The University Senate resolved on Monday, December 5 to halt the formation of shared service centers—the university’s method of increasing administrative efficiency and cutting costs by reorganizing existing staff resources rather than hiring when staff leave or retire.
The Senate passed two separate resolutions both calling for more analysis and investigation into the success of shared services at other universities before they are further implemented at Stony Brook.
As part of Operational Excellence, one prong of President Samuel Stanley’s future-oriented initiative Project 50 Forward, the centers would avoid layoffs while addressing the University’s budget shortfalls by joining together the administrative staff of departments with similar focuses and geographical proximity to make up for unfilled positions. But faculty has voiced concerns that the centers will relocate staff inappropriately and disrupt services available to students.
“Chairs come and go,” said a professor in the Humanities Building who wished to remain nameless. “The Assistant to the Chair and the department secretary provide the continuity. They are the storehouse of information.” The professor added that the same shared services process was tried at an institution he worked for in the past, and that it was not successful. After a year they reverted back to the old system, he said.
One shared support service center has already been implemented in the Theatre and Art Departments, and two proposed centers in the Humanities building were in the planning stages.
“I hope that [Provost Dennis Assanis] considers whether the relocation of staff and the reassignment of staff and the disruption it would cause justifies the amount of savings,” said the source, who also expressed concerns that the centers will leave department offices empty.
During the Senate meeting President Samuel Stanley expressed an urgency that the University move forward in making changes that address costs.
“I think a lot of this discussion seems predicated on the idea that it’s status quo verse shared services—and I want to make
it absolutely clear to everybody here it is not the status quo,” Stanley said. “The status quo disappeared when we took $82 billion essentially in budget cuts, so anybody who believes that we can maintain the administrative structure that we have right now and afford it is incorrect.”
Stanley said he was disappointed in the resolution because it suggested that there was ample time to research the success of the centers at other universities. “I don’t think that Stony Brook as an institution can afford to take a year while people try and gather data in a haphazard manner,” he said. “If we really want to deliver to our students the best quality education, that goes for graduate students as well, we have to find ways to address administrative costs.”
The planning process of the service centers was done with the help of consulting firm Bain & Company, who left in June after performing data collection and analysis and making recommendations based upon their findings.
But the University Senate wants to better understand the plan before endorsing it. “We’re not opposed to shared services,” said Fred Walter, head of the University Senate. “We’re not opposed to change, we may be fearful of change when it’s not explained but we’ve realized that times have changed and we have to move forward.”