Opportunity and Need

Earlier this week, Publications and Print Marketing Director Ben Birnbaum sat down with Executive Vice President Frank Campanella to discuss Project Delta.

CHRONICLE: What are the goals of Project Delta?

CAMPANELLA: I believe we can be the best managed university in the country. It's within our reach and that's the ultimate objective of Delta. In order to accomplish this we must increase productivity and improve customer service.

For example, because of the particular way we now manage things at BC, it costs us a certain amount to provide a student meal, to register a student for a course, to solicit a fund-raising dollar, to mail a letter, to cut a payroll check. Project Delta is going to redesign our business processes in order to make sure they are as efficient as we can make them, that we are using information technology and people to best effect in the service of students, parents and alumni.

CHRONICLE: Are any other universities involved in similar projects?

CAMPANELLA: So far as we know - and we've asked and looked - no. Some are undergoing traumatic reorganization because of financial problems and you can read about that in the paper every day. Others are tinkering with some of their processes. But I don't know of any college that's looking at improving all the ways in which it does business, and more importantly doing this from a position of strength, which is what we are doing.

CHRONICLE: What makes you think BC can do what no one else has done?

CAMPANELLA: Two things. First, I've always said that one of the great strengths of BC is our management staff. If anyone's capable of making this happen, it's our people. Second is history. We've done it before. As Fr. Monan noted when he talked to the Project Delta group last week, in the early 1970s we had to change our processes, our staffing, our business practices, in order to survive. We did it then. We literally created ways of doing business that hadn't been seen on a college campus before and for the last 20 years we've had other universities coming to BC to see how we manage the institution. We can do it again. The opportunity is clearly there.

CHRONICLE: Have any particular units or divisions been designated for Project Delta attention? Or are any administrative units exempt from Project Delta?

CAMPANELLA: Every administrative and academic support unit will be involved in Project Delta. Some have already begun. The Financial Vice President's division, for example, has about 30 studies going. They're looking at how they do things and how others - universities and businesses - perform those same functions. But there's no function or way of doing business that BC pays for that won't be studied and improved under Project Delta.

CHRONICLE: There are other offices outside the financial area that are in the midst of re-engineering their systems. How will Project Delta affect current projects? Should project planners put their work on hold until the University-wide committee is able to review all current and planned efforts?

CAMPANELLA: No. I believe that it would be a mistake to lose the momentum that these offices, Enrollment Management and the Libraries for example, have already gained.

One hallmark of Delta, however, is that it will examine business processes as they cut across various business units. That view, plus the notion that our systems redesign should reflect emerging technologies rather than existing ones, both require institutional rather than departmental perspectives, resources and authority.

CHRONICLE: How long do you think Project Delta will take?

CAMPANELLA: I don't know. The name will fall aside at some point, but what we're starting here - an aggressive process of continual improvement and renewal - should never end.

CHRONICLE: Is there a dollar or personnel goal attached to the cost reductions?

CAMPANELLA: Not today; as we speak there is not. It will, however, be necessary to set such goals. It's important that we arrive at them through careful study of what is possible, rather than by shooting from the hip today. Remember, we've just launched this process. It is important to note, too, that our goal will not be predetermined by some deficit that must be covered, but rather by how much we believe we can be better at what we do.

CHRONICLE: You've refused to use the term "re-engineering" to describe this project. Why?

CAMPANELLA: Re-engineering means the radical redesign of business processes to achieve cost reductions, improvements in productivity and gains in customer service. Unfortunately, the term has been over-used and misused, most often to rationalize severe layoffs and cost reductions. That's not what Project Delta is all about.

CHRONICLE: Is BC considering layoffs?

CAMPANELLA: We haven't reached that level of detail. We expect there will be fewer people working at BC as Delta is accomplished. At 46 percent of the budget, salaries and benefits are our largest single cost element. Layoffs, however, would obviously be a last resort after consideration is given to retraining, early retirement and normal attrition.

CHRONICLE: You've described Project Delta as an opportunity. How so?

CAMPANELLA: In two ways. First, because it will allow Boston College to create new and more efficient ways of doing business as a university, and that's a great challenge for every person who works in BC's administration. Second, Project Delta is without a doubt going to lead to better training, wider responsibility and greater financial reward for people who do superior work. For example, one of the possibilities we will study is the elimination of the current grading system of jobs in favor a much flatter set of steps that will bring increased compensation and other rewards to high performers wherever they happen to work.

CHRONICLE: Why are we doing Project Delta now, when we appear to be in a strong financial position?

CAMPANELLA: Because it's clear that if we don't begin now, from a position of strength, we're going to have to do it down the road from a position of fiscal weakness. Look at just one critical factor today. During the '80s Boston College tuition increased at an average annual rate of 11 percent. Next year we are looking at a tuition increase of no more than 5 percent. Look around at other major institutions. We have nothing but compassion for MIT and Northeastern and Rochester and all the other institutions where people are going through the agony of enforced, broad and draconian cuts in programs and people. But we choose not to walk that path.

CHRONICLE: Can you define the forces that led to Project Delta?

CAMPANELLA: There is the "why" and the "why now." The "why" involves a belief and a sense of pride that we can in fact be the very best. The "why now," in January 1996, is both because there is the opportunity and the need. The need in turn is driven by familiar forces: revenue and expenses. To put it simply, almost two-thirds of our income comes from tuition and our commitments are driving costs faster than tuition can reasonably be raised to cover them. In fact, one projection, if we and the economy stay on the current track, is that we will reach an annual tuition cost of $32,960 by 2005 - equivalent to 65 percent of median family income. That is simply not in the feasible set. Compounding this is that in recent years we have begun to compete for students and faculty with some very strong institutions. If we're going to hold our own and even move ahead, we need both new dollars and reallocated dollars so that we can continually improve everything we do.

CHRONICLE: Last I heard, our endowment stood at half-a-billion dollars. Why can't the endowment provide the funds BC needs?

CAMPANELLA: Two problems. In the first place, one-third of our endowment has restrictions on its use set out by the donors, and if the donor said, for example, that the endowment goes for financial aid for students from St. Margaret's Parish only, that's where it goes. The other two-thirds, which we call a quasi-endowment, satisfies the university's long-standing financial objective to have sufficient reserves in the quasi-endowment to offset fully our long-term debt. So for us, having the quasi-endowment is like having enough in the bank to pay the credit card off at any time if that becomes necessary. The trustees and upper administration - not to mention our bond rating agencies - agree that this is the responsible thing to do.

The second problem is that amazing as it may seem, half-a-billion dollars, no matter its composition, is not a sufficient endowment for an institution of our size. The most recent figures on endowment income per undergraduate student place us at $1,810, compared with $7,550 per student at Dartmouth, $4,470 at Notre Dame and $2,800 at Holy Cross . At Princeton, endowment income per undergraduate student is an extraordinary $26,600.

Tuitions at those schools are roughly the same as our tuition, but they obviously have thousands of income dollars over tuition that they can use to improve each student's experience. And we're competing with every one of those schools, which means we had better be using our resources better than any of them, and that's what Project Delta is about.

CHRONICLE: What about fund-raising? Why can't that make up the difference?

CAMPANELLA: It will provide us with some of the income above tuition that we need, but not all. BC is planning a major new capital campaign and at some point soon the development professionals and trustees will have completed the study of donor potential and we'll know what the goal should be.

CHRONICLE: Has Fr. Leahy been briefed on Project Delta?

CAMPANELLA: He has, but only in the most general way. He agrees with the need for Delta and with its objectives.

CHRONICLE: How will information about Project Delta be disseminated?

CAMPANELLA: In every way necessary and possible. In the BC Chronicle , through an electronic bulletin board on InfoEagle, and through presentations and mailings. We might even create a Project Delta newsletter that will be available in electronic and paper form. We want an open process and we're going to provide one.

If you have a questions or comments about Project Delta, send them to the Project Delta electronic mail box: project.delta@bc.edu. If you do not receive e-mail, send questions or comments to Project Delta, c/o Executive Vice President's Office, Botolph House.

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