University administrators believe bulk of 500 job cuts will come from natural attrition


The current iteration of the “UT Shared Services Plan,” a plan that calls for eliminating 500 jobs and centralizing some University services, will be tested on a college or other large unit within the University before its campus-wide implementation.

The plan’s draft, reviewed by the Shared Services Committee, was sent out in a press release from the Texas State Employees Union on Friday. A committee representative would not confirm how the group was able to obtain a copy of the report.

The goal of the report, UT spokesman Gary Susswein said Friday, is to eliminate these positions primarily through attrition and retirement. He said the University cannot assure that it will not use layoffs to meet the target of 500 jobs. These jobs would be culled from Information Technology, Human Resources, Financial and Procurement services. 

Kevin Hegarty, UT vice president and chief financial officer, said the pilot version of the plan — to be launched in eight to 10 months — will occur on a volunteer basis and help the University monitor its success.

“Think of what you’ve read [in the report] as a hypothesis,” Hegarty said. “Now, we need to experiment vis-a-vis this pilot and either prove or disprove our hypothesis. I think when we do this pilot, that should tell us whether or not our estimates were realistic or unrealistic, if we are going to go forward with the program and what we need to change.”

Hegarty said the success of similar centralization plans at other institutions, including Yale University and the University of Michigan, makes him think it will work at UT.

“If we do nothing, we will see more of what we’ve seen in the last handful of years, which is continued job loss because revenue is not going up, tuition is not going up and state investment continues to net decline,” Hegarty said. “We have to balance the books. We can only spend the money that we have.”

The report estimates the University would have to invest between $160 million and $180 million to make its recommendations for long-term cost cuts feasible. A portion of that money would be used to establish a new technological administrative system called Workday, Hegarty said.

Currently, the University uses the Departmental Financial Information Network, known as DEFINE, to provide users access to documents, payroll information, account transactions and balances and other official documents. 

“We’ve decided to [replace DEFINE] in any event because we have to,” Hegarty said. “Our current systems are at [the] end of life, and they’re becoming expensive to maintain. They’re written in programming languages that are no longer current languages.” 

Hegarty said the University is now entering the public discussion phase and has shared the plan with several groups including the Dean’s Council, the vice president’s council and the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets. He said he has seen justifiable concern for the risks associated with the plan from these groups, but an overall willingness to make changes and accept the new options the plan outlines. 

“Those that have taken the time to study it believe that it’s the right direction,” Hegarty said. 

Bianca Hinz-Foley, Plan II junior and regional organizer of United Students Against Sweatshops, said the University has been unwilling to engage in open communication with the Save Our Community Coalition, an organization of student groups opposed to the recommendations of the “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” plan released in January. 

“This plan to eliminate jobs is really just the first step in a much larger privatization plan,” Hinz-Foley said. “This will change the University from a campus where professors and students come together to talk about big ideas to a corporation that values money above all else. This is a critical issue facing students, faculty and tax-payers.”