- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - University of Iowa employees said Thursday that they fear a consultant’s cost-cutting plans will have a negative impact on the institution and not save as much money as projected.

Employees also told representatives of Deloitte Consulting during a campus forum that the plans are too vague to be properly evaluated by the Iowa Board of Regents.

Deloitte is recommending that Iowa’s three public universities restructure their human resources, information technology and finance staffs. The consultant says the schools cut could up to 250 jobs through attrition and retirements in those areas in coming years, while saving tens of millions of dollars. Deloitte is also recommending saving money by using fewer desktop computers and printers, in favor of virtual desktops and network printers.

The job reductions are “a great concern to us,” said Chuck Wieland, the president of the UI Staff Council. But he said the plans have only a “theoretical feel, not a practical feel” and were lacking detail.

“If you don’t give people the road map on where we’re going, you will have very little buy-in,” he told Deloitte representatives. “We’re not talking about the plan. How will we get there? What is the end goal? We’re just talking about implementing.”

The regents are expected to vote during a meeting Nov. 14 on whether to implement all or some of eight broad plans that Deloitte developed under a $3.3 million contract awarded earlier this year. University presidents are also planning to address the regents later this month with their own recommendations on the plans.

Some employees said they believed university administrators could come up with more effective proposals, given the school’s history of innovation. One challenged Deloitte to make available the details of how it projected potential savings. Others suggested the exercise was a waste of time and money.

“Please remind me why resources are being spent on this process,” engineering professor David Wilder told the consultants.

He also questioned whether Deloitte had a conflict of interest in recommending cost-saving proposals that it might be later hired to implement. Deloitte has said that the universities may need consultants to help carry out several of the plans, but has not signed any contracts with the regents for that phase of the project.

Deloitte consultants said they didn’t believe the administrative changes would negatively affect students or faculty members, as some employees claimed. They said they expected the universities to emerge stronger in the end, with services provided at less cost. And they said the details would be fleshed out with campus input once the regents decide whether to move forward.

Deloitte director Rick Ferraro said the recommendations address how work can be changed through process and technology improvements so that fewer employees are needed over time. To characterize the plans as cuts is inaccurate, he said.

“That’s not at all what we’re doing,” he said.

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