Originally published on Sept. 12, 2011
“Under Construction” is a phrase used quite frequently on campus as of late. Building projects ranging from the Nobel Halls in Kelly and Roosevelt Quads to the demolition of the Old Chemistry building might seem disconnected, but there is a reason in the madness.
Project 50 Forward is a three-tiered initiative fostered by Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. and a team of faculty, staff advisors and outside consultants. It encompasses physical, interdepartmental and financial changes to the university’s operations and functionality over the course of the next five decades.
According to the university’s Project 50 Forward webpage, the project will “enhance our fundamental teaching, research and service missions while building a platform to support the future growth of the university and strengthen Stony Brook’s role in the economic renewal of New York state.”
Operational excellence, academic greatness and building for the future are the three initiatives of Project 50 Forward. Over the last year, Stony Brook partnered with Bain and Company, a consulting firm, to assess the progress and financial capabilities in order to begin implementing plans for the operational excellence phase.
Lauren Sheprow, director of media relations at Stony Brook University, said each initiative of Project 50 Forward acts “as a microcosmic way to move the university forward.”
Last month, Stanley sent an update to the community. Bain and Company finished their consultation at the end of last semester, and after review from the Project 50 Forward team, the operational excellence initiative plans are starting to show face.
Operational excellence focuses on the physical makeup of the university. It will tackle the problem areas within staffing organization and streamline procurement of goods.
Peter Manning, a Stony Brook University English professor and initiative sponsor for the university’s library project, said Operational Excellence will “eliminate complexities and redundancies…so that we can bring money back to academia.”
Manning was a key player in the reorganization of the staffing at Stony Brook’s two libraries over the last year and a half. He said that operational excellence has two main goals: to install a volume purchasing system to simplify supply purchases and to restructure human relations policies of hiring and maintaining staff.
“Hiring on this campus is catastrophically complicated,” Manning said. One of the goals of operational excellence is to design a plan to “speed up and simplify the hiring process.”
Talks of condensing faculty departments have caused an unrest among university employees, but nothing has been formally announced. In theory, staff would be streamlined to shared service centers in order to stop duplicating jobs. This “division by function” could save one or two salaries per department.
“This provoked a gigantic resistance because we think of staff not as service to the department but service of the department,” Manning said.
The campus community will begin to see implementation of operational excellence plans this semester. Project 50 Forward’s facilities master plan, which covers all construction plans for Stony Brook, awaits approval from the State University of New York system. An updated presentation to the university is scheduled in the upcoming weeks.