Staff Council asks University employees to share concerns about Business Committee proposals


Yamel Thompson

Chair of staff council Erika Frahm leads a discussion about UT staff interests at the UT Staff Council General Assembly on Thursday afternoon. 

Andrew Messamore

To prepare questions for UT administrators, the Staff Council asked University employees to share concerns about coming employment changes affecting the 40 Acres at the council’s monthly meeting Thursday. 

The council’s officers will meet with President William Powers Jr. on Friday to ask administrators about how last month’s report from the Committee on Business Productivity will affect various departments across campus, and how staff will be involved in that discussion.

The 13-member committee, formed by Powers last spring, recommended a number of proposals to cut costs for the University, including centralizing administrative functions and raising rates or outsourcing parts of UT food, housing and parking services.

“What we are hearing now from the president’s office is that this is going to be a very slow process, not an immediate mandate,” said Staff Council chairwoman Erika Frahm. “We understand nerves are frayed and tensions are running high, but that’s what we’re hearing right now.”

Vicki Grier, a research coordinator in the College of Natural Sciences, said she is concerned about the quality of work done if services like custodial work are outsourced in the future.

“We’ve already had custodial outsourced at [The Dell Pediatric Institute] and the people we’ve brought in have been absolutely horrible and [there have] been constant complaints,” Grier said. “The savings cannot be worth whatever the quality loss is.” 

Stuart Tendler, a graduate admissions coordinator in the College of Liberal Arts and liaison for Parking Transportation Services, said PTS would have to completely reconfigure its business model to adjust to the new proposals. The Committee advised UT to raise parking rates by 7.5 percent every year for the next 15 years to reach market value. 

“The bottom line is that PTS is changing and being told that it has to contribute money to the University,” Tendler said. “Until this year they’ve only funded their own operations and now they’ve been identified as a unit that can contribute a return to the University’s budget. And that has implications for everyone on campus.”

Lizbell Bevington, an administrative associate in Facilities Services, said she was already worried about the possibility of losing her job because of restructuring. 

“In this harsh economy, people are wondering where they are going to go if something happens,” Bevington said. “In my office alone, I’ve had two managers and one assistant go. I fear that it’s going to happen, although it may not happen soon. And if it happens, how much time will I have [to find a job]?”

Powers will be present at the next Staff Council meeting in March to meet with any staff wanting to share their concerns. In the meantime, the Staff Council is also trying to organize an open forum meeting to engage UT community and administration in a discussion about the proposals, Frahm said.

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Staff council to hear budget worries".