President Bob Caslen discussed funding, administration and other concerns with faculty members at Coffee Conversations with President Caslen, which ran from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
One of the first issues raised by the faculty in attendance was administrative problems with a new management system called PeopleSoft.
PeopleSoft is the system USC uses to track and manage the use of research money. According to some faculty, it has become problematic because it often has a mismanaged or miscounted use of research money, for which faculty is held responsible.
One attendee said PeopleSoft was also responsible for some graduate students not getting paid last semester due to the system not being fully operational, which made it hard for some students to pay their rent.
It was suggested that the university should switch to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets instead of PeopleSoft in order to ensure accuracy.
Phillip Buckhaults, an associate professor in the department of drug discovery and biomedical sciences in the College of Pharmacy, attended the meeting with Caslen.
“He listened intently to every faculty member, and he answered in a very, very thoughtful way that indicated some of the issues he’s been thinking about already, and he shared detailed plans to address them. Others, he had never heard of before, and he asked follow-up questions to understand the issue better and then took notes and said, ‘I know how I’m gonna address this. I’ll get back to you on it,’” Buckhaults said.
Caslen said at the meeting that one area he felt he lacked in was communications, but he was currently searching for a vice president of communications that would help him improve in that area.
“I’m still open to advice. I also recognize all the challenges I had coming here, and I really do value your input and your advice. Matter of fact, being here is one of the recommendations that I received,” Caslen said.
Another concern that was brought up by faculty members was a lack of maintenance for research facilities. Attendees said this was a pressing issue for the university because USC loses money when it invests in start-up packages for new faculty members that end up leaving for universities that have better-maintained facilities.
Some of the faculty members also said they wanted more accountability for administration members throughout the university. It was suggested that some kind of standard be implemented that requires administrative positions to maintain a certain performance.
Buckhaults explained the significance of a high-level administrator meeting face-to-face with regular faculty and staff.
“He’s getting information directly from the infantry on the front line, bypassing all of the middle-management filtering that have all their political agendas and whatnot, to find out what’s relevant,” Buckhaults said.