Community Coalition

After being arrested during a sit-in protest against Shared Services outside President William Powers Jr.’s office Wednesday afternoon, 18 students from the Save Our Community Coalition spent the night in jail and were released Thursday morning.

Philosophy senior Sophia Poitier said after being arrested shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday, the students were taken to Travis County Jail.

“They forced us to the back of the elevator … and then into a police car,” Poitier said. “We were taken to central booking [and] spent the night on benches.”

Theatre sophomore Blake Medley, one of the arrested students, said students were released in groups from the jail from around 4 a.m. until about 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

In a statement released Thursday, the University said Shared Services is a necessary measure to cut administrative costs.

“In these days of dwindling higher education funding, we have to be responsible stewards of tax and tuition dollars,” the statement said. “Consolidating administrative roles that are now spread across campus … can help save $30 million to $40 million each year.”

Government senior Huey Rey Fischer said arrested students were officially banned from the fourth floor of the UT Tower by UTPD, but he said that wouldn’t stop students from expressing their opinions.

“We’re not going away,” Fischer said. “We’re here and we’re having our voices grow louder and louder every day, because this plan is unpopular.”

The University’s statement said no final plan for Shared Services has been approved, and administrators will evaluate the effects of the pilot programs and discuss them some time next year.

Philosophy sophomore Jacek Prus is removed from the Main Building by APD officers after participating in a sit-in against Shared Services on Wednesday afternoon. Students sat in front of President William Powers Jr.’s office for various hours despite being told they would be arrested if they stayed in the office past 5 p.m. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Eighteen Save Our Community Coalition members were arrested while participating in a sit-in against Shared Services in front of President William Powers Jr.’s office, following a more than 200-person protest in front of the UT Tower on Wednesday afternoon. 

According to UT spokesman Gary Susswein, the arrested demonstrators will be charged with criminal trespassing, a Class B misdemeanor. Susswein said Powers was in his office working all afternoon. 

“[The protesters] were given several warnings by the Dean of Students’ office that at 5 p.m. the office would be closing and they needed to leave,” Susswein said. “They did not, so they have been arrested.”

Shared Services is a plan to centralize the University’s human resources, finance, information technology and procurement services. The plan calls for the elimination of 500 positions, which UT officials have said will primarily take place through attrition and retirement. The committee is now moving forward with pilot versions of the plan in the College of Education and the Office of the Provost. 

The sit-in was live-streamed online, and students took turns talking about their concerns with the University’s efforts to improve efficiency. After the protesters began chanting, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly warned them to lower their voices and said they would be arrested if they stayed at Powers’ office past 5 p.m. Of the 19 protesters, only one left.

Plan II Honors junior Bianca Hinz-Foley, a representative of the protesters, said the coalition members wanted more dialogue with UT administrators. Hinz-Foley and a group of roughly 20 coalition members also held a demonstration in front of Powers’ office on April 3, though Powers was not in his office at the time. 

“Students are sharing stories, and I think we’re all committed to stay until President Powers hears us out,” Hinz-Foley said. “We’re prepared to stay as long as it takes.” 

Geography senior Sydney Dwoskin, another protester, said she felt the sit-in was an important component of students’ efforts to halt Shared Services’ implementation.

“At this point, we feel we have no other choice,” Dwoskin said. “We’re not going to leave till we get Shared Services cut.”

In a speech at the rally before the protest, Faculty Council member Dana Cloud, associate communication studies professor, said she believes reports of the University being short on money are false.

“The administration has been somewhat on the ropes and has started to spin the situation of Shared Services, and our speakers will speak to kind of the mystification going around: That it’s not so bad, that we’ve listened to people, that we’ve adjusted according to input,” said Cloud, who is also a member of the Save Our Community Coalition. “I think [the protesters’] presence here today shows that’s pretty much bullshit.”

In an interview with The Daily Texan last month, Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, said he believes opponents of the plan do not understand that the University’s current business model is unsustainable.

“We’re getting starved on the academic end for dollars to hire teachers and retain people,” Hegarty said.

Protesters also referenced the University’s involvement with Accenture, a consulting firm the University paid more than $4 million to collect data for the Shared Services Steering Committee. Accenture’s contract with UT ended in February. 

More than 100 faculty members signed a letter opposing Shared Services and submitted it to Powers earlier this month.

In April 2012, a nearly identical incident, involving members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition, also led to 18 arrests. The members hosted a sit-in outside of Powers’ office, were told to leave by 5 p.m., declined to do so and were charged with criminal trespassing. In this case, members — some of whom were also arrested Wednesday, including Hinz-Foley — wanted the University to cooperate with the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring organization, when producing apparel.

Additional reporting by Julia Brouillette.

English grad student Cole Wehrle shouts in support of ending Shared Services during a campus protest on Wednesday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Updated (6:18 p.m.): Earlier Wednesday, geography senior Sydney Dwoskin, one of the protest leaders, said she felt the sit-in was an important component of students' efforts to halt Shared Services implementation.

"At this point, we feel we have no other choice," Dwoskin said. "We're not going to leave 'til we get Shared Services cut."

Updated (5:59 p.m.): Of the 19 Save Our Community coalition members who protested in Powers’ office, 18 have been arrested and will be charged with criminal trespassing, a Class B misdemeanor, according to University spokesman Gary Susswein.

“[The protesters] were given several warnings by the dean of students’ office that at 5:00 p.m. that the office would be closing and they needed to leave,” Susswein said. “They did not, so they have been arrested.”

Over the loud chants of students protesters on the first floor of the Tower, Susswein said University administrators have engaged in dialogues with community members about the implementation of Shared Services.

“Our vice president for financial affairs has met with students repeatedly, and continues to meet with them and is open to do so,” Susswein said. “Absolutely, there’s been honest discussion, there’s been open discussion, and we continue to welcome feedback from faculty, staff and students on this.”

Susswein also said the University supports students’ right to protest.

“Students have every right to protest and to do so peacefully, and they were in the foyer outside the presidents’ office for 90 minutes this afternoon, protesting peacefully,” Susswein said. “That was not an issue.”

— Jacob Kerr

Updated (5:23 p.m.): Police officers are escorting student protesters out of the building in groups of three. For more updates live from the scene, follow reporters Jacob Kerr @jacobrkerr and Madlin Mekelburg @madlinbmek on Twitter.

Updated (5:12 p.m.): A coalition of students protesting against Shared Services are conducting a sit-in outside President William Powers Jr.’s office, and were told by UTPD officers that they will be arrested if they have not vacated by 5:00 p.m.

The 19 students protesting want Powers to halt the two Shared Services pilot programs in the College of Education and the Office of the Provost, according to Plan II junior Bianca Hinz-Foley, a representative of the protesters.

“They are demanding that President Powers cut ties with Accenture and halt the Shared Services ‘pilots’ and instead look to faculty, staff and students, not consulting and outsourcing firm bad actors, for bold and innovative solutions to challenges we face today,” Hinz-Foley wrote in a press release issued earlier Wednesday.

— Jordan Rudner

Original story: More than 200 students, faculty and staff gathered at the West Mall on Wednesday to protest the implementation of Shared Services. 

Members of the Save Our Community Coalition — which includes members of the Workers Defense Project, Texas State Employees Union, the University Leadership Initiative and many more University organizations – organized the protest. 

Shared Services is a plan to centralize University human resources, finance, information technology and procurement services. The plan calls for the elimination of 500 positions, which University officials have said will take place primarily through attrition and retirement. President William Powers Jr. endorsed the final recommendations produced by the Shared Services Steering Committee in March. The committee is now moving forward with pilot versions of the plan in the College of Education and the Office of the Provost. 

In a speech at the rally, Faculty Council member Dana Cloud, associate communication studies and rhetoric and writing professor, said she believes reports of the University being short on money are false.

“The administration has been somewhat on the ropes and has started to spin the situation of Shared Services, and our speakers will speak to kind of the mystification going around: That it’s not so bad, that we’ve listened to people, that we’ve adjusted according to input,” said Cloud, who is also a member of the Save Our Community Coalition. “I think your presence here today shows that’s pretty much bullshit.”

City Council member Mike Martinez said he believes Shared Services is a form of privatization that will cost tax payers exponentially more money than it will save. 

In an interview with The Daily Texan last month, Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, said he believes opponents of the plan do not understand the University’s current business model is unsustainable.

“We’re getting starved on the academic end for dollars to hire teachers and retain people,” Hegarty said.

Linguistics graduate student Adam Tallman, a member of the Texas State Employees Union, said he believes admistrators have failed to address community concerns about Shared Services’ implementation, including the possibility of an increased workload on staff members who remain at the University. 

“The problem is that when you cut those jobs, productivity in the rest of the University is going to go down,” Tallman said.

In his letter endorsing the steering committee’s findings, Powers said he wanted to make sure the Shared Services implementation was tailored for UT’s needs.

“I have asked [Hegarty] to carry out that charge in a thoughtful manner that is customized to our campus,” Powers said in the letter.

Victoria Vlach, a course scheduler in the department of Asian American studies who was recently laid off because of centralization within the College of Liberal Arts separate from Shared Services,  believes Shared Services threatens to ruin the University’s reputation as a top-tier institution.

“Education is not a one size fits all assembly line,” Vlach said. “These policies intentionally eliminate the very people who provide the skilled expertise, which serves and supports the faculty and students.”

Students rally against the Smarter System privatization plan during a street performance put on by the Save Our Community Coalition. The performance outlined the creation of the Smarter System plan and was followed by a march into the tower by protesters.

Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Chants rang through the halls of the Tower as members of Save Our Community Coalition went to deliver a letter to President William Powers Jr. Wednesday, expressing their concern with an outsourcing plan Powers’ Committee on Business Productivity released last year.

The committee, composed of business leaders outside the UT community, wrote the plan titled “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” to identify untapped revenue sources and methods the University might use to increase efficiency. One recommendation the report made was a potential increase in parking, food and housing prices.

The group began its protest with a street performance providing background on the Smarter Systems plan. After the performance, the coalition walked into the Tower to
request a meeting with Powers about the group’s unhappiness with the plan.

The coalition began last semester in response to the Smarter Systems plan, and is composed of student organizations, faith leaders, local nonprofit organizations and the Texas State Employees Union, which protests the outsourcing and privatization of on-campus job and services. The coalition was formed by the United Students Against Sweatshops, a group which aims to protect the rights of student workers on and off campus. 

“Taking outsourcing off the table is a basic, minimal request from the community because this plan is wide reaching and we already know that outsourcing and privatization has a devastating effects on local economies and our community as a whole,” Plan II junior Bianca Hinz-Foley said.  

The president’s office was locked when the group marched up the narrow staircases of the building. 

According to coalition member Sophie Poitier, a philosophy and rhetoric senior, the group plans to send an email since they were unable to deliver the letter directly. Poitier said the coalition will keep running the campaign until they get an acceptable response.

“We don’t think it’s right for a university to cut costs when humans are involved,” Poitier said. “There are other ways costs could be cut than a person’s livelihood.”

Alonzo Mendoza, a 2012 UT alumnus who graduated with a masters in special education, has been involved with the United Students Against Sweatshops for several years. Mendoza has been in the coalition since it was founded in January.

“[The protest] is important to me because even though I’m not being directly affected by this, the reputation of UT is at stake,” Mendoza said. “As an [alumnus], I want to be proud of my university.”