WMU News

Privatization saves $1.5 million in residence hall costs

May 17, 2004

KALAMAZOO--After four months of study, Western Michigan University will move to privatize custodial operations in its residence halls, saving the University and its students approximately $1.5 million annually.

During a series of early meetings today, WMU's Vice President for Student Affairs Diane Anderson broke the news to affected employees and leaders of their union, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 1668. The move is expected to eliminate 60 custodial positions assigned to the University's 22 residence halls, effective immediately.

Residence hall custodial work will be contracted out to Commercial Sanitation Management Services Inc. of Hudsonville, Mich., the low bidder in a process that saw five private firms and AFSCME submit proposals aimed at lowering current residence hall custodial costs. AFSCME also was given the opportunity to respond to the private vendor proposals and to the University's overall findings in its study of privatization.

While AFSCME's proposal offered an estimated $435,000 reduction in annual costs, it is anticipated that the proposal from Commercial Sanitation Management Services will reduce costs by nearly $1.5 million, generating $1.1 million greater savings. In addition to the cost differential, Commercial Sanitation Management Services received high marks for its quality service when the company's references were checked. After careful study, these factors led Anderson and her study committee, which was made up of staff from residence halls, student affairs and business and finance, to recommend acceptance of the Commercial Sanitation Management Services proposal. Anderson then took the recommendation to WMU President Judith I. Bailey, who sought input from other senior officials and trustees, before deciding to accept the committee's recommendation late in the day May 14.

"This was a very difficult decision for me and for those who brought the recommendation forward," Bailey said of the move and the impact it will have on employees. "The decision was based on the need to preserve the affordability and viability of this University. We had to look at the total cost our students and their families pay to attend WMU. Room and board accounts for more than half of that total cost, and we can't, in good conscience reject an opportunity to keep our costs down and protect our students' opportunities to attend this University."

Earlier this year, the University opted to freeze residence hall rates at their 2003-04 level. WMU's room and board rates are third highest among Michigan's public universities. Only the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and Wayne State University have higher rates.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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