Email list hosting service & mailing list manager

Re: Location of Grants Accountant Herbert B. Chermside 30 Apr 2004 13:21 EST

I have served in research administration for over 30 years, although never
as a grants accountant.  I have found that "customer friendly" depends more
on the individuals filling positions than on the location in the
administrative structure.  In research administration, everyone's watchword
should be "service".

The key is, service to whom, and with what resources.

Typically the orientation of a person with fiscal responsibilities
reporting to a business division leans more to the side of "never take a
chance" than "how can we help the PI without anyone going to jail".    I
believe this is because those in the business side feel it is their duty to
be as protective of the institution as possible, in the face of "wild eyed
faculty who care nothing for the rules", and their selection of personnel
is colored by this view.

Of course, I have a contrary example from my personal past; a major
university's controller was recruited from the faculty of a financial
discipline, and, though protecting the institution was high in his set of
values, he felt that the goals of the faculty were usually both important
and "good".  He placed a very high emphasis on selecting persons who would
seek to attain those ends as service to the faculty, while at the same time
being knowledgeable and skilled enough to use appropriate ("safe") means
toward those ends.

I believe that a large part of the "customer-unfriendly"  attitude of some
administrators comes from not understanding that the faculty's ends are
usually wholesome and useful, but that the faculty need to be guided
towards using means that are oriented toward institutional safety.

And, of course, the administrators do need resources to institute "customer
friendly" practices.  A case in point is that most accounting systems are
designed by accountants who speak "accountantneese" and provide reports in
that language -- which is pure gobbeldygook to the faculty
member.  Investing in a way to present accounting reports in a language
understood by PI's creates a climate in which PI's can easily manage their
accounts.  And if it is easy, rather than made difficult by an
incomprehensible (to them) "system", then chairs and deans can expect them
to manage well.  And, quite frankly, these extra resources are small; they
just have to be exercised at leverage points.

In short, it is not where the person is placed, but the person's service
orientation, the availability of resources to make "the system" serve each
person who needs it -- and the commitment of high management to seek these
ways to serve the faculty without endangering the institution.


At 12:51 PM 4/30/2004, you wrote:
>Our grants accountant recently left the college and we are exploring ways to
>make the position more "customer-friendly" and accessible to PIs.  This
>position is commonly located either in the business division of institutions
>or in the office of sponsored programs.  I'd much appreciate your thoughts
>on the advantages and disadvantages of locating the grants accountancy
>function in either place.  Thank you......
>John McCann, M.P.A., Ph.D.
>Academic Grants Manager
>Office of the Academic Vice President and Provost
>The Evergreen State College
>2700 Evergreen Parkway NW
>Olympia, WA 98505
>Phone: 360-867-6045
>Fax: 360-867-6745
>  Instructions on how to use the RESADM-L Mailing List, including
>  subscription information and a web-searchable archive, are available
>  via our web site at (click on "Listserv Lists")

Herbert B. Chermside, CRA
Special Asst. to VP-Research
Virginia Commonwealth University
PO BOX 980568
Richmond, VA  23298-0568
Voice:  804-827-6036
Fax     804-828-2051

 Instructions on how to use the RESADM-L Mailing List, including
 subscription information and a web-searchable archive, are available
 via our web site at (click on "Listserv Lists")