Reading, writing, and regulation


Though nearly all industries are government regulated, “colleges are among the most extremely regulated institutions in the nation,” said University vice president for administration and chief financial officer Donald Reaves. “I cannot think of any part of this institution that is not already regulated heavily.” He made these comments at a “town hall meeting” lecture series designed, according to associate vice president for human resources Chris Keeley, “to incorporate staff as a more knowledgeable and active participant in the life of the University.”

To demonstrate the costs of regulation, Reaves gave a modern-day adaptation of the Noah’s Ark tale, drawing laughs from the U of C–employee audience as he described a world in which zoning, waste management, and workers’ rights regulations prevent Noah from completing his ark on time.

But regulation burdens are not always laughing matters. Reaves bemoaned the strained relationships that can develop between administrators, who must enforce the rules, and faculty members, who find the medical, ethical, and environmental restrictions intrusive. And the monetary cost of compliance, while impossible to calculate exactly, approximates $20 million, Reaves said, or about 5.5 percent of every tuition dollar.

Still, he doesn’t doubt regulation’s necessity. “We do know that risks exist, and they must be managed,” he summed up. “We understand that the stakes are so high that regulations and lawyers will surely be with us forever.”

Leila S. Sales, ’06

August 25, 2004