New massive privatization threat in the Texas A&M University System


The Eagle newspaper (Bryan-College Station) reported over the weekend that the Tx A&M University System has “issued two requests for proposals, or RFPs, for comprehensive administrative reviews” with the intent of evaluating every non-faculty employee’s job for efficiency. In other words, university administrators are asking third-party vendors to make proposals to cut and privatize university staff. The Texas A&M system employs over 17,000 state workers, more than 12,000 of which could be considered non-faculty. According to the newspaper report, the system issued the requests in March and is close to awarding a contract to conduct the investigation. While Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp is downplaying the notion that more outsourcing of university jobs will ultimately result in response to the audit, the uncovering of these RFP’s seems to be eerily familiar. In February 2012, Chancellor Sharp released four requests for proposals (RFPs) relating to support services at Texas A&M University and by the end of August 2012, the jobs of more than 1,600 food service, maintenance, custodial, and landscaping employees had been privatized. The contract to manage the privatized support services at Texas A&M was awarded to Compass Group USA and after all of the dust settled, only around 600 former Texas A&M employees secured employment with Compass and many of them have since been terminated after training lower paid replacements.   The latest RFPs by the Texas A&M University System are unprecedented and have the potential to result in the biggest university privatization and consolidation attempt to date. Over the past few years, opportunists in private industry have filled the funding gap at state universities created by the Texas Legislature’s funding cuts to public higher education. More and more state universities are looking to downsize and privatize services in order to save money because the state has been cutting back on funding. Given the current trajectory, it is reasonable to assume that every non-faculty employee at a public university in Texas is currently at risk of losing his/her job.   This is not just a threat to university jobs, it’s a threat to the whole idea of a public university. Privatization has a terrible track record in Texas and around the country. Contracting out jobs will lead to lower quality services for the entire university community and little to no real cost savings.

How do we change this trajectory?

WE MUST ORGANIZE! University workers are under-represented in the Texas Capitol and we are under-represented on our campuses. This has to change. On every campus that TSEU has an active organizing committee and a strong membership base, frontline university workers are establishing a voice in the process. Most notably, the TSEU organizing committee at UT-Austin is working in coalition with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the broader Save Our University Coalition to demand transparency in the “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” plan that calls to downsize, consolidate, and outsource 25 percent of staff at the University of Texas.