A List of 50 Answers
N.B. Retrieved from an AUBG Office 365 archive, AUBG Daily discloses the list of 50 answers to the list of 50 questions that has been forwarded to AUBG President Kulinski in the hours prior to the Town Hall Meeting on Feb. 8. Our media has once again refrained from any additional editorial or intellectual input to the answers of the 50 questions.
See attached the full list of President Kulinski’s answers.
22 February 2017
Thank you all who submitted questions. I see this internal post as yet another opportunity to communicate within our community. I encourage everyone to use our many transparent internal communication channels and opportunities we created since my arrival on campus to get engaged and to receive up-to-date information when you come to an Open Doors Day at the President’s Office, attend a monthly Town Hall meeting, join one of the regular launches with students, faculty, and staff, or run into someone who can collaborate with you. Many see me at the ABFSC Café and at Aspire almost on a daily basis, so please use those opportunities as well to ask what is on your mind. Discussions in person are far more effective and productive as a way to communicate and receive your feedback. And by all means, talk to your line manager and to your HR partners when you need to.
At the end of the day and for my part, I will continue to keep the channels enabling our direct and unfiltered communications open as outlined above. Please do come and talk to me about any topic you may want to discuss, but let us all give your peers, your managers, and your reports a chance to learn about and tackle collaboratively any challenges or ideas for improvement you may have. This is how a well-functioning organization works, and I encourage you to embrace that model going forward. We all have the right to make our voice heard, but we all have the obligation to give the organization a chance to function and make decisions. Not all decisions can be assured a majority vote, and there will never be 100% approval behind anything any person says or does. AUBG needs reform, no doubt about it. I am counting on your professionalism and commitment to this University to continue being engaged, and to leverage the wealth of information channels we opened during my first 12 months to bring transparency and encourage an organizational culture shift to openness and collaboration.
Now on to the questions. It came to my attention that many who signed the list of questions did so under peer pressure as the document was forced onto them with a demand to sign it on the spot. This gives me pause, especially after hearing from a couple of the people who signed the questions that they didn’t even read all of them before signing. I expect more of our community, and I hope all of us learn to expect more when it comes to our actions and behavior.
All questions which were submitted tend to focus on perceived issues from the past, yet they somehow surfaced only after it became clear that we were about to complete the reorganization process. We need AUBG to be forward-looking and chasing the endless opportunities before us. Initiative and proposals are welcome and encouraged, and absolutely needed. Let us refocus on the key priorities ahead of us as, because we are all here to work for the self-sustainable future of this University, and to ensure the success of our students. There is much work to do, and I am counting on every person at AUBG to contribute and collaborate now more than ever.
Stratsi Kulinski, AUBG’95
2. Mr. President, how, in your view, the process of restructuring affects the morale of your “AUBG
Every restructuring process, and for that matter any change, is accompanied by questions and uncertainty about the future and as such brings worries and causes tension. It is understandable that some of our colleagues are worried about their jobs. At the February 8 town hall meeting, I expressed sincere regret that we prolonged the process once its start was announced. We did this as empathetic human beings to afford more time for managers to properly evaluate employees, to secure better benefits than what is required by law for anyone adversely affected by the reorganization, and to avoid closing a very limited number of positions during the family holidays at the end of December. Now we continue to live with this uncertainty. This prolonged limbo is suboptimal for all, and I made strong recommendations to the Board of Trustees to help AUBG restructure as soon as possible in line with its own Board resolution of October 2016. All of us deserve to have more certainty and security in our daily work, to know the direction we are taking, and to leave this unnecessary stress and anxiety behind. I will make sure you are informed in a timely manner about any further developments.
3. What is the purpose of the restructuring – is it smoother operations? If so, please answer the following questions. Who designed the new organizational chart presented at the last town hall meeting? Is the new organizational chart reflective of the collective intellectual potential of the university, i.e. has there been consultations with representatives of the three major constituencies at AUBG – faculty, students, and staff – and if not, what is the guarantee that the new structure will work better than the current one? Who are the individuals taking responsibility for implementation of changes and their effect? Shall we expect further changes in the new chart and if yes, who will be designing them? Is there a detailed business plan to prepare the institution for each possible scenario, including the one where AUBG faces difficulties to operate under the new structure?
The main goals of the restructuring are: a right size to enrollment; more effective, streamlined processes, a strengthened decision making and delivery; an efficient organization focused on people and people development. The organizational chart came to life on the basis of several analyses and reviews, all pointing unequivocally to the urgent need for AUBG transformation – from our Employee Engagement study all employees received and so many responded to last Spring; to the organizational self-assessment surveys all managers filled in during our first offsite last year; to the Parthenon EY studies in the summer; to the Board sessions in October. From a workflow perspective, the organizational chart was directly designed based on the output from the EY team of experts who produced tangible recommendations in the Organizational Alignment and Cost Optimization study (part of the Strategic Study), which informed a recommendation from the functional experts on the leadership team and me to the Board of Trustees. At the end, the final version of the org chart was produced after review, direct input and changes enacted by a decision of the Board of Trustees during the October 2016 meeting.
Note that each step included significant feedback gathered from the key AUBG stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors. As a University we need to achieve self-sustainability so that we can pay our own bills, and the restructuring is a necessary step towards it. Of course there is natural uncertainty in change, and we rely on your professional input in what is a dynamic process. If in the future we need improvements, we should address any issues in a timely and efficient manner. To be successful and have a working updated structure, we all need to put, individually and collectively, an effort towards common goals. All of the President’s direct reports and their direct reports are responsible for the implementation of the changes. Of course, responsibility sits with the President, and as such I reserve the right to make decisions which are in the best interest of the organization.
5. What is the purpose of the restructuring – is it bad financial situation? If so, please answer the following questions. What are the financial grounds for the need of immediate restructuring as opposed to a phased restructuring over a few years, with a strong view of humane aspect? Administrative overhead, according to the IR report, has not changed dramatically over the last few years. Is there another financial indicator that makes it urgent to have the restructuring? What grounds are there for the immediate necessity of restructuring given that “FY17 will be the twelfth consecutive year of balanced unrestricted operating results” and that “If the USD/EUR exchange rate stays at the current levels, the annual unrestricted surplus is likely to surpass $1 million ”?
Cost-efficiency is not the sole reason for the restructuring. We need to be able to guarantee our ability to pay our own bills in the long run. Immediate vs. phased restructuring is a valid debate and both options were taken into consideration. Phased restructuring was considered to be more painful by many – imagine all of us living in the same uncertainty months and months on. Also, AUBG needs to be a modern organization today, not in a few years. Having taken an immediate approach, it is important to stress strongly that a strong view on the humane aspect is being taken. AUBG has always been a socially responsible employer and will treat all affected employees with utmost respect and responsibility. Severance packages will exceed the minimum provided by law. No two members of a family will be laid-off – if both were at risk, one of them will continue to be employed by AUBG. Dependents and spouses already accepted or enrolled will continue their education at AUBG for free. Some of you will have the chance to adopt new responsibilities and stay with the University.
The administrative overhead may be comparable to the past few years, but at the same time the number of students fell from 1060 in 2012 to 920 in 2016. The student to staff ratio has changed as follows: 2012 – 4.5; 2013 – 4; 2014 – 3.7; 2015 – 3.5; 2016 – 3.3. This is a troubling trend, especially when we look at the benchmarks provided by the strategic study, which indicate that AUBG has 2x – 3x more staff in various functional areas vs. other similarly situated universities. We are looking at this year but also in the out-years, and the sustainability of the University and its ability to invest and develop in the future will be hindered if not optimized now.
6. What is the purpose of the restructuring – is it cost cutting? If so, please provide financials with precise numbers comparing the projections for the expenses, on an annual basis, related to the new organizational structure, to the expenses before the restructuring began, including before hiring of the HR director and the enrollment director. Also, what is the ratio between last-year’s and this-year’s financials of AUBG?
In addition to the responses to questions 3 and 5: The restructuring as planned is expected to result at $300,000+ annual savings per year starting next fiscal year FY’18. AUBG financial statements are available on our website.
7. Please provide specific information on what the ratio is (not the absolute values!) between the total compensations of the current Enrollment Director and that of the former Admissions Director.
Any and all questions directly or tangentially pertaining to personally identifiable information, compensation, benefits, or any other confidential information should not and will not be addressed.
8. Is AUBG paying for the Alumni Association President and Members travel to alumni events?
The AAA President together with everyone in our alumni association are volunteers, and all the work, time, and efforts they contribute to AUBG they do pro bono (without being paid). The value of those in-kind contributions is material, not just in terms of money amounts but also as benefits which accrue to AUBG continuously. AUBG expects from the Alumni Association to support the University, and AUBG must also support the AAA. It is a partnership which requires the investment of time, effort, and occasionally resources, from all partners. AUBG has enabled the AAA President to work and communicate with a wider array of our international alumni community on occasion.
Alumni engagement over the past year has increased from 3% to 6+%. The AAA has initiated, organized, and supports on an ongoing basis the AUBG Quest initiative, among others, that aims to raise the awareness of AUBG in Bulgaria, increase the number of enrolled students, and fundraise 27,000 BGN in support of a significant award fund and operation costs.
9. What is the net financial result of the many alumni events? Does the money raised cover the
travel and refreshments costs?
We started a new initiative, where AUBG charges a fee to alumni and their guests to attend alumni events. This is common at many leading universities, but more importantly, it sends a strong symbolic signal to our alumni that AUBG expects them to contribute. The initiative has been successful, and we have had multiple events where AUBG used to spend money to host alumni in the past, yet now we partially cover our direct costs via the tickets we sell. Some of the alumni events take place in conjunction with other important ceremonies and meetings where we have high numbers of donors and government officials; for those particular events we continue to not charge for admission. We need to keep the alumni community engaged, and develop relationships that are often to produce results in years. We also rely on alumni to spread the word of AUBG and help us recruit at their schools, towns, communities. Success on this front can only be achieved through well-nurtured relationships. As mentioned above, we make a determination on whether to charge for an alumni event based on a variety of factors, but one thing is indisputable – AUBG now receives revenue from some alumni events, and we are able to do more events than in the past. Ultimately, this is immaterial from a financial perspective (both costs and revenues), but the new attitude, expectation setting, and engagement structure is what counts and what will make AUBG successful. The President is appointed by the Board of Trustees, which ensures that the person they select is fit for the position. Let us all consider the boundaries of professional conduct. In today’s interconnected world, most of our professional lives are accessible to all, and my LinkedIn profile has always been publicly available.
15. Why are high-profile and highly paid employees hired without following the AUBG hiring procedures? When was the position of Enrollment Director advertised and how many people applied for it? Who were the members of the selection committee?
Three people with similar positions and experience at prestigious international universities applied for the vacant position. All three of them visited the campus and had meetings with community members, the Admissions Office and leadership team members.
The usual method for searching qualified candidates for top position like that one is the so-called headhunting. Headhunters aka Executive Recruiters even on the lower cost BG market charge between EUR 15,000 – EUR18,000 for sourcing a qualified candidate. International firms may charge much more. That is why we decided to use our extensive and effective alumni and board relationships and networks, which cost us EUR 0.00 to source candidates. The Board Executive Committee has been informed of all Enrollment candidates as well. AUBG was fortunate to have multiple qualified candidates for the position – one of them was a Director of Graduate Admissions at one Ivy League School, the other one was a former Associate Director of Admissions at another Ivy League School, and the third one was our current Enrollment head. She has my full confidence and support and that of every alumna/us, donor, and member of the leadership team who genuinely works to improve AUBG. I expect the entire Admissions team, our entire staff, and our entire community to welcome warmly and support those new leadership team members and any new employees at AUBG. This is not just common courtesy, but it is a good investment for the future on our common path to success.
17. What happened to the confidentiality declarations that were signed and submitted to HR?
They were shredded back in the Spring of 2016. The organization still sorely needs updated contracts and confidentiality agreements with its employees. This is one project still in need of completion in the near future.
19. What is the financial result of the bookstore after moving it underground and how does that
compare to this time last year?
Bookstore revenues for July-Dec 2015 were $116,490.
Bookstore revenues for July-Dec 2016 were $86,522
There was a decrease in revenues of $29,968 or 26%
Bookstore expenses for July-Dec 2015 were $121,728
Bookstore expenses for July-Dec were $88,987
There was a decrease in expenses of $32,741 or 27%
The bottom line improvement compared to last year first half total = $2,773.
20. Do you consider the decision to move the bookstore a good one – financially and as a PR tool, external and internal? Elaborate, please.
The core function of the Bookstore is to provide textbooks; all other functions, such as branded merchandise sales, can be effectively served by the ABFSC Café and/or online. Leading universities worldwide provide textbooks and teaching materials very effectively from locations on campus that are not situated on prime real estate spots. The most visible locations on campus are reserved for more visitor-focused activities (admissions, benefactors, alumni). The ability of the AUBG community to procure textbooks and teaching materials has not been diminished in any way by the relocation of the Bookstore. However, AUBG gained the ability to showcase our new focus on entrepreneurship for students, faculty, and staff, and to gain PR and financial benefits from the establishment of our Aspire innovation hub. In the few short months since we took this decision, we brought a new ASHA grant in the amount of $300,000 which will be disbursed in the coming months to make Aspire even more functional and appealing to campus constituencies and visitors alike.
22. How would you comment on the concerns of the Faculty Assembly expressed in the agenda for their November 16, 2016 meeting: “We commend the president for reducing the number of university committees with the goal of reducing professors’ workload. However, the faculty assembly respectfully recommends faculty representation on the following university committees with the understanding that such faculty will make active contributions to the corresponding committee functions: (1) forecasting and budget committee (a business, accounting or finance professor); (2) admissions committee to ensure maintenance of academic standards and (3) human subjects review to uphold the US regulations covering human subjects research by USbased journals as well as EU expectations of human subjects protections.” Are there faculty and student representatives in the Budget Committee? Is there an Admissions Committee? Who are the members, is there academic representation?
The concerns were discussed with the Faculty Assembly Chair. As a result of the discussion that followed, I took the FA Chair’s input and decided to reinstitute the Human Subject Review and Student Outcomes Committee, and also encouraged the new admissions/enrollment director to build a body of faculty advisors to support the AUBG admissions process and ensure the maintenance of academic standards, which is a commitment of the entire University leadership. A faculty and a student representative were invited to the Forecasting and Budget Committee. The list of University standing and ad hoc committees is available here.
23. Is there a Staff Development Committee? If not, why? If yes, who are the members?
Staff development is of paramount importance to our success. This is something our HR and I take very seriously, and we act accordingly to strengthen the skills and abilities of our staff. University committees are advisory bodies; they consult and advise management. In this and other areas we need someone responsible and accountable for performance and results. That is why there is no committee, but instead there is a new empowered and focused HR team to ensure this critical investment is timely and effective. We have to establish a comprehensive process of training and development, starting from identifying the skills needed for our people in a 21-century environment.
Professional development directly drives performance improvements. Building a long-term learning and development strategy is a primary responsibility of the University leadership. Training and development needs shall be analyzed and implemented in the light of AUBG strategic ambitions for at least 3 years ahead. This was done by the leadership in April 2016. There has not been a single request coming from employees that has been rejected. The Staff Development Fund is there to support all University employees, so please be proactive and ask for training opportunities.
24. Did AUBG pay for transporting your personal car from the USA? If yes, do you consider that appropriate and how does having your personal vehicle enhance your work performance?
AUBG is an organization, which must act as an employer to procure the services of faculty, staff, and contractors to ensure the university functions. Every employer has to go through the process of finding, selecting, and hiring employees and contractors as necessitated by the needs of the organization. Employers offer compensation and benefits based on market dynamics and ultimately at their own discretion, and are parties to a relationship where both sides – the employer and the employee – give and receive something from each other. We need to start referring to these contractual relationships with the respect for confidentiality that the institution demands from all of us, and that we should demand for our own confidential information of our employer. Any and all questions directly or tangentially pertaining to personally identifiable information, compensation, benefits, or any other confidential information should not and will not be addressed.
25. Why would you email staff in the middle of the night, yet never come into your office at 8:00
The President of AUBG also has many demands on his time; we have a Board of Trustees across 7 or more time zones, donors on two continents across 10 times zones, and alumni all over the world. While I have made my own choice to dedicate most of my waking hours in service to AUBG, I do not expect responses in the middle of the night, but you should also be sensitive to the dynamic schedule and work hours I keep as demanded by our global network of stakeholders. In addition, local business hours are typically filled with meetings and functions, so there is not much time left for email at other times other than late at night.
A lot of the duties of the senior leadership require time out of the office. In the contemporary world, with all the tools and connected devices, people can work from anywhere. As an organization we should ultimately move to a performance-based culture, where I assure you from experience with multiple cultures and organizations across continents, a lot of time spent in the office does not necessarily equal a job well done. The world is alive and awake 24/7. We compete and work globally. We are interconnected at all times (for better or worse). Let’s focus on
our results more, and let’s keep work hour time tracking limited to those situations where we pay people by the hour.
I would like AUBG to move to a result-driven and result-oriented culture, where we endorse a culture of initiative, entrepreneurship, and creativity, with flexible work hours and balance between work and personal life.
27. Do you still claim that the proposed by you organizational structure (which you presented as Board-approved at the October town hall meeting) is in fact approved by the AUBG Board of Trustees?
The structure presented at the November 23 town hall meeting was approved by the Board of Trustees at the October 2016 Board meeting, and a confidential resolution to that effect issued at that time.
28. How are you going to work with AUBG staff from now on, given that you have absolutely no
support from it?
This is a gross misstatement of fact. There is some opposition which is small in numbers but fierce and vocal in its intent to disrupt progress. The new leadership team motivation, behavior, and actions are all aligned – we are here to help AUBG and to give back to Alma Mater as is in my case. I am open to input and I meet and communicate with the entire AUBG family more than any other President in recent history. Our strategy is sound, and vetted and approved extensively all the way to the Board. It is time to move forward. Change is hard. Turnarounds are hard. In fact, they are a shock to the system. Opposition is inevitable.
Speaking of support, I am encouraged by all the positive support and encouragement pouring in from alumni, donors, students, faculty, and staff for what we are trying to achieve and how we are steering AUBG. Yes, these supporters do not take to anonymous forums to spread misinformation and half-truths. Yes, these supporters do not feel threatened by change and do not shout at the top of their lungs. But I assure you, these supporters are the people we need to listen to as carefully as anyone else. Their voices may be quiet and polite, but they are as valid as any opposing opinion. We need to hear everyone. We need to move on with our strategy, and with our ethical conscience as our guide. As the Chinese proverb goes, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
29. You have contradicted yourself during the last couple of town hall meetings on important for the AUBG community issues – such as claiming there will be no personnel cuts at one of the meetings and announcing major organizational changes (including lay-offs) at the very next one? We would like to kindly ask what actions do you plan to take to restore the trust and support of AUBG faculty and staff members?
It is unrealistic to expect a static environment. I do not recall ever promising no layoffs; I recall we talked about moving people into new roles as much as possible, alleviating some headcount burden through retirement, etc.
If anyone feels like they have a trust issue with any of member of our family, please ask yourself whether you understand the other party and whether your expectations are realistic, and if the answer is yes, then go and talk to the other person if you still feel uneasy. My approach is to be open and collaborative, and collaboration requires a certain give-and-take. My advice to anyone who feels there is a trust issue – communicate and try to understand more. Trust requires both parties to allow it to take roots and thrive.
33. Do you think it is appropriate to have JMC students buy Adobe license. Does that put them at disadvantage compared to other majors?
This issue was brought to my attention, and I am currently discussing solutions with the academic leadership. My proposal would be to reimburse the students for their expense to purchase Adobe After Effects. As of next semester, AUBG is expected to have those licenses through the latest ASHA grant.
35. How much did the AUBG app cost and what was the decision making process that led to setting its priority over that of e.g fixing the audio system in the Red room or buying projectors to ensure the high quality of teaching?
The mobile app provides new channels of communication, most importantly a push notification option that not only informs the community about events and academic developments on campus, but also provides an option for all-community emergency warning notifications. We negotiated close to 10% discount and the cost is $14,500 per year. The app does not take priority over other decisions. The need and rationale behind every large expense are being considered carefully by the entire leadership team. The app has been widely used by the AUBG community, and I am told that AUBG set a record for download-to-registration conversion percentages within all universities using
the app. We will make a number of ongoing usability and functionality enhancements as we become more familiar with the technology platform and its capabilities, so expect to see an even more functional and useful AUBG app.
37. Mr. Kulinski, you encourage the employees to donate money to the university? Do you lead by example – if it is not a secret, what is your contribution since you assumed the position of AUBG President?
I have given or pledged USD 8,300 to AUBG in just the few months since becoming President, and a total of close to USD 50,000 so far, which unfortunately makes me the second largest alumni donor. I wish more alumni upstaged me from this ranking, and I continue to hope we will see more people from our community give back in various forms. The amount is not important – AUBG benefits from every donation – and each individual may give based on his or her abilities at the time.
45. Why is reorganization done without any consulting to the managers of departments about the specifics of their work?
All of the president’s direct reports are being consulted on a regular basis, and they are expected to cascade down as well as manage up.
49. Why contract with Microsoft is not renewed yet?
Current AUBG IT infrastructure and packages of services provided to Students/Faculty and Staff are designed and dependent on Microsoft products. If we have to discontinue Microsoft products use we need a plan, enough time to identify alternatives and re-training of entire AUBG community. Some versions of used products are available for Windows OS only. At this moment contract with Microsoft must be renewed.
Management has a responsibility to always look for optimizations. The subscription renewal afforded an opportunity to examine closely the fairly high cost AUBG pays for these licenses, and management fulfilled its fiduciary duty to look for optimization opportunities on cost and product substitutes. After the evaluation was completed, the Microsoft subscription was renewed for another year.
51. AUBG core network infrastructure were renewed in 2013-2014. AUBG Wi-Fi system is based on 2007 technology. Do we plan improvements in this area and implementing of recent standards?
IT needs to put together a well-grounded proposal considering all pros and cons and analyzing different options, and then present it to the leadership with a specific recommendation for consideration.