Jamie Southerland

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Shared Services, a plan to centralize the University’s human resources, information technology, finance and procurement services, will be implemented differently in future pilot programs as a result of feedback from the first round of voluntary implementation. 

After months of discussion last spring, Shared Services’ implementation was scaled down to a few pilot programs in the College of Education and the Provost Portfolio, an administrative unit that oversees academic and professional areas in the University. The scaling down of the program was a result of recommendations made by the Shared Services Steering Committee. In February 2014, the Committee released a report calling for the University to conduct a pilot version of Shared Services so administrators would have more information about the effectiveness and impact of the program before rolling it out to the entire campus.

Now that pilot programs have been active for one long session, administrators are working to see what has gone well — and what could be going better. Jamie Southerland, associate vice president for Shared Services and Business Transformation, said the College of Education’s pilot program revealed issues as the semester went on.

“As the fall progressed, it became clear that the academic units involved in the pilot did not desire to reduce [their own] cost and/or administrative staffing, and therefore Shared Services offered no benefits to the units,” Southerland said.

To remedy this problem, administrators will recruit departments with a more active interest in implementing the pilot program’s services.

“We are also exploring the idea of offering services that any campus department could opt-in to,” Southerland said. “We know that there are processes that no one is happy with. We are in the process of determining how we can combine re-engineered processes into a service that campus finds valuable.”

Although groups such as the UT Save Our Community Coalition insisted that Shared Services would result in mass layoffs, one year after the pilot programs began, no jobs have been terminated, Almasy said.

“I think we’re now at the very least a year, if not two years, from when this discussion began, and there have been no layoffs or firings,“ Almasy said.

University officials are now looking for another department or college willing to implement a pilot program in order to collect another round of data.

“We are in conversations with other departments who are exploring a move to Shared Services, but we are not in a position to announce anything yet,” Southerland said.

Radio-television-film senior lecturer Anne Lewis said the University’s small-scale attempts at using Shared Services have not succeeded.

“It [has been] a miserable failure,” Lewis said. “It just didn’t work well when they tried to merge so many functions — so many individual functions, that served provost or faculty, into one kind of automated system.”

Southerland said the Provost Portfolio experience with Shared Services was a positive one.

“Thus far, the Provost Portfolio has been pleased with the quality of service from both the [Central Business Office] and [Academic Technology Support],” Southerland said. “They estimate that the switch to Shared Services has saved more than $1 million annually, most of which has already been reinvested in academic programs across the campus.”

UT’s two largest schools, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences, chose to tackle required budget cuts in very different ways, and both stand by their tactics.

The College of Liberal Arts offered a second round of retirement incentives to eligible professors last month in direct response to continuing budget cuts that started in 2009, said Assistant Dean for Business Affairs Jamie Southerland.
The college offered 38 packages as the first step in cutting the $1.5 million dollars still needed to reach the college’s goal of cutting $3.5 million by 2013, Southerland said.

Southerland said by the end of this process the college will have reduced its budget by another $500,000 and reduced its number of instructors by 10 percent. He said the college has also saved $400,000 by reducing staff beginning in 2009.
“It is becoming more and more painful to make these cuts,” Southerland said.

Southerland said the college has cut $9.3 million from its budget since 2009 by implementing recommendations from the faculty-led Academic Planning and Advisory Committee. He said the cuts were made by reducing staff, teaching assistants, assistant instructors and lecturers by offering the first round of retirement packages and by reducing liberal arts’ academic centers’ budgets.

Southerland said the faculty committee’s recommendations showed their priorities on teaching and research over outreach. He said they will make more recommendations in the fall.

“We will try to spread the remaining cuts over two [years] in hopes that the economy will rise and appropriations will begin to reappear,” Southerland said.

Southerland said budget cuts have been more difficult for the college to make because the college under Dean Randy Diehl has always been efficient and didn’t have much excess.

Southerland said they were the first college to begin making cuts and the first college to consider and implement advice from the student-run College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee.

“We’ve been at the forefront of this and have been leading the way to making constructive cuts,” Southerland said.

Former College of Natural Sciences Associate Dean David Laude remains focused on the potential for growth despite necessary cuts.

Laude stepped in as Interim Dean on Aug. 1 after Dean Mary Rankin retired.

Laude said although budget cuts are a reality that come with the position, he does not feel it is appropriate to focus on the negatives when the college is experiencing a time of growth with three new buildings opening this year.

“In fact, we need to be looking at all of the great possibilities that exist,” Laude said.

He said offering retirement packages to good professors is never an option.

He said the school has only made a handful of layoffs since the initial budget cuts in 2009, and he believes the number of faculty members will shrink naturally when members retire and the college chooses not to replace them.

“We make it a priority to recruit, hire and retain good faculty,” Laude said. “In the last decade we have increased the size of our faculty by about 50 members, and we’ve seen research dollars and rankings go up.”

Laude said the college is always looking for innovative ways to decrease their spending, such as embracing technology and using it to replace costly resources. He said the college cut nearly $300,000 from its budget by eliminating photocopy charges and minimizing travel.

“We reduced our records office by 50 percent while getting more done by automating everything in the office,” Laude said. “It’s an appreciation for the way the world is changing and embracing cost saving transformations.”

Printed on Thursday, August 11, 2011 as: Liberal Arts, Natural Sciences find ways to tighten belts