Representatives of a more than 100 professors and lecturers at the University of Texas at Austin hand delivered a letter to UT President William Powers expressing their opposition to a proposed Business Productivity Initiative drafted for UT by Accenture, a global consulting corporation.
The first stage of Accenture’s Business Productivity Initiative called shared services would centralize administrative services and eliminate 500 jobs.
Accenture, which is based in Ireland for tax purposes, has drafted plans similar to its UT shared services plan for other universities.
The administration at the University of Michigan recently shelved an Accenture generated centralization plan similar to its UT shared services plan after faculty member vociferously opposed the plan.
A source who has seen the letter to President Powers, said that it was signed by 117 UT faculty members.
In it, the faculty members express support for administrative staffers and concern that Accenture’s plan is another step toward the privatization and corporatization of public higher education.
Chief among the concerns raised by the faculty in their letter is the fact that UT has already squandered $4 million in payments to Accenture to market a faulty centralization plan whose concept and design are based on inaccurate information.
That $4 million, write the faculty, could have been better spent on the core mission of the university.
According to the faculty who signed the letter, administrative staff are essential to the university’s core mission–to educate the public and expand the boundaries of public knowledge. It takes a community to carry out this core mission, and staff members are a vital part of this community.
By centralizing administrative services at call centers says the letter, Accenture’s shared services plan will interrupt the bonds among students, faculty, and staff that create this community.
“A direct relationship between faculty and students and staff helps make teaching and research more productive,” said the source who wished to remain unidentified for fear of retaliation. “Anything that interferes with this bond will cause problems. There’s nothing more frustrating and time-wasting than being put on hold by a call center when you’re trying to solve a problem or request a service.”
The source also said that instead of eliminating 500 position as has been proposed by Accenture, UT needs to hire more administrative staff to keep up with a rapidly increasing workload.
Those who signed the letter also expressed concern that Accenture’s Business Productivity Initiative, which calls for more privatization of services at UT, is yet another attempt by the private sector to turn a public institution into a vehicle for generating profits for well-connected corporations–corporations like Accenture.
Turning public institutions into private revenue streams undermines the democratic nature of public institutions like UT and erodes the common good that they produce.
The letter was authored by Mia Carter, associate professor of English, Julius G. Getman, UT Law professor, and Anne Lewis, lecturer in the Radio-Television-Film Department.
All are members of the Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186. Lewis is a TSEU executive board member.
Among those who signed the letter, there are 15 directors of special academic programs, 11 teaching excellence award winners, and one department chair.
In a related development, the UT Save Our Community Coalition has been gathering signatures on a petition opposing Accenture’s plans to restructure services at UT and the corporation’s involvement with UT.
The coalition will hold a rally on Wednesday April 23 at noon on the South Mall and then present the petitions to the administration.