferences where Cornell and non-Cornell people register it would seem logical for the University to develop an on-line registration system that was robust enough to collect payment, collect workshop selections, special needs, etc. The system could also interface with a database that allowed this information to be mined for marketing, reporting, and quantifying impact on the community.
Currently departments/units are either purchasing these services from external vendors or creating them in house, resulting in a constant reinvention of wheel, the need to made due with a product that does not fit our needs and worst of all a lack of consistency in what the public sees when registering for a Cornell sponsored event. - Joan


I think my suggestion pertains to sustainability, efficiency and financial savings. Use less salt and fewer applications of salt on the roadways and sidewalks. It would be better for the environment, people’s shoes, cars and save money. Cornell uses salt when nobody else does and much more than anyone else. - Linda


I believe that a significant amount of money can be saved by merging the grounds people in athletics into the grounds dept. Not only could a layer of administration be saved but those extra bodies in the grounds dept. could help during snow emergencies. More people clearing snow would result in a safer campus. I believe the amount of money saved could be $100,000+. - Dayton
Share support staff across multiple people. We have administrative assistants specific to individual directors - this is inefficient and many of these people either have down time or fill time by doing many tasks that are unnecessary. This type of support structure disappeared from Corporate America many many years ago, why does Cornell still have it? There is no reason everyone can’t book and enter their own travel expenses or manage their own calendars. - Anonymous
Shared faculty appointments between two departments and other “special” arrangements take an inordinate amount of time to manage and coordinate. Reporting becomes specialized and coordination takes extra time. While there is value to the University mission in that it promotes cross fertilization between fields, is there some other way we can gain this without the administrative overhead.
Other “special” arrangements such as CIS/CS may be worth exploring as well. These are not easy decisions and only make sense in the context that we can’t meet our cost savings goals via improved efficiency, but have to start looking at decreasing costs by cutting service to the mission.
Monetized cost savings may not be very high because the labor will not be recovered. - Anonymous
Have a central office that does university reporting and analysis. Right now we have all the colleges doing their own reporting and analysis - often it is exactly or close to the same analyses other colleges are doing. This is redundant. A central office of analysts would cut down on duplication of work effort and make data delivery more consistent across campus.
I know IRP does a little of this now, perhaps moving some of the college analysts to central be considered. - Anonymous
Streamline the Economics departments across campus. Create a Faculty of Economics and Finance and get rid of the largest redundancies on campus! - Anonymous
As we look to re-imagine the University, I think about the mission and functions of student services on campus. These services are crucial to student success, yet many of these services are not needed during the summer months. There are a few of us in student services who operate summer programs and the rest of us use this time to plan for the upcoming semester. Given the current crisis, this planning time seems to be a bit of a luxury and I believe that with a bit of rearrangement, several positions could be just as effective as 9, 10, or 11 month positions. By my calculations, cutting 8 positions back to 10 months, would result in savings equivalent to 1 salary plus benefits. This may take some getting used to at first, but the long term benefits are significant.
Additionally, many roles in student services, as is probably true throughout the university, utilize similar skill sets. It makes sense, perhaps at the College level, to take advantage of this by determining when each office is busy and allocating human resources accordingly. For example, all student services staff in a college could volunteer to read admissions applications in early spring, review resumes to help students prepare for recruiting in September, and meet with students who are struggling with classes in October. This would allow staff to develop stronger relationships with students while capitalizing on staff strengths and skills for a more efficient workforce. - Anonymous


No suggestions yet.

Reduce Paper

As an employee of Campus Life in a House Office on West campus, I can personally attest to the tons and tons of wasted papers we get on a regular basis, usually from academic departments, housing, or dining. Extensive savings on printing costs, as well as the cost of disposing of the paper waste, could be cut by centralizing billboard locations in buildings (perhaps two for a large dormitory, ex.) and printing only as many advertisements as are necessary. I’m tired of throwing away stacks and stacks of extra posters, thinking of my tuition dollars being wasted and the environment being harmed in the process. Given how connected students are (checking e-mails five times a day, for instance), there is no reason to use such vast amounts of paper advertising on this campus. - David
There have been suggestions to communicate via email instead of paper to save $. This may be OK in certain circumstances - especially to an individual or to a small targeted audience. However, CU has done a good job reducing SPAM from outside sources - let’s not encourage internal SPAM to all staff, faculty and students. I bet substantial staff time is already wasted on emails that have nothing to do with work for the university. - Carol
I work in an office that produces a lot of print material for the university. I have questioned since coming to this office why we keep producing certain print publications in large quantities. The Courses of Study catalog is over 700 pages long and more than 14,000 copies were printed last year. Much of this info in online (and searchable). Do we need the print catalog? The CD, which is also produced, could be used for marketing to prospective students (a smaller audience). Planning begins in December for this publication. Can this be the year to move electronic?
The Cornell Directory is another large-run print pub. We have stacks and stacks in our hallway that get “recycled” each year. The online directory is getting better and better. Why do we need this print version? Put the resources into improving the online directory. If it’s too big a leap to stop printing altogether, invest in a survey to find out who really uses and needs this. - Julie
Could the excessive printing of Cornell’s Chronicle, PawPrint, and Directory be reduced?
Most all of this information is available on-line.
With the reduced need to view these materials in hard copy, the current locations for these publications have evolved into cluttered disarray with few issues actually being claimed for reading. - Nancy
I’d like to see just an on-line Pawprint, Chronicle, etc with a link sent by e-mail when new issues are produced.
Less paper mail sent home from Human Resources for example instead use an on-line link to necessary information via e-mail such as this past reminder about select benefits and open enrollment time and/or 1 paper mailing per household where spouses both are Cornell employees. - Bethany
I was recently horrified by the Benefits Services expensive mailed notice concerning investment management. Objectionable points:
Two pieces of expensive card stock, each printed on one side only.
The notice could have been sent by email
The misuse of “affect” when the proper word was “effect.”
WHAT A WASTE!! - Linda
Is there a paperless strategy in place at the University? I would like to see a tool to assess the critical need to print a piece of paper. This tool would be required by every area of the University to complete on an annual basis. If we could reduce printing, not only do we save paper, we save energy to print, materials in the machine (i.e. ink) and maintenance on the machine. If we could reduce overall production in any given area, we might be able to eliminate multiple machines. This would in turn save space too. - Mora
Re-vamp the State of NY vouchering process. Reems of paper are wasted in this process. An electronic process could save the University and the state money. - Renee
Unifying the Campus in the use of online resources would also be a huge cost saver. When we live in a world of internet use and instant fulfillment, why do we have employees trekking from all over campus to pick up a form on central campus? Something that could have been sent to them electronically, or better yet, they could have downloaded off the department’s website. I understand that it is very hard to let go of paper but the reduction in expenses if we were to use the university drop box more, and email communications we could eliminate thousands of dollars per employee!
Take my position for example: I spend $560/ year in time, on stapling one form to another form, something that could be scanned and electronically attached through the payment request. Then I spend $1075 / year in time to stuff window box envelopes that cost roughly $500/year in supplies. An email alert would accomplish the same thing, and instead of making 3 copies of the same form- we can make one scan. This isn’t even taking into account the amount of paper it cost, the copies themselves, and the filing needed to organize so much paper(literally thousands). This is one position that could save a couple thousand dollars a year in supplies and copy costs, imagine if every employee did the same evaluation- 11,504 staff members?? $23 billion? Might save a few jobs, and give people more opportunity to expand their work to a higher level, reducing turnover costs and improve Cornell’s mission. - Anonymous
The university needs to modernize its invoice processing capabilities to include the ability to receive invoices electronically from our vendors. This will be both more efficient in terms of labor effort and also will be more sustainable. Currently vendors send hard copies of invoices through the mail system. The invoices are then manually scanned by invoice processing staff and are then loaded into APPS for online viewing. This process is labor intensive. In addition, the paper savings would be significant. The university processes tens of thousands of invoices each and every year.
In addition, to further improve the efficiency of our payment processing function the university needs to move forward with electronic payment solutions so that vendors can be paid electronically either via ACH or wire transfers for all payment types (PO’s, Pay Req’s, etc.). This would reduce the need for an outsourced check writing service and again would reduce paper consumption and reduce fuel usage due to physical mailing.
I know that DFA is already aware of these needs. I believe they should be given the resources they need to move this forward knowing that a little money and effort spent today will reap significant benefits tomorrow. - Robert
My suggestion is to make renewing your parking permit an online venture rather than have transportation print up the paper that you sign and send back to them and then they send you your new parking permit. If we do the renewal online then there would be just one instance of sending the permit through campus mail rather than the three trips your permit renewal now makes (one: you get your renewal form; two: you verify information, sign and return it and three: you get your new permit). - Sylvia
Pre-registration of freshman in the Arts college should be done so that departments can better plan fall courses around enrollment trends. I also hear this would save $5000.00 as old paper forms could be scrapped and never printed. It isn’t a lot of money, but the financial savings and, more importantly, moving into the 21st century would be a benefit to departments and students alike. - Anonymous

Reduced Work Week

No suggestions yet.


It might be a good idea to look at Telecommuting as a possible option for some staff. I have telecommuted in the past before working at Cornell and it was advantageous for both the employer and myself as the employee. Obviously this would not be an option for everyone but would provide the following:
- Saving to the employee in both commuting time and expenses.
- Savings to the University since brick and mortar facilities would not have to be expanded or possibly maintained as often. Also would have a positive effect on campus parking challenges.
- Helpful to the environment by reducing green house emissions.
I believe there may be a considerable number of employees that do not require collaborating face to face. Why shouldn’t they be able to telecommute? Our technology today allows this to be quite successful. - Anonymous


If there will be a halt in construction, make buses stop by Rockefeller Hall. Also, will the road between Statler and Duffield be cleaned up enough that buses can run through that area? Its an inconvenience for everyone who rides that route. - Stuti
Transportation services should simplify the parking category system. There are dozens of zones and permits that need to be policed. Simplifying would reduce the manpower necessary to administer the program, signage and enforcement. The system grows more and more complicated every year requiring more bureaucracy. They should be charged to form a task force to do this. Please do not hire an outside consultant (no money saved there!). - Harry
Most campus mail does not need to be transported by truck. Our office is a few blocks off campus and everyday a handful of envelopes are carted away in a 2 ton truck. Obviously this truck is full of other mail but i believe there is a better way to make such deliveries.
Cornell should create a pool of bicycle couriers capable of handling large volumes of campus mail envelopes. These could be volunteer students, faculty or staff who donate an hour a day 1–3 days a week or it could be a small paid team of riders. Any office wishing to have their mail transported by bike could sign up for the service and the number of riders recruited would correspond to demand.
There are many able cyclists on campus who may be itching for an excuse to ride and help reduce local traffic congestion.
Mail that takes 1–3 days to deliver by truck may possibly be delivered within 1–2 hours by bike.
Sign me up! - Jason
A lot permits should be issued for a 2 year period, as many other permits are. This would save staff time and energy, as well as material. Also, make it possible to renew a continuing permit online. - Anonymous


As a graduate student I know the financial burden placed on our faculty to support the tuition/stipend/health care of graduate students. By some accounts, hiring of an experienced post-doc is less expensive than supporting a graduate student. The tuition in particular is odd considering most of us take minimal courses for our 1st few years, and then none to very few courses for the final years. Why must our mentors pay tuition for students who don’t really take courses? Our significant learning is often done in research, which is already paid for by our mentor’s grants and department over-head costs.
In times of funding stress (via grants) for researchers, it would be a tremendous relief for all if the tuition costs for graduate students (at least in their 3rd year and beyond) are removed or greatly reduced (cut in half?). - Edward
I’d like to see the College of Engineering charge an enrollment deposit fee to all incoming Masters of Engineering students. The fee, which should be similar to the undergraduate deposit ($400, refundable tuition credit), would provide additional revenue for each Engineering department for use on graduate student programs, that are currently being scaled-back or curtailed entirely. - Jonathan
I am forever grateful for the opportunities Cornell has afforded me and have supported the University to enable similar opportunities for others. Nonetheless, I believe it has been shameful that elite universities, including Cornell, have been incapable of limiting tuition increases to the growth in CPI. In making those choices administrators and faculty have served themselves at the expense of their customers, the students.
This glaring lack of stewardship has been enabled by huge increases in philanthropy occasioned by a false economy built on a foundation of public, private and family debt which is no longer sustainable. Your recent policies of shifting tuition burdens on wealthy families to subsidize scholarships is based on a faulty premise that those wealthy families still have “real” wealth. Good luck. Your failure to exercise appropriate financial discipline will only make future adjustments more painful. “Physician heal thyself!”
I am surprised that a more efficient model of college education has not targeted the elite universities. It would only take a large additional investment to enhance the Phoenix University model to deliver superior (and cheaper) college education online. It is not a question of whether, but when, the online model will offer higher quality and more efficient college education.
Every industry in the United States has had to restructure to deliver its product or service “ better, quicker and cheaper.” I think it is a joke that universities are teaching remedial courses, taking up to six years or more to graduate students and raising tuition at rates in excess of inflation. Not surprisingly, administrators and faculty have generously rewarded themselves for this absymal performance. Beware, “creative destruction” lurks in your future.
Cornell should consider radical changes to restructure its business model to be more efficient. More of the same is not good leadership. - Wayne

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