OK, so you have just gotten through student move out and other related end of semester craziness. The main surge of student belongings has been picked up and as much as possible has been recycled or repurposed. Depending on how much of that you had to do yourself you may be as sore and physically drained as you are mentally drained. You’re ready to take a couple vacation days or use up some of the comp time you accumulated during the student move out. Before you can crash though, you still have some things to do in order to get ready for the fall.
“The fall” you lament to yourself, exhausted “but we just got through the school year. I have all summer to get ready for the fall.” Both of those are true, but there are some things you have to prepare for now.
The biggest things you have to check on this time of year are your deadlines and lead times. Too often lost among the marvels of modern technology and near-instant access to information is the fact that large-scale implementations still take time. Whether you are preparing for 1,300 students or 30,000 students, getting stuff ready for the fall takes time. Before you allow yourself any sort of post-end-of-the-semester letdown, you have to make sure you are aware of your deadlines and lead times.
Whatever you are planning to set up for the fall, especially in the residence halls, I highly recommend having the core operational and informational stuff in place for the start of the school year. You want new students to imprint on the right system early on. I talked about imprinting it in my summer conference post and will discuss it in more detail in a future post later this summer. If they develop positive recycling habits in the first few days while they imprint to campus, those habits tend to stay with them their entire time on campus.
This is especially important if you are changing anything in your system. If you can get those changes implemented by the time students move back into the residence halls, more than ¼ of your students will arrive on campus having never known anything else. Within 3-5 years, it will no longer be a “changed” system. It will just be the way things happen on campus. If you don’t get those changes implemented by the time students move back in, you miss that window of opportunity for the incoming students’ entire career. They will always know it as the system that got changed partway through their 1st year.
First, what are your deadlines?
So, you have decided to get stuff set up before the students move back in. To do that, what are your deadlines? If you want to place anything in the student rooms, who is going to do that? Housing operations staff? Residence life staff? You and your crew? How soon will people need stuff in hand to be able to do that? You want to ensure that there is sufficient signage at the recycling sites and labels on the recycling containers. How much time will that take to apply those labels or post those signs?
And remember, when you are planning those deadlines, you have an added degree of difficulty. Some of the residence halls are being used by summer programs. Others are being renovated and inaccessible to you during the renovation project. As a result your window of opportunity to access those buildings may be very short. You need to plan accordingly.
Now, what are your lead times?
Now that you know the deadlines you are shooting for, what are your lead times?
How much lead time will it take from the time you place your order to the time your recycling bins are delivered to you? If you are printing posters or labels, how much time will it take for those items to be printed and delivered? Keep in mind, the more specialized the stuff you are ordering, the longer the lead times might be. Are you ordering a custom bin color, or a specialized imprint? Depending on the manufacturer, that might require a longer lead time. Are you ordering a small quantity? For some manufacturers or distributors, that might require adding your order to other orders and waiting until they have accumulated a larger order to keep shipping costs reasonable. Printing on a custom paper or sticker stock? Make sure you know how long it will take your printer to both order the paper and to print your order. You need to know your late summer/fall deadlines are, communicate those to the folks you are ordering from, and make sure they can meet those deadlines for you.
If you are going to put recycling bins into student rooms, (e.g. a wastebasket sized deskside recycling bin), I can’t stress enough the need to get those onto the room inventory. If you do get them onto the inventory, then you will have a mechanism to charge for any missing bins at the end of the year. You will also have a slight deterrent to prevent people from stealing them at the end of the year. If you don’t place them on the room inventory, expect to replace way more bins than you ever expected to. Deskside recycling bins make nice little storage containers to pack up some last minute items at the end of the year when students are desperately looking for an extra box or crate to move home with. The first time I ever placed bins in student rooms, we went through a 6-year inventory of bins in a year and a half because we hadn’t yet figured out to put the bins on the room inventory and so many of them ended up stolen as moving boxes at the end of the year.
When you do get them on the inventory, remember to price them on the room inventory at a level that not only covers the cost of buying the replacement bin, but also the labor cost of replacing the bins, the administrative cost of dealing with replacement bins, and maybe even a little extra to deter people from stealing the bins at the end of the year. If your bin costs about $5 each to replace, I’d put them on the room inventory for $20-25. That should be enough to cover your replacement costs and just enough to make someone think twice about taking the bin.
Check with your residence life staff to see when they do room inventories. While you are planning yout your lead times, you want to make sure that you have a plan for how all of those bins will be in the student rooms by the time those inventories begin.
Navigating fiscal year budgets
Another thing that will complicate your lead times is the end-of-year budget. If you need an order to arrive for late August, you may need to place that order in May or June. Can you? Chances are, it is the end of your fiscal year. Do you have any money in this year’s budget?
Even worse, if you have to wait until the beginning of next year’s budget, do you know when you can start purchasing? Most public universities are dependent on the passage of a state budget. With the economy still struggling in many areas and politicians seeming to be increasingly entrenched in their viewpoints, it seems to take longer and longer to pass state budgets. If you don’t get your order in this fiscal year, will you be able to place an order at all before September? A late order may shatter your lead times and schedule, so if you are faced with that sort of budget consideration, I would recommend doing whatever you can to try to find money in this fiscal year’s budget. If you are projecting that your new program will save money in landfill fees or generate revenues from the sales of recyclables after it is implemented, you may have some leverage. Was there a project that got scaled back such that there is a little money leftover in the project budget? Was it a light snow year? Is there some leftover projects, snow plowing money, or grounds money that you can convince a facilities director to give up this year in exchange for the savings/revenues they will be getting in future years? If not, I’d urge you to read my funding opportunities blog post to look for other funding sources.
Yes, I know you need a little break from all of the end-of-semester craziness. But trust me; you need to push that off a little while longer to make sure you have all your deadlines and lead times squared away. Your plans for the fall might depend on it.