President William Powers Jr. received a letter signed by more than 100 faculty members opposing Shared Services on Tuesday.
The letter — authored by radio-television-film senior lecturer Anne Lewis, English associate professor Mia Carter and law professor Julius Getman — petitions Powers to withdraw his endorsement of Shared Services, which he issued March 31.
Shared Services is a plan designed to save money by centralizing University human resources, information technology, procurement and finance services in various ways across campus. Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, has said approximately 500 jobs will be eliminated in the centralization process, primarily through attrition and retirement.
Powers’ endorsement of the final report and findings of the Shared Services Steering Committee launched the first two pilot versions of the plan in the College of Education and the Office of the Provost. According to Mary Knight, associate vice president for financial affairs and member of the Shared Services Steering Committee, members of the committee have been meeting with the business officers of both departments to discuss the specifics of the pilot.
According to Lewis, the letter from some faculty members is a more formal expression of an online petition opposing Shared Services with more than 1,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff and other members of the community.
The letter focuses on various aspects of Shared Services, including the impact it could have on the support systems that exist between staff and faculty in a department.
“A lot of [staff] have been at this university for a long time, and a lot of them have been in that department for a long time,” Lewis said. “They do multiple functions: They take care of each other, [and] they take care of us. It’s a creative function. We build these departments that way.”
Another concern listed in the letter is the involvement of Accenture, a consulting firm with a controversial history. The University has paid Accenture more than $4 million to assist in data collection and organization. Accenture also worked with the Committee on Business Productivity, the group that first recommended Shared Services. Two members of the Committee on Business Productivity and one member of the steering committee are former Accenture employees.
Communication between the administration and campus is another concern, according to Lewis. She said she questions whether the various meetings UT administrators had with the campus before pursuing implementation were genuine attempts to hear campus feedback.
“Was the approach to campus really an attempt to have a discussion where Shared Services, or this approach to saving money, would be taken off the table and other options could be explored, or did it come to campus as a done deal with those town halls really being a PR effort to sell the campus on this?” Lewis said. “There are some things in the process that I could point to that lead me to the second.”
Knight said she is open to any conversations members of the faculty want to have about Shared Services.
“I hope most of campus is willing to give us a chance to show how it will work and how we really do want to engage the staff on campus and the faculty who will be using the services,” Knight said.
Lewis said opposing Shared Services, regardless of whether she is completely against it, feels like the right thing to do.
“I would hate to say that I’m totally against Shared Services,” Lewis said. “I’m not sure that’s even the point. It just feels like you’re kind of on a train that’s moving forward, and there’s very little that you can do to steer it without just standing in front of it.”