Wednesday, April 24

Survey aims to reassess business operations

By Phillip Carter

Declining revenues prompted the students’ association board of
directors to start a campus-wide survey assessing its business
operations’ effectiveness so that the board can decide how best to
increase its overall profits.

Board members also heard reports at the start of Friday’s
meeting on earnings from the student stores, food venues and other
sales areas during June, July and August. Total gross income is
actually $482,000 higher than expected; however the association
showed a net loss of $134,000.

Prompted by these financial figures, the survey passed by the
board is part of the association’s larger effort to revive its
operations by finding out what student, faculty and staff needs
really are.

"We focused it mainly on questions we wanted answered," graduate
student board representative Peary Brug said. "The results of the
surveys will help guide focus groups soon after, so that critical
follow-up questions can be asked depending on the results of the

The survey, designed by the Student Affairs Information Research
Office in consultation with a special BOD committee, is a four-page
document that will be distributed to 2,500 UCLA students, faculty
and staff. Association officials said the questionnaires would be
mailed out early November. The association will dole out an
unspecified amount of cash money to those who return them, they

Students’ association officials said that the survey will
examine popular attitudes and perceptions on campus toward the
different areas of association business.

"(Perceptions) are exactly what we want," said Executive
Director Jason Reed, in response to board comments that the surveys
should solicit more "factual" responses.

Adapted from earlier surveys done in 1985 and 1988, the
questionnaire asks its respondents to rank and comment on customer
service, food venues, students’ stores and overall prices.

Board members repeatedly said that the survey was not designed
to obtain demographic information about customers. Rather, they
said, it’s designed to expose intangible image issues for the

"It is a perception survey, and people are going to have their
own perceptions on what perceptions we should try to find," Mark
Reyerson, undergraduate board representative, said. "I think this
is a base we can build off (for) the next four years, and I would
assume we would redo this again so that it’s a workable piece of
information each time we do it."

One question asking the respondent’s ethnicity sparked a small
debate among board members who felt that such a question might not
be appropriate on the business-oriented survey.

But Reed defended the question, saying that ethnic information
was necessary to insure an accurate sample of the campus.

"The only reason for (the ethnicity question) is to satisfy
ourselves that we’re getting representative answers from the
campus," Reed said. "This survey cannot do the job of trying to
find out what preferences are of certain demographic groups."

Costing roughly $14,000, funding for the surveys comes from a
$28,000 portion of the 1994-95 association budget set aside for
market research, according to Communications Director Anne Pautler.
Officials said the rest of the research budget is slated to be used
for interviewing focus groups.

The approval of the surveys was foreshadowed at the meeting by
financial reports made by association officials, which showed the
organization’s revenues below budget for the first three months of
this fiscal year.

Association officials said they were enthusiastic about the
increased total income for the association, but said a net loss
resulted because overhead costs were too high.

The association is looking at better management techniques -
such as stricter food portion control at on-campus eateries – as a
way of increasing profits.

"I’ve been through this with our finance managers, and we have a
big job ahead of us on cost control, and cost of sales
particularly," Reed said.

Officials added that several steps are already underway to
control overhead expenses, and of keeping association operations
open, among them the scaling back of hours worked by employees.

"We’re going to cut back on hours, but it’s unlikely (that it
will) have an effect on the number of people we hire," Reed said.
"We scheduled too much labor in parts of the store during the
summer period. We’re going to schedule labor according to sales,
not according to trend."

Association officials said they were hesitant to begin revisions
of the 1994-95 budget because of negative first quarter results.
Instead, they suggested waiting until results are available from
traditionally profitable months, such as September and October.

"I am continuing to monitor the situation closely, on a
month-by-month basis, to see what the effects of the number of
students on campus is," Reed said. "We’re reasonably confident that
we’ll make our budget in September for sales."

This year’s financial results are critical for the association,
officials said, because profits from 1994-95 will be the first to
be used to pay back the $1.7 million loss of 1992-93.

Several board members asked Reed what would happen if the
association were unable to meet its goal this year in paying back
its loss.

"Making this year’s budget will be difficult; 1995-96 and
1996-97 will be very difficult years," Reed said. "If we fail, we
will certainly be accused of not recognizing our own (debt)

He added that "optional" items such as the Student Interaction
Fund, which provides money for student activities, might be cut if
the association misses this year’s budget goal.

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