State looks to eliminate excess university reports

Liz Farmer

In partial response to the decrease in state funding, the University is now clarifying and cutting operational reports to government agencies that were previously excessive and confusing, said Mary Knight, associate vice-president and budget director for the University.

The eliminated reports were unnecessary and wasted employee time, Knight said. There are a variety of reports sent to state and federal agencies on issues ranging from budget to diversity. Knight said the $92 million cut in state funds to the University that occurred last legislative session led to employee cuts. She said the changes aim to decrease the time University employees spend compiling reports that do not benefit legislators.

“Legislators say that they don’t use it and ask us for information they can understand,” Knight said. “Doing things that just sit on a shelf doesn’t make sense during these times.”

Knight said Texas Senate Bill 5, which passed in the last legislative session, allows for the deregulation of some reporting done by state institutions. She said efforts include cutting duplicative reports and restructuring remaining reports to make them easier for legislators to understand.

“We’re trying to get it down to ‘What do they find meaningful and useful?’” Knight said.

Knight said legislators worked with the University to provide reporting relief through the bill, and the process confronts University questions about the scope of state oversight since the drastic decrease in state funding from the last legislative session.

“Even though they may not be able to provide increases in financial support, their support means a lot,” Knight said.

Government junior Thomas Meehan worked as a Texas Senate messenger at the Capitol and attended some of the higher education committee meetings as a part of his job. He said he worked with some of the university reports and could tell reports from bigger universities did not present information in a concise way.

“I know that some of the stuff was very confusing,” Meehan said.

He said in some cases, legislators needed university officials to explain information due to the complexity of the reports.

“There were times when senators said ‘Tell me this in simple terms,’” Meehan said.

Texas Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, authored Senate Bill 5 and said 61 reports will be eliminated statewide by 2013. She said multiple agencies may request similar reports with subtle differences, so the reporting changes aim to condense repetitive documents into one report. Zaffirini said the state budget cuts to public universities influenced Senate Bill 5.

“We kept asking the presidents, ‘Since we’re cutting your funding, what can we do?’ They said let’s cut some of these reports that aren’t necessary,” Zaffirini said.

She said reducing the number of reports will cumulatively save the University millions of dollars.

“People don’t just write reports — it takes money and time,” Zaffirini said. “We were trying to eliminate what wasn’t necessary while ensuring access to what’s critical.” 

Printed on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 as: University to expel excessive paperwork