New project to examine Tufts’ administrative structure


The university will next semester launch a new Tufts Effectiveness in Administrative Management (TEAM) project that will evaluate the current state of administrative affairs on all three campuses and operate in tandem with the strategic planning initiative launched in October.

The project will collect feedback from across all levels of the university to assess and ultimately recommend changes in administrative practices concerning Tufts employees, according to Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell.

Results of an Excellence at Work employee survey conducted over the past few years indicate that the overwhelming majority of Tufts employees love what they do, a statistic Campbell finds encouraging. She added, however, that the survey results show that some respondents find certain administrative policies to be cumbersome.

“It leads us to think that there’s a lot of things that we might improve, but there’s also really good will among our work force for taking a look at how we can do things better,” Campbell said. “We want to be sure that our administration is as effective as it can be so we are supporting the excellence of our academics.”

Within the next few weeks, TEAM’s executive committee will hire an outside consultant to start collecting data next month. The official assessment will then last from January to April, according to Campbell.

Members of the consulting firm will talk to faculty, staff and students and gather data through a variety of methods, potentially including interviews, surveys and focus groups, Campbell noted.

“We have a lot of data of how we spend our resources on administration, so they’ll look at that data,” she said. “They’ll look at some reports we’ve done in the past about administration. They will assess what we currently have, compare it to how different functions are operated in other environments and suggest recommendations.”

The executive committee, which is the initiative’s decision-making body, will include University President Anthony Monaco, Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Thomas McGurty and Campbell. A steering committee composed of about 15 to 18 university vice presidents, executive deans, faculty members and managers will help direct the project. 

In addition, the Administrative Council, the Academic Council and the Board of Trustees will provide input throughout the process, according to Campbell.

“The steering committee and the executive committee will work in an ongoing, interactive way with the consultants so that we’re guiding their work, we’re hearing early findings from them so that we can see where there can maybe be some opportunities where we dive a little deeper … and understand what might be possible,” she said. 

Following the assessment process, implementation of the recommended practices will occur over what Campbell said could be several years.

“There are likely to be some things that you could just change tomorrow,” Dick

Reynolds, project manager and former Vice President of Operations, said. “There will be some other things that’ll take a year to put in, and there will be some that might take two or three years because they’ll have to change the ways we go about our business.”

Campbell explained that Tufts is not alone among higher education institutions in examining and addressing the effectiveness of its operations.

“With the questions that the public and government are asking of all higher education about affordability, about access [and] about outcome, Tufts wants to make sure that it looks ahead and it operates itself as effectively as it possibly can in a time when there are a lot of questions about those issues,” she said.

McGurty hopes that the project will help the university make the most of its existing administrative capabilities.

“I think we’ve done a lot to modernize our systems, putting a lot of investment in these systems,” he said. “This really holds the promise to do something that would take advantage of those investments. I think there’s really an opportunity to strengthen our business practices.”