Several hundred students, faculty and community members marched across campus in protest of the University’s Shared Services Plan, despite campus being closed for “winter weather” Friday.
The Shared Services Plan is a list of recommendations intended to save money by centralizing the University’s finance, human resources, procurement and information technology services. University officials predict that 500 jobs will be eliminated — primarily through natural attrition and retirement, according to officials — as a result of this centralization.
The UT Save Our Community Coalition, a collection of student groups on campus including United Students Against Sweatshops, partnered with the Texas State Employees Union, the University Leadership Initiative and several other organizations to voice their concerns about UT’s partnership with management-consulting company Accenture for the implementation of the Shared Services Plan.
In 2006, the state outsourced the call centers for the state’s food stamps and Medicaid programs to Accenture in an effort to save money. The state terminated the contract in 2007 after issues with technical operations led to problems with benefit distribution.
Anne Lewis, senior radio-television-film lecturer and Texas State Employees Union Executive Board member, spoke at the protest about the importance of a community rallying together to preserve its ideals.
Lewis said a petition has been opened to UT faculty in opposition to the UT-Accenture plan. Lewis said between 400 and 500 signatures have been collected so far.
“I’m not sure if the petition will change anything,” Lewis said.
Plan II junior Bianca Hinz-Foley, spokeswoman for United Students Against Sweatshops, said around 300 people showed up to the protest, which was held on the eve of a two-day United Students Against Sweatshops national conference held in Austin. Hinz-Foley said her organization’s main goal is to convince the University to discontinue collaboration with Accenture.
“We’re calling on UT to cut ties with Accenture altogether,” Hinz-Foley said. “Accenture is the worst of the worst. It’s not that they’re inefficient, it’s that they’re fundamentally corrupt with their model.”
UTPD officers accompanied the protesters to ensure their safety and keep traffic unaffected, according to UTPD Capt. Gonzalo Gonzalez. Gonzalez said the protest was generally peaceful, but it did create a disturbance when protesters physically blocked the street traffic on Guadalupe, while dancing and chanting.
On Thursday, Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, responded to a resolution from Faculty Council asking for more information about the Shared Services Plan.
Hegarty agreed to add a non-administrative faculty member nominated by the Faculty Council Executive Committee to the Shared Services Steering Committee. He also included information about Accenture’s role in the plan.
Hegarty said Accenture worked with the Committee on Business Productivity, which recommended implementing Shared Services to the University. He said Accenture also played a role in gathering data for the steering committee to determine the potential success of implementing Shared Services at UT, a service that will be completed in February.
According to Hegarty, the combined cost of these services totals more than $4 million, but there is no current contract with Accenture for future services.