500+ University of Michigan faculty protest “Administrative Services Transformation” project in open letter

“An Open Letter to President Coleman and Provost Pollack”, published on um-openletter.eecs.umich.edu/ – from the lead paragraph:

We, the undersigned faculty of the University of Michigan, support your intent to realign administrative expenses relative to revenues. However we collectively reject the proposed Administrative Services Transformation (AST) project. We respectfully offer an alternative approach to AST, which we call Unit- Centric Services (UCS). We believe that the AST approach is inherently flawed because its focus is on reducing administrative costs without taking into account the concurrent reduction in faculty and staff productivity, collaborative academic culture, and the unique needs of heterogeneous academic units. In contrast, UCS’s focus is on productivity and intra-unit efficiencies. Higher productivity translates into higher revenues relative to expenses, even though expenses may, but do not need to, be higher. The unique cultures and modes of operation of different units are facilitated by staff that retain corporate knowledge of local processes. Conversely, AST is a top-down program that eliminates the ability to retain corporate knowledge and leverage the unit-culture experiences of some 300 support staff while limiting their contributions to a series of transactional tasks in a call center. The inevitable result is to tax the faculty with numerous clerical tasks, thereby reducing their accessibility to students and their productivity as scholars and researchers. In contrast, the premise of UCS is to develop a strategic plan aimed at improving productivity at the unit level (school/college and/or department), with plans developed with full participation by the faculty, staff and administrators in that unit, and in tune with the particular academic culture and practices of that unit.

As of this writing, the document is signed by 594 faculty members.

Clearly, one of the things that the University would need to centralize to avoid public displays of dissent is the control of web sites and the domain name system.

Also noted by the Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Previously, from the Michigan Daily.

University administrators apologized to concerned department chairs Thursday about the lack of communication and clarity in their decision-making process about the center, which is expected to cut costs by $5 to 6 million by consolidating human-resource and finance services to a centralized location.

Also previously, from Inside Higher Ed

Nineteen department chairs in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts — the largest college on campus — wrote a Nov. 1 letter to senior administrators protesting an “air of secrecy” around the effort and raising concerns that longtime staffers, particularly lower-income women, would be hurt by the changes, either because of layoffs or pay cuts.
In response, senior Michigan officials wrote a Nov. 14 letter acknowledging they were “not sensitive or consultative enough in the planning and communication of this initiative.”


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