Students trying to enter the Modern Languages Building after 5 p.m. have probably already noticed one repercussion of budget trimming discussions on campus. Blue signs on the doors of the MLB declare the Thayer entrance the “after hours” door. The others are locked at 5 p.m.
The MLB is just one of many University buildings that has been affected by the Department of Public Safety’s new door-locking procedure. Doors that used to be locked or unlocked by DPS are now under the care of the building’s facilities administrators. These arrangements are made on a departmental basis, meaning different buildings will have different procedures.
The new DPS policies are part of a larger effort to increase efficiency and cut costs within the Facilities and Operations Department, which oversees DPS.
Rackham student Steven Richardson said he heard about the cost-cutting while talking to two building operations workers in Randall Laboratories. He said he worried that building operations would simply stop locking doors, leading to a reduced safety level in the buildings. “I want to make sure people know what is going to happen,” he said. “I think (these decisions) were hastily done.”
“Ultimately, unless parents and students know what’s going on, I don’t think this is going to change.”
Lois Oerther, the facilities manager for the Law School, said DPS used to unlock the school’s doors. She said the new arrangement has Building Operations opening outside doors to the Law School. Oerther then unlocks all inner doors, such as classroom doors.
She said the benefit to this arrangement is that buildings are unlocked later in the morning, reducing the risk of homeless entering the buildings. The negative side is that the school does not open buildings on weekends, which allows fewer weekend activities to be held in the Law School.
Oerther said departments such as the School of Literature, Science and the Arts, which has more than 20 buildings on campus, have the biggest logistical headaches.
Diane Brown, spokeswoman for Facilities and Operations, said DPS covered much but not all of the locking and unlocking on campus. Departments requiring DPS to lock doors will now be charged to help cover the cost of the services.
Brown said DPS would continue to do checks in all buildings. “DPS will continue to do patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week for homeless in buildings,” she said.
She said the policy is just one piece of a larger budget-cutting effort spanning all of Facilities and Operations. She said cuts to DPS were not as deep as cuts to Facilities and Operations as a whole because of University interest in safety.
Hank Baier, associate vice president of Facilities and Operations, said the department cut its budget across the board but kept public safety and health in mind while doing so.
“We had to make significant budget cuts – real budget reductions,” he said. “If it’s related to health and safety, that’s going to be our first priority.”
Many cuts are relatively unseen by students, such as reducing the costs of copying, office supplies, training and travel costs. He said the department has also left 30 positions vacant rather than hiring to fill them but did not specify which jobs were left unfilled. Other changes include renegotiating contracts with suppliers and reducing the number of vehicles in the University fleet.
Not all changes will go unnoticed by students, however. “We’ve had to do changes above and beyond what students would not see,” Baier said.
“For instance, instead of doing maintenance work on a Saturday, we try to find the time Monday through Friday, which can be intrusive,” he said.
Another change is that grass is not cut as often, especially in less-used areas such as North Campus. Baier said Diag grass will remain well-trimmed, however.
“We’ve tried to be creative in these cuts,” he said.
He also pointed out that many budget cuts have taken the form of more environmentally-friendly measures which also cut costs, such as recycling and drives to reduce energy use in residence halls and offices.