[SEPT 2016] The primary component of UT Austin’s controversial Shared Services plan, the Central Business Office (CBO) pilot program, has been shelved. An email from UT Austin’s senior vice president and chief financial officer to all staff on August 22 lamented that the CBO pilot program “has not produced the savings and efficiencies initially anticipated.” In fact, according to an FAQ uploaded to the Transforming UT website, “the program instead resulted in net additional costs in excess of $600,000 per fiscal year” and was the reason for its cancellation.
The Shared Services plan, initially proposed in 2013, called for centralizing and consolidating many administrative functions at UT Austin. It was estimated that 500 jobs would have been eliminated as part of the plan. Shared Services was part of a larger plan called “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT,” which also laid out a blueprint for privatizing many campus services at UT, including housing and food services, parking, custodial services, maintenance and grounds keeping. Taken together, the plan called for running UT more like a business and less like an affordable, public institution of higher learning.
The group of business leaders that came up with the “Smarter Systems” plan was led by Steve Rohleder, one of outsourcing giant Accenture’s top executives. In 2007, Accenture was fired from a disastrous $899M contract with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for providing shoddy services that caused the state’s needy families and children to lose crucial benefits – but not until the state had already paid out $243million for the corporate takeover of a key public service. Accenture’s role in producing a plan that recommended privatization and consolidation at UT further stoked concerns of TSEU members, students, and the community.
TSEU members led the fight to stop the attacks on university services and workers by organizing our coworkers into the union, passing a UT faculty council resolution, meeting with elected officials and campus administrators, collecting over 1,000 petition signatures, and speaking out at rallies and forums. Because of the efforts of union members, the contract with Accenture was canceled, and the rollout of Shared Services was scaled back dramatically to a handful of pilot projects. The CBO was a primary component of the pilot and was intended to eventually include all support services at UT. The recent announcement to scrap this pilot adds to a long list of victories at UT that show organizing works!