Faculty Spotlight

October Legacy Faculty Spotlight with Presidential Professor Emeritus, E.S. Savas

oct 17 faculty spotlight

Presidential Professor Emeritus, E.S. Savas began with Baruch College in 1981, then transitioned to the Marxe School upon its creation in 1994. He retired this past summer, leaving behind a legacy as a celebrated educator at the Marxe School and an accomplished public servant of the world. We are pleased to present a very special legacy faculty spotlight with E.S. Savas.

What were some of your most vital accomplishments during your tenure here, research, teaching, or otherwise?
Teaching: the Executive MPA because the students are experienced and therefore fun to be with; and NUF because, strange as it may seem, I feel a kinship with them because some have come from backgrounds as modest as mine: I'm the first in the history of my family to finish elementary school.

Research and writing: most of my books and articles were produced here.

[And in general], the opportunity to advise, consult, lecture, and teach -- mostly on privatization -- in 55 countries.

Public service: Five years as First Deputy City Administrator of NYC, appointed by Mayor John Lindsay and two years as Assistant Secretary of HUD appointed by President Reagan.

You’ve written over 15 books and 130 articles. Which of your published works had the furthest reach or was most influential? Which do you wish had been more influential?
My 1987 book ("Privatization: The Key to Better Government") and 2000 book ("Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships"), together, were published in 25 foreign editions, and were influential throughout the world. I wish my 2005 edited book on "Managing Welfare Reform in New York City," which describes the very successful program of Mayor Giuliani after President Clinton signed the welfare reform act, had been read by more public officials, students, and scholars.

What do you think is the most significant challenge facing public-private partnerships in the modern era?
Privatization and public-private partnerships (PPPs) are often seen as a threat by public-employee unions that currently enjoy their monopolies in many public services. Some politicians are more willing to satisfy such organized interest groups than the broad public that can get better services at lower cost through the prudent use of PPPs.

The New York City blizzard of 1969 and the city’s failure to respond effectively led to your investigation of what went wrong and the subsequent restructuring of the City’s snow emergency plan. Can you tell us about that?
I was First Deputy City Administrator of NYC at the time. This was the crucial event that launched my career in privatization. During that officially declared emergency, the Sanitation Department was actually plowing snow only 50 percent of the time; the rest was spent on warm-up breaks, fueling breaks, coffee breaks, and wash-up breaks. That caused me to study the Department's performance when doing their regular work of garbage collection, which I compared to that of the private carting industry. The city agency was almost three times as costly! I recommended that we conduct experiments using competitive contracting to compare the Department with private firms. The idea was hastily dropped before election season, but I became a professor, carried out a large-scale, million-dollar, national study comparing municipal vs. contract collection, found a large difference between them, and the privatization movement was born, rapidly expanding worldwide.

According to research-sharing website, Research Gate, there are several requests each week for copies of your writings, and you’re cited about eight times per month in new publications – which come mostly from young professionals in developing nations throughout Asia, Africa, and South America. How does it feel to influence a new generation of scholars and public servants, worldwide?
Great! They understand that competition is better than monopolies in providing public services.