Faculty and admins brainstorm shared services

Administrators have agreed to work with faculty and staff in drafting a formal document that would guide University-wide efforts to streamline administrative services.

Roughly 10 professors met with Vice President for Business and Finance Operations Shauna King last Wednesday to discuss their concerns with shared services, the business model intended to reduce burden on faculty and staff by moving common tasks out of departments to centralized service units. King said the group discussed the possibility of convening a committee of faculty, administrators and staff “to draft a declaration of principles or set of best practices to guide our thinking about staff reorganization” in departments, adding that she supports the idea and has already discussed it with Provost Peter Salovey.

“There’s this promise of faculty consultation, but there isn’t any definition of what that would be or exactly how that would work,” English professor Jill Campbell said after the meeting.

The gathering marked the first time King had met with a group of faculty members to discuss shared services since the February Yale College faculty meeting, at which the initiative faced significant pushback from professors who claimed that administrators have implemented the business model without first consulting departments. Some faculty members, many of whom are from the humanities, have complained that the shared services model constitutes an across-the-board system that does not meet the needs of individual departments and has led to harmful restructuring of staff.

A formal document would clarify the process by which employees from King’s office work with departments, Campbell said, and could specify what kind of assessment would take place to determine a department’s needs and how disagreements between members of departments and King’s office would be resolved.

King said she recognizes her office has not met the faculty’s expectations of communication in the restructuring of staff prompted by the onset of the recession in 2008. She told professors at their February meeting that all restructuring over the past three years, including the elimination of more than 600 staff positions across the University, has been driven by the budget crisis, not shared services.

“We have certainly attempted to be collaborative and consultative throughout the challenging process of responding to the budget crisis,” King said in a Tuesday email. “It is clear from faculty discussions, like the one held last week and the Yale College Faculty meeting in February, that our efforts have not met expectations and more is needed.”

Campbell said professors at the meeting sought to clarify how King and members of her office have responded to concerns raised by faculty since the February meeting. They discussed the need for “structural mechanisms” that ensure consistent, substantive steps are taken to work with faculty through any restructuring of staff and changes to administrative services.

Assistant Vice President Ronn Kolbash, director of the Shared Services Center, and Assistant Vice President for Business Operations Julie Grant were also at last week’s meeting.

Professor of statistics and mathematics David Pollard, who attended the meeting, said he thinks a formal set of guidelines could help clear up confusion among faculty concerning the implementation of shared services.

Though she was unable to attend the meeting, history professor Glenda Gilmore told the News beforehand that she thinks King’s office should include a manager who can serve as an ombudsman for faculty and work with professors to respond to their “administrative support needs.” Gilmore also said administrators should have included faculty in the initial decision to introduce the business model because the services support their teaching and research.

King will meet with department chairs on May 4 to discuss shared services.

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