Message from Chancellor Wrighton: Steps we are taking to secure a strong future

To members of the Washington University in St. Louis community:

Washington University is one of the world’s great research universities. Through our research and teaching, Washington University helps to develop our next generation of leaders and solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. I couldn’t be more proud of the positive impact we have in our own community and across the globe.

However, we are functioning in a challenging environment with significant external factors threatening our current financial strength. In order to continue to do great work, we need to secure the necessary resources and manage our operations as efficiently and effectively as possible. We need to come together, now, as one university – thinking beyond individual schools, departments and units – to avoid challenging financial issues in the future. And we need to remain focused on our core missions of teaching, research and patient care.

In October of 2012, we launched Leading Together, our campaign to raise $2.2 billion to support the university’s growth and progress in key strategic areas. Later this month, you will hear about opportunities to participate in this very important campaign and why success is so critical to our long-term ability to strengthen Washington University and to enhance our service to society. Today I am writing to you about another effort to provide a strong foundation for the future, our efficiency initiative.

Last year, like many of our peers, we initiated a university effort looking for ways to reduce costs and improve output across our campuses. This efficiency initiative will require a long-term focus, and likely big and small changes in the way we operate. It will require hard work. And it will involve everyone’s participation.

In the first stage of this efficiency initiative, we have focused primarily on reducing spending in the central administration of the university, what we call the Central Fiscal Unit (CFU). The CFU includes administrative services that serve the entire university, as well as the library, Danforth Campus Facilities and much of the university’s student services organization.

Already, we are seeing positive results: nearly $1.5 million will be saved annually through new office and printer supply agreements negotiated by our procurement group. While $1.5 million may seem small compared to our $2.3 billion operating budget, it is important to note that this is the spendable income from an endowment gift of over $30 million! Such savings will help all units throughout the university. Our efficiency efforts cannot stop with procurement, however. We are depending on great thinking and ideas from throughout our campuses about ways we can achieve savings in our operations while strengthening our economic model.

You will be seeing more detail and regular updates regarding our efficiency initiative from Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration Hank Webber, whom I have asked to lead this effort along with others across our campuses. We will also encourage you to share your ideas via email at

We are a great university. By working together, we can become even greater.