UPAC college merger savings falling short of projected $1 million

If last year’s complex college merger has saved the SF State $1 million, it is unclear where that money came from, or where it ended up.

To date, the University has not explicitly listed the administrative costs the merger eliminated. While the University Planning Advisory Council cited early on in the consolidation process that the elimination of two deans, two associate deans and two college development officers would total in $1 million in savings, that result has yet to come to fruition.

Comparing UPAC’s projection to reality, the merger has saved $266,016, 73 percent less than the baseline $1 million the advising council predicted.

Contrary to previous UPAC suggestions, no positions from the University Development Office were eliminated, according to Robert Nava, vice president of University Advancement. He said cutting staff and faculty was not part of the University agenda.

“Staff were not laid off; that was never in the final report,” said Nava, whose office oversees the development department. “Private money is raised by development officers. We rely on that department for outside fundraising.” According to the 2011-12 University budget, the office spent $36,328 less than the year before.

Though they now work as professors, former Creative Arts and Behavioral and Social Science college deans Kurt Daw and Joel Kassiola, respectively, are paid the same executive salaries they received as deans. Daw made $195,000 and Kassiola made $166,632 in both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 fiscal years, according to the SF State budget books.

While former CA Associate Dean Ronald Caltabiano left SF State, and former BSS associate dean Sacha Bunge is not currently compensated as Dean of Faculty Affairs, the Liberal and Creative Arts College hired former theater chair Todd Roehrman as an additional associate dean this spring. At an average wage of about $115,000, the merger essentially cut the cost of one associate dean.

“The money saved was very small, possibly a couple of secretaries,” said Steve Kovacs, a theater professor at SF State. “The college merger made absolutely no difference.”

While the merger’s savings are less visible, its organizational consequences are more obvious.

Liberal and Creative Arts College Dean Paul Sherwin presides over 10 more departments post-merger, but makes the same $177,684 he did as dean of the former seven-department College of Humanities. Additionally, Sherwin earns $17,316 less than Daw did as former dean of just six departments, although Daw now serves as a theater professor.

Although Deputy Chief of Staff Shawn Whalen asserted the total savings from UPAC recommendations “easily surpasses $1 million,” he said the council was only in charge of engineering budget solutions, not putting those plans into action.

“I can’t speak to what happened. UPAC hasn’t met since the middle of last year,” said Whalen, who served as the former chair of UPAC. “The concept was to remove administrative salaries and spend that on teaching students and faculty.” He said the provost’s office was responsible for the merger’s implementation.

Both the provost’s office and the budget office were not available for comment.

Though SF State chose the six-structure merger as a solution to the budget crisis, there were other options to consider. Most notably, an independent auditor recommended in 2011 that the University expend the school’s nearly $100 million in reserves before downsizing faculty or even administration.

Sophomore and hospitality and tourism management major Ryan Taylor thought that the merger was more bark than bite.

“It seems like they’re trying to look like they’re saving all this money, but they’re not,” Taylor said. He is grateful the merger had only displaced departments, not eliminated them completely. “In the end, nothing changed.”

Nava maintains that patience will be a crucial virtue in analyzing the fiscal benefits of the merge.

“It’s being structured for the long term. We’re going through the early phases of streamlining some of those colleges,” Nava said. “We’re going to have to give it some time.”

This story has been altered to correct a quote from Shawn Whalen. In the original version of this story, it quoted him as saying that the savings from the college consolidation “easily surpassed $1 million.” In fact, he was referring to savings from the totality of UPAC’s recommendations. We regret the error.

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