Ken Hare In Depth: Shakeup of top-heavy ASU administration overd - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Ken Hare In Depth: Shakeup of top-heavy ASU administration overdue

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Complete the following multiple choice question: When Alabama State University President Gwendolyn Boyd introduced a new organizational chart to trustees last week, was she trying to: A. Get rid of deadwood and problem-makers among top administrators? B. Improve efficiency in the management structure? C. Reduce salary costs?  D. Open up top slots for people whom Boyd would like to hire?

Or perhaps the best answer would be "all of the above."

One thing is obvious to anyone who even casually glances at the old organizational chart for ASU: The management structure there was top heavy, with far too many vice presidents and associate vice presidents and provosts than necessary or good for a university of ASU's size.

Consider this: Auburn University, with an enrollment of almost 25,000 students, has an organizational chart listing about 40 positions, including six vice presidents and another six assistant or associate vice presidents.

Alabama State University, with an enrollment of about 6,000 students, lists about 90 positions on its organization chart, including eight vice presidents and six associate or assistant vice presidents.

The chart presented last week by Boyd lists just 29 positions, with five vice presidents and a chief of staff.

A caveat to readers: Comparing organization charts can be tricky. The same title may mean different things in different organizations. And it is not uncommon for an ad hoc management structure to develop within an organization that has little to do with the lines of authority on the official chart.

While not being specific, Boyd told WSFA reporter Jennifer Oravet that her proposed changes were in part a response to ASU's bond rating being lowered. Part of the reason for that rating change is that the university faces some serious financial challenges, so saving money could be a significant factor in Boyd's proposal.

But Boyd also said it was uncertain just how many jobs would be cut in her proposed reorganization.

I don't want to appear harsh, but Alabama taxpayers should hope that there are significant reductions in jobs among top administrators at ASU.

Changing lines of authority on an organization chart and taking the title of vice president away from some administrators could improve efficiency. Having the remaining vice presidents report to her as president, not to an executive vice president, should help Boyd cement her authority and make it clear that she is in charge.

 But title changes and moving lines of authority won't save money if all those officials remain on the payroll; eliminating positions will.

One person whom it appears definitely will be leaving ASU is Executive Vice President John Knight, whose position was eliminated in Boyd's new chart. But Knight had long ago suggested that he would likely would be retiring. Knight, who is also a veteran legislator, will be among those members of the Legislature who will be forced by a new law against "double-dipping" to decide after the November election between serving in the Legislature or holding a state job. Knight told me some time ago that he was leaning toward retiring from ASU.

Knight was gracious in his public comments following the announcement that his post was being eliminated, saying that the university was in good hands and that he would continue to support ASU.

Last week Boyd reported her proposed changes during committee meetings of ASU's board of trustees. It will be interesting to see how the full board reacts to her proposals when it meets. If the board balks at her changes, it could be an early warning sign of tension between the board and the new president. But my guess is that the board -- at least publicly -- will acquiesce.

There are lots of reasons to reorganize the administrative hierarchy of ASU: Done right, it can save money, increase efficiency and improve accountability. Perhaps most importantly, it can make it clear that the new president is in charge and not just a figurehead.

Of course, only after names are plugged into all of those spots on the new organizational chart will the taxpaying public and the ASU faculty, staff and students be able to judge whether Boyd has done it the right way.

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Ken Hare was a longtime Alabama newspaper editorial writer and editorial page editor who now writes a regular column for WSFA's web site. Email him at khare@wsfa.com.

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