Shared Services subcommittee to explore small-scale implementation

Madlin Mekelburg

Despite concerns voiced by faculty and staff, the Shared Services Steering Committee will hear recommendations for the implementation of a Shared Services pilot program next week.

The Shared Services Plan is a list of recommendations intended to reduce the University’s spending through the elimination of 500 jobs and the centralization of several University services.

Kevin Hegarty, UT’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the centralization will focus on services in the areas of finance, information technology, human resources and procurement. Currently, these services are offered through individual units within varying colleges and departments. Hegarty, who is the chair of the steering committee, said the elimination of 500 jobs will be made primarily through natural attrition and retirement.

The committee created the pilot subcommittee after a series of campus-dialogue sessions, in which members of the steering committee sought to receive feedback from the UT community. University spokesman Kevin Almasy said the pilot program would take place in small-scale University departments on a volunteer basis to accommodate for some of the apprehension voiced in dialogue sessions. 

“As campus dialogue progressed, it became clear that there was an understanding for the rationale behind Shared Services, but that there was not a willingness for campus-wide implementation,” Almasy said.

At the last Faculty Council meeting in December, a pair of professors introduced a resolution calling for “the immediate suspension of pilot Shared Services implementation.” The resolution, which was co-authored by Dana Cloud, associate communication studies professor, and associate English professor Snehal Shingavi, supported the suspension of further implementation of the plan until more data is produced about the effects of the Shared Services Plan. The council did not vote on the resolution.

“Shared Services is expensive and risky,” Cloud said in an Opinion column she co-authored for The Daily Texan. “The proposal presents no measures of likely success or failure. We urgently need a transparent discussion of the plan’s risks.” 

Associate vice president Mary Knight, a member of the steering committee, said she understands the cautious attitude some individuals on campus have regarding Shared Services.

“There’s still skepticism, and we understand that,” Knight said. “I think it’s healthy for people to be skeptical because they’re going to provide good questions, and we’re going to have to figure out answers to those good questions.”

“I think one thing that some people are not thinking about is the plan that we are on, and that we’ve been on for the last handful of years,” Hegarty said. “We have been, as I’ve told the campus, not filling positions and not laying people off, but that is the future, if we do nothing. We will reach a point where we will have to start laying people off.”

Almasy said the committee intends to submit a final copy of their plan to President William Powers Jr. in February for him to review. 

Editors' note: This news story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Cloud co-authored an Opinion column, not an editorial, in the Texan.