Whitaker stresses careful management of scarce resources

By Mary Jo Frank

Faculty, staff and students are best described as “colleagues,” not customers, says Provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr.

In these roles, we serve one another, but are not servants, Whitaker told Senate Assembly Sept. 21.

During the past year at Senate Assembly meetings and other public forums, faculty members have criticized efforts to launch M-Quality and the administration for referring to students as “customers” and the University as a “business.”

Whitaker says the M-Quality approach is mainly aimed at the administrative side of the University. “We’re not talking about teaching and research. This is a change in the thinking of the administration and a change in wording.”

The notion of total quality management, which germinated in academe and was quickly embraced by Japanese industries, is built on the principles of pursuing continuous improvement, respecting people and ideas, using facts to make decisions and satifying those we serve, Whitaker said.

The goal of M-Quality is to provide better service to faculty and students at lower costs or without adding staff, resulting in cost savings and elimination of bureaucracy, he explained.

Whitaker also discussed the Campaign for Michigan, the budget, and recent strides made in diversifying the racial and ethnic makeup of the U-M community.

The Campaign for Michigan, a $1 billion fund-raising campaign officially launched Sept. 18, is well under way with nearly $300 million in gifts and pledges already received, Whitaker said.

“Personally I have no doubt that we’ll make it,” Whitaker added.

The Campaign for Michigan is critical but not sufficient to assure continued excellence at the U-M, according to the provost.

Faculty and staff need to make better use of current resources, to work together to make whatever adjustments are necessary. Success, he predicted, will mean better teaching and learning, more research and better employee compensation.

As the U-M achieves greater diversity and presses toward its goal of becoming a multicultural university, Whitaker said it is imperative that members of the University cherish new ideas, respecting the ideas of all.

During the question-answer period, Whitaker told the faculty that a salary program will be the highest priority in the budget process next year.

Sharon Sutton, associate professor of architecture, asked what can be done about students who are paying “megabucks for an education but may not get a job.”

Noting that faculty are responsible for the curriculum, Whitaker said faculty need to think about preparing students for life after the University.

Roy Penchansky, professor of health services management and policy, added, “We have to be sure of the quality of the education here so our people will get jobs.”


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