the fe ars we k n ow are o f not knowing. - W. H. Auden, Age of Anxiety (1947)
uring the period from fiscal year 2007 to 2012, MUSC had their state appropriations cut a staggering 47 percent, from $97.2 million in 2007 to the current level of $50.8 million. The College of Nursing had to absorb its share of this reduction in revenue at a time when applications to the various educational programs were very strong and research growth was gaining momentum. To say that this was a challenge is indeed an understatement. Facing a financial crisis is a lot like standing on a precipice. The choices are clear – either slip down the steep slope to an unknown destiny, or draw upon all of your strengths and resources and begin to scale the sharp cliff to the next level of greatness. The College of Nursing’s team of faculty and staff decided that ascent was better than descent, and so we entered into an intense period of evaluation, analysis and strategic decision-making about every program and activity engaged in by the College. It was clear to the College of Nursing leadership that a multi-pronged approach would be needed to deal with the threat imposed by the significant reduction in state appropriations to the College. Therefore work began with a comprehensive plan that was datadriven. Strategies were diverse and can be categorized as: one mindedness, communication, efficiencies, investments and partnerships.
Spring | Summer 2012
One mindedness It was understood that the success of the College and its ability to scale the mountain would be directly linked to all faculty and staff being of ‘one mind.’ A spirit of teamwork, collegiality and shared ownership of both the problem and the potential solutions was essential. We were all in this together, and solutions had to be derived based on organizational and not individual needs. To be successful, everyone had to leave their egos and personal agendas at the door and make decisions for the good of the College as a whole in the spirit of true collegiality. As a critical first step, faculty and staff were asked to take the long view of the organization, and to envision the current crisis as an opportunity rather than a threat. This was a time to revisit the College’s mission, vision and values, and develop a clear game plan of what we wanted to be known for nationally among colleges of nursing. We needed to keep our eye on this goal and identify targeted outcomes by which we could measure our future success.
Communication An early priority was to address the anxiety associated with a financial crisis that often makes problem-solving more difficult. In the words of W. H. Auden, “The fears we know are of not knowing.” The Dean held many open meetings with faculty, staff and students to outline the challenges, present data-driven information, gather feedback, solicit possible solutions, and answer questions and concerns as best as possible at the time. A model of transparency in information and decision-making was already in place in the College, but these circumstances made such openness, directness and honesty even more critical.
State Budget Cuts Date
MUSC Appropriation (millions)
Efficiencies An early task focused on where the College could gain greater efficiency and reduce nonproductive variation. Everything was ‘put on the table’ for consideration. For example, class sizes varied widely with equal faculty effort allotted to classes with very different numbers of students. Faculty voted to standardize class sizes across programs. Each academic program also was open to examination based on data reflecting the costs and revenue it generated. This resulted in the closure of some academic programs that were not financially sustainable. Staff duties were reassigned to better align with the College’s emerging needs. It was also necessary to rebalance the skills and capabilities of both staff and faculty. Matching of the ‘right’ person with the ‘right’ skill was critical.
Published on May 2, 2012