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Full house for RCM Day of Learning

Expert panelists explain RCM principles and implementation

On Friday, Dec. 9, approximately 100 members of the Ohio University community joined for the RCM Day of Learning in the Walter Hall Rotunda.

The event, which was sponsored by the Office of Finance and Administration and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, was designed to engage deans, budget managers, chairs, directors, faculty, and staff in a discussion of Responsibility Centered Management (RCM). It featured an expert panel whose members have both implemented RCM and worked in an RCM environment.

Ann Fidler, executive associate provost, opened the event and said that this and future events are intended to expand the university community’s knowledge of RCM budget model approaches. She stressed that conversations will continue in winter and spring quarters about how to develop an RCM model for Ohio University.

Before introducing keynote speaker John Curry, from the Huron Consulting Group, formerly an executive vice president at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Fidler emphasized that feedback on the morning session was desired and all participants were encouraged to email their comments to Terry Conry (conry@ohio.edu), who organized the event and is serving as the coordinator of a university-wide effort to prepare for RCM implementation.

Curry spoke for approximately 20 minutes on why universities have adopted RCM and some of the notable outcomes.

"RCM is a misnomer. It is not clear what it is describing you are responsible for," said Curry. "I have a slightly clearer three word name -- Revenue Centered Management."

He discussed the current and predominant method for institutional budgeting – incremental budgeting.

"One of the problems of incremental budgeting is that the base is never revisited," he said, referring to the basic organization and distribution of funds in the model.

Curry elaborated on the benefits and implementation of an RCM model.

"How have people been able to link activities or demands with their cost? The most direct way is revenue centered management," he said. "Where are revenues generated? In the classroom and in the laboratories. If you teach a course that's a source of revenue generation."

According to Curry, through RCM, interested parties will be able to more clearly see where those revenues are going.

At the end of Curry's keynote, panel members each spoke on their personal experience with and perspective on RCM. Panel members included:

  • John Curry, Huron Consulting Group, formerly executive vice president at MIT

  • Pat Harker, president, University of Delaware

  • Scott Douglas, executive vice president and treasurer, University of Delaware

  • Martha Pollack, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, professor of information, and professor of computer science and engineering, University of Michigan

  • Aimee Heeter, budget director, Indiana University

  • Doug Priest, associate professor, School of Education, and senior associate vice president for finance, Indiana University

According to Douglas, the biggest problem with RCM is that people misunderstand its role. RCM is merely an allocation system.
His colleague, Harker, agreed with him.

"I grew up in an RCM system," said Harker. "RCM is not your strategy. You have a strategy, as a university, individual colleges and departments. RCM is not a strategy. You have to start thinking about what you want your university to be and then let RCM support that."

Pollock cautioned that the transition to an RCM model can be difficult, but the benefits outweigh the costs.

"I would not go to a university that was not under RCM. You are so much more empowered as a faculty member after the transition," she said.

After all five panelists had spoken; Fidler opened the floor to audience questions.

Steve Ross, director and associate professor in the School of Film, questioned Harker on how universities objectively determine which programs are excelling and which are not.

"If no students are taking something you have to ask why," explained Harker. "It shouldn't be me, the president, or the provost making that decision. It should be up to the faculty in that college ... Faculty take care of faculty and hold each other to high standards."

At noon, the panel adjourned. Invited attendees broke into discussion groups for the rest of the day.

For more information, click here. To view the RCM Day of Learning online, click here.