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D 11565-11566

DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY

Open Letter to UT Austin Faculty from the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council

(The Executive Committee does not claim to represent the opinions of the Faculty Council as a whole.)

Having considered for the past eight months the various plans for implementing some form of Shared Services in various units on campus, we, the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council, wish to add our voice to the campus conversation. We are concerned that there is some misinformation being circulated on campus and in the wider community, and we would like to clarify four such issues.

First, the term “Shared Services” is not monolithic – it can mean many different kinds of personnel and equipment organization. In one extreme form, it means that almost all staff-provided services are re-located to one building, often off the central campus, and local units have few if any staff of their “own.”  Another way to achieve shared services is to centralize at the school or college level, an approach that is helped in many cases by the affected departments being in the same building(s).  This is the form of shared services being pursued at UT Austin, and it has already been implemented in certain units on campus, including the College of Liberal Arts and the McCombs School of Business; however, before this approach is replicated across campus, the University is currently managing pilot tests in several other, volunteer units. Decisions on Shared Services for the entire campus will only be made after the data from these pilots have been carefully considered.

Second, Shared Services is sometimes mistaken as a synonym for “outsourcing.” The UT Shared Services initiative is in fact taking the opposite approach, with internal staff who already specialize in particular tasks continuing to do them but combining forces for several units instead of serving just one at a time. Nothing about the UT Austin Shared Services plan involves UT Austin staff being laid off so that outside hires may be brought in.

Third, while it is true that the University of Michigan (U of M) and several other top universities have experienced some difficulties as they implement their shared services plans, the situation at the U of M is not an appropriate comparison. The U of M administration imposed a fully centralized version of Shared Services _without any input from the faculty_. When the faculty began to understand the potential effects of this imposition, they wrote an open letter (signed by 1200 faculty) decrying Shared Services and offering a counter plan. The U of M campus is still in the midst of figuring out how to reconcile the competing concerns while moving ahead with a very centralized shared services plan. In contrast, Vice President Kevin Hegarty and his team presented the plans in the fall through several open forums to both staff and faculty to elicit feedback. As opposed to examples such as Michigan and Texas A&M, our administration has been proactive in seeking input from faculty and staff.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, this continuing dialog about Shared Services here at UT Austin has resulted in meaningful adjustments to the pilot tests and implementation plans proposed by Mr. Hegarty and the Shared Services steering committee (which includes one member from the Faculty Council Executive Committee). Mr. Hegarty has been highly responsive to faculty concerns about Shared Services.  After extended campus discussions that included three meetings of the Faculty Council, the Shared Services programs underway now in a few units are pilots and are being tracked carefully to assess the impact on staff and faculty workload. Mr. Hegarty will present an update on the progress of these pilots at the May 5, 2014, meeting of the Faculty Council. This meeting will be open, as are all Council meetings, and we invite any interested faculty to attend (2:15 p.m. in Main 212).

We welcome continuing dialogue about the University’s effort to run more efficiently in a time of serious budget shortfalls. We remain dedicated to the principle of shared governance, and we encourage all faculty to seek out information about Shared Services on our campus to facilitate an informed discussion that will benefit us all.

Hillary Hart, chair, UT Austin Faculty Council
William Beckner, chair elect, UT Austin Faculty Council
Martha Hilley, past chair
Dean Neikirk, secretary, UT Austin Faculty Council
L. Michael White, chair, UT Austin Graduate Assembly
Brian Evans
Elizabeth Gershoff
Susan Klein


For further information on Shared Services at A&M University, see this Texas Tribune article:
http://www.texastribune.org/2014/04/17/m-system-announces-further-consolidation-services/

For information on Faculty Council discussions on Shared Services, please see these web pages:
http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/2013-2014/minutes/min120913/VIII.D.html
http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/2013-2014/legislation/resolution_shared_services_FCEC_012714.html
http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/2013-2014/reports/hegarty_response_D_11173-11173a.html
http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/2013-2014/minutes/min021714/VIII.B.html