Maybe you’re considering launching a university surplus program, or your program is just beginning to get off the ground. Or maybe it’s time to revisit your already-existing policy. No matter where you are in the process, you can help your school, your program — and make it easier on yourself! — by developing a university surplus property policy that is clear, thorough and tailored to the way your school operates.
What Can a Formal Policy Do?
An officially-posted surplus policy lets other departments and the local community know your surplus property program is out there and what to expect from it. It demonstrates that it’s a school-sanctioned, serious, operational system and encourages greater participation. A policy saves you time, because it communicates what property you’ll accept and how you’ll accept it, so you’ll receive surplus in a way that makes it easier to process. And it helps university communications in its quest to position the school as an active player in sustainability/zero-waste initiatives. Plus, sitting down and really detailing the policy helps you identify ways to make your program as streamlined and efficient as possible. Ultimately, the policy allows you to divert more waste from landfills, all while helping you generate more revenue for your university.
So, congratulations to you — you’re at a very exciting point right now! Ready to get started? In this blog post, we’ll discuss:
- The players and steps involved in developing a university surplus policy
- How to research and draft your university’s surplus property policy
- Topics your university surplus policy should address
- Some samples of effective university policies
University Policy: How a Plan Becomes Policy
While every university is different, generally the process to create a new university policy involves several specific players.
The first player in the process is the Responsible Officer. (That’s potentially you!) This is the policy creator who acts as a champion to develop the policy and see it through to approval. As the responsible officer, you would research the needs for the surplus policy, identify any issues, and work to resolve them. You’d be in charge of compiling and drafting the surplus policy content that is ultimately presented for approval.
An Executive Sponsor
- The second player is the responsible executive, the representative from your university’s administration. This person guides the policy development process and acts as a conduit to the authorities who can approve or reject the proposed policy.
- The third is the University Policy Coordinator, who reviews the policy, verifies compliance and makes suggestions for revisions.
- Then you have the University Council and University President, who also examine and analyze the policy. They may request additional changes to your policy as needed, and they will either agree to make the policy official or reject it.
Once your policy is approved, it may go to the Office of Communications or Marketing to be announced to the school as a whole. It will likely also return to the University Policy Coordinator to be integrated into the school’s online and printable policy documents.
Researching and Drafting Policy: Who to Get Involved?
An effective surplus policy isn’t created in a vacuum. Getting buy-off on a surplus policy means getting support from the parties that are a part of the process, and that requires advanced input and coordination. The right surplus policy should be in sync with the way your university operates. Your surplus program might be run by any one of several departments — Purchasing/Procurement, Business Administration, the Controller’s Office, Facilities, or the Office of Sustainability. But the Surplus process touches many different groups, within the university and outside it. Groups you’ll likely want to connect with when developing your university policy include:
You’ll need to discover who will serve as the responsible executive, the university representative to give you insights into the goals of the university and guide you through the process on its behalf. They may additionally be able to direct you to other contacts that need to be integrated into the process. Plus, if you haven’t begun your surplus program yet, you’ll need buy-off from administration to get started.
A surplus program can be a great way to improve the university’s bottom line and retain grand funding by proving government assets are being used and disposed of effectively. To demonstrate that, you will need to have — and share — inventory and sales data with the Finance/Accounting departments. It will be important to know what items your Finance department requires for compliance, and align these closely with your surplus management system. Some surplus management tools like AssetWorks’ Surplus Management Software (SMS) allow you to not only track and process property throughout the surplus lifecycle, but to create standard and custom reports that meet the accounting needs of your specific organization.
When developing your surplus policy, it’s important to connect with your university’s IT department. With today’s rapid changes in technology, Computing is a continual source of surplus property, from obsolete items to useful spare parts. Also, computers and other equipment containing personally identifiable information (PII) can have specific handling, scrapping and disposal guidelines, which can vary by state. University-owned proprietary software, too, may have specific transfer and disposal requirements. Your policy will need to detail these and determine who is responsible for which parts of the process. Connecting with Computing helps you develop and integrate those details.
Environmental Health and Safety
A good surplus policy must comply with on-campus safety and environmental regulations, so you’ll want to reach out to your campus’ Environmental Health and Safety department as you formalize your guidelines. Research departments, for example, may have chemical, biological, radiation and hazardous waste in their possession and each of these has specific processes for decontamination, containment and disposal. You’ll want to document the proper handling of these items in your surplus policy.
Between its wide range of equipment and vehicles, the Facilities Department is often a major generator of university surplus. In some cases, Facilities is in charge of the university surplus warehouse itself. It also sometimes receives work orders to pick up surplus from departments and bring it to the warehouse. Connecting with them and understanding their current processes and requirements for property transfer and disposal can be important to developing your comprehensive surplus property policy.
In order to comply with grant funding requirements, universities typically must show proper stewardship of those funds. This means having an audit trail of the items and services that the grant money purchased. By looping in university staff who coordinate grants when you develop your university surplus policy, you help develop the best practices for tracking and reporting on grant-purchased assets.
If you’re a public university, consider contacting surplus experts in your state government. Many states have specific rules and regulations governing how certain surplus assets are handled and disposed of. For example, in New Jersey, you can’t de-manufacture computers and in Pennsylvania, there are specific bedbug restrictions. By knowing the surplus rules and regulations for your state, and integrating those into your policy, you’ll help your university remain compliant while making the most possible revenue from your surplus.
The groups listed above are key departments in the average Surplus Policy process, but you’ll want to think carefully about your university and who else might need to be involved. Remember, more buy-in up front means more success for your program later.
What Your Policy Should Include
While universities each have their own set of processes related to surplus, most comprehensive higher-ed surplus policies have some commonalities. These include:
An effective surplus policy begins by understanding and communicating what the university surplus property program hopes to achieve, in order of importance. There are many excellent reasons for having a surplus program; not only can it demonstrate proper stewardship of government-funded assets and meet government requirements. It can also be a great way to reduce landfill waste and, in turn, further university sustainability goals. By making items available for sale at reduced prices, it can help individuals or groups purchase property they would otherwise not be able to afford. And by redistributing and reusing items, it can create a broader network and awareness of available property, significantly cutting spending costs across departments, and improving the university’s bottom line.
Roles and Responsibilities
A good surplus policy will detail the roles of the different departments and individuals involved in the university surplus process. It officially pinpoints which tasks in the surplus lifecycle each group is responsible for, from the initial contact and pick-up, to inventory, sale, reuse, scrapping, and disposal.
Policies and Procedures
This section of university surplus policy delves into the optimum actions that should be taken during every phase of the surplus process. Common policy topics in this section include:
- The initial contact for transfer to Surplus
- Receipt of surplus
- How to deal with items over $5,000 (capitalization threshold)
- Transfers to other departments
- The handling of hazardous materials
- Unsold surplus
- Charity donations
- Unlocated items
Depending on internal processes, each university will have their own preferred ways of handling these topics.
To download AssetWorks’ valuable checklist of important policy development questions, fill out and submit the form below. The answers to these questions can help guide and add structure to your policy!
This section of the surplus policy defines any terminology you’ll be using in your document to ensure everyone who reads it is on the same page. This is your opportunity to pin down what surplus means to your specific university. Among the words you might choose to define include “surplus”, “sensitive property,” “lot,” “unlocated property,” “donation” and “disposal,” “hazardous materials,” etc.
This area of a university surplus policy provides links to the actual government regulations or university policy documents governing things like surplus property, the handling of potentially hazardous items, etc. It also generally includes any forms that donees or departments may require to smoothly transfer surplus.
This part of the university policy document typically details who is in charge of the policy and lists how they can be contacted.
Sample Surplus Policies
Many universities have done a fine job with their surplus policies, creating thoughtful, comprehensive policies that cover the entire surplus process and its many nuances. Whether you’re starting your policy from scratch or already have a policy you’d like to revisit, you’ll want to check out these links for ideas!
Well-Worth the Effort
While developing a surplus property policy for your school might seem like a daunting task, it’s also well-worth the effort. You have the unique opportunity to set and reinforce best surplus practices, generate awareness of the program across campus (and your community as a whole!), and powerfully position your university for a more sustainable future.
And one last thing: if this all seems overwhelming to you, start small! Maybe you begin your surplus policy and program by only dealing with vehicles or technology. Maybe you start by only selling online or in-store on campus. Become proficient in one or a couple of areas before adding layers. Feel free to get your feet wet before launching a larger, more complex program.