In a reversal, UT to cut ties with Accenture (for now), modifies job-cutting plan


AUSTIN, TX– Victory! After months of dogging the UT administration about problems with their roll-out of Shared Services, the Save Our Community Coalition has succeeded in convincing UT to make significant changes to their plans.  At a faculty council meeting on May 5th, UT CFO Kevin Hegarty announced that UT has “no pending engagements with Accenture and there is no plan or assumed involvement with Accenture as we move forward to pilot shared services on our campus.”  This decision comes on the heels of growing opposition to Accenture’s shared services plan, which is set to eliminate 500 jobs.  The 14-month long campaign escalated two weeks ago after over 200 Staff, Faculty, and Students protested the plan in a rally at the tower and the UT administration arrested 18 students for staging a peaceful sit-in support of workers in President Bill Powers’ office.

The shared services plan comes from a report written by the ‘Committee on Business Productivity’, which was chaired by Accenture executive Steve Rohleder.  The committee was tasked with coming up with ways to save money for the university and make it more efficient.  The UT community raised concerns about this report and its findings because of Accenture’s dark history of costing Texas taxpayers millions of dollars, destroying the quality of state services, and overestimating savings and underestimating cost. The latest example of this is the recent AP report that Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office has failed to implement a complex privatized child support computer system properly and the cost overrun has hit the $64 million mark. The private company in charge is Accenture. More important than the questionable claims of saving money is the way the UT Administration has ignored the negative impacts that staff reductions will have on the ability of departments to function in a way that serves the core missions of the University.

The original shared services plan was set to cost $54 million, and included campus-wide implementation of centralization and downsizing and the creation of a call center to house the remaining administrative staff.  In response to protests, UT removed Accenture from the project pilots, halted plans to construct a separate call center, and limited the implementation of shared services to two pilot departments — the Provost’s Office (in the area of IT) and the College of Education (Human Resources, Procurement, and Financial Services).  Hegarty estimates that shared services will now cost $5 to $7 million to set up and claims that the plan will be implemented without the use of external consultants.
Although UT has significantly modified the pilot phase of shared services, members of the Save Our Community Coalition (SOCC) continue to oppose the pilot implementation of shared services, and worry about how UT will measure the success of these pilots.  Kevin Hegarty emphasized to UT faculty council that the plan will have to have quality benchmarking and metrics, and that campus experts will measure the success of the plan, which will determine whether or not shared services will spread to additional departments.  SOCC members call on the administration to involve affected staff in the planning process, qualified experts in the creation of the metrics, and to create mutually agreed upon benchmarks that the pilots must meet in order to continue with the plan.

“We have individuals we’ve been working within many cases for decades. We have professional relationships with staff and it’s hard for us to imagine that one of the consequences of this will be to break that irreparably. I find my colleagues who have spoken in protest to this plan, very well spoken and thoughtful. And so I am persuaded that this is something that we should be very very cautious before proceeding on, because we have special needs that aren’t the same as what you will be testing in your pilot.” — Paul Shapiro, Astronomy

Hegarty explained that UT currently depends on position reductions and staff layoffs to balance the budget, and claimed that shared services will help alleviate the need to save money through layoffs.  However, shared services itself necessarily relies on staff reduction to save the purported $30-40 million.  This is based on the permanent elimination of 500 jobs valued at $60-$80 thousand each including benefits within the next 3-5 years. The UT community has called on the administration to stop relying on layoffs and staff reductions to save money and to find alternative solutions to saving money.

“The UT administration tells us we need to save money by laying off staff and eliminating positions, yet all around me I see UT expanding and investing in new construction projects.  We need to stop balancing the budget on the backs of staff, and start prioritizing the people who make our campus run”—Sarahi Soto-Talavera, Student, TSEU Member

The Save Our Community Coalition has pledged to continue its efforts to stop job elimination and its negative impact for staff, students, and faculty in departments across our campus.

The Save Our Community Coalition (SOCC), formed by students, campus workers, and faculty, has grown to include community organizations, alumni, and donors.  The SOCC is committed to UT’s core values and call on the UT Administration to protect UT campus workers by not eliminating and outsourcing their jobs.  SOCC calls on UT Chancellor Cigarroa and UT Austin President Powers to stop any further contracts with the corrupt consulting and outsourcing firm, Accenture, and halt Accenture’s shared services plan.  Prominent Coalition partners include the Workers Defense Project (WDP), Texas State Employees Union (TSEU), International Socialist Organization, Oxfam, University Leadership Initiative (ULI), Native American & Indigenous Collective (NAIC), Queer People of Color and Allies (QPOCA), Texas Fair Trade Coalition, Education Austin, Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC), Graduate Student Workers, University Democrats, and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).