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February 12, 2014 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-02-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8B Ensday February12,2014 The Statement

From Pages 4B-5B

A decade ago,Colemancalled for
the creation of an advisory board to
channel input from staff members
to the University administration.
Today, Voices of the Staff is a
organization composed of 120
volunteer members who serve on
smaller project teams to advise the
University's administrators and
build relationships across units.
Tim Kennedy, a. Building
Automation Systems manager, has
been with the University for 26
years and has spent the last nine
involved with Voices.
"Its membership represents a
microcosm of the University so it
really brings in staff from the four
corners of the institution to work
collaboratively on issues that are
most important to staff," Kennedy
In a bright office on the sixth
floor of the Ross School of Business,
Mary Ceccanese, research process
coordinator at the Office of Tax
Policy Research, lights up when
she talks about her participation
experience with the group.
As part of this role on Voices,
Ceccanese helped a business school
professor compile presentations
related to positive workplace
cultures. Soon, Ceccanese started
doing the trainings herself. Now,
she's frequently requested to run
sessions for units across campus,
which often include improvisation,
videos and hands-on activities.
"This has literally changed my
life," Ceccanese said. "Now this
has kicked off almost like a whole
new career for me. Every day, I get
up now and I'm absolutely ecstatic
about what I get to do."
Ceccanese said participation in
Voices not only provided a forum to
influence change at the University,
but also empowerment for staff
members trying to learn and grow
personally and professionally.
"I've become more creative,
more empowered," Ceccanese said.
"I've taken on projects in our office
I never would have dreamed of. I'm
not afraid to take a chance - to try
something new."
Snakebit: The shared services
While Tyler, Rollins and
Ceccanese had few complaints
regarding the University's
treatment of its employees, the
past four months have been
particularly straining for staff in
many of the University's academic

Since the University rolled out
the shared services initiative, the
administration has been intensely
criticized for its failure to consult
faculty or staff during most stages
of the process. Shared services - a
component of the Administrative
Services Transformation Project -
will relocate 275 department-level
human resource and finance staff
to a central services center. It is
expected to save about $5 million
In the fall, 19 LSA department
chairs signed a letter to Coleman
and Provost Martha Pollack
voicing concerns about the
project's equity and transparency.
The letter criticized the University
for implementing the project with
"an aura of secrecy," which caused
anxiety among members of the
staff worried about layoffs and
A petition authored by
Engineering Prof. Fawwaz Ulaby,
which gained the signatures of
1,100 University faculty members,
questioned the efficacy of the
model as a way to reduce costs.
Departments also sent a slew of
letters to administrators contesting
the process.
In response, the University
convened a series of meetings
and committees to seek input, but
Coleman has said the University
remains committed to the
History Prof. Brian Porter-
Sztcs said what's most alarming
about the initiative is the broader
cultural change, both at the
University and nationally, where
public institutions are beginning
to adopt corporate models of
organizing their employees.
"Instead of seeing employees as
part of an organization, (staff) are
more perceived as interchangeable
parts on an almost factory model,"
Porter-Szfcs said. "Once you do
that, they are then cheaper and you
have at least on a superficial level a
savings of cost."
Porter-Szics said he deems
the cost savings artificial because
they lead to higher turnover, lower
morale and lower productivity.
"I can't tell you how many times
I have walked past the department
offices after working late, and the
lights are still on," he said. "These
are people who are working like
professionals; they are working
like people who are dedicated to
the task of making our department
as successful as it can be. You start
treatingthose people as replaceable

parts who can be moved off site
- if you create that culture- I'd
like to see how many of them
will ever stay late."
HistoryProf. MarisVinovskis
said the shared services rollout
revealed an indifference to the
staff he had never seen before at
the University.
"This used to be a University
I could be proud of the way we
handled our staff," Vinovskis
said, "Today, it isn't. Now, my
hope is this is an anomaly. We
all make mistakes. We all can
do better. But the way it was
handled revealed a side of a
University I wouldn't want to
be proud of, I'm not even sure
I'd want to be part of."
Since the uproar last
semester, the University has
attempted to make-good in
light of the troubled rollout.
Pollack and other officials
involved in the initiative
have vowed to improve
communication and include
faculty and staff in the
In an interview with
The Michigan Daily, Laurita
Thomas, associate vice
president for human resources,j
said staff are ready to move on. 4
"Any change is going to get a
range of reactions and it was clearI
to me as I talked to the 244 that
were impacted by shared services
there was a range of emotions,"
Thomas said. "There was huge
concern (but also) there was huge
excitement among the staff." I
When asked to characterize
the University's communication or
planning related to the initiative,
Thomas deferred, saying, "We
should look forward."
But for Kathleen King, the
History Department's graduate
services coordinator, and other
department-level staff members,
the pain does not subside so quickly.
The pain stems not only from
losing a colleague - whose office
will no longer bustle with students
and faculty wandering in and out
- but also from the broken trust
between staff and the University's
King compares the situation
to a snakebite, a term she learned
during her days as a consultant in
the oil and gas industry.
"No amount of effort is going to
fix this. It's a dry hole," she said.
Vinovskis and Porter-Szucs said
they were more optimistic about
the University's ability to mend the

relationship between staff, faculty staff mc
and the administration. Both said Thoi
new University leadership and conceiv
President-elect Mark Schlissel of staff
would need to steer away from experie
top-down governance, rather than "We
simply improving communication. sight, s
King, however, isn't so sure any offices,
efforts can fix what's already been window
broken. sure yoi
"Time will pass, memories know t
will fade, people will retire," King do, the
said. "People will leave and go membe
elsewhere. Overtime, it will just cure for
become something we've always the crea
done. In terms of recovering what are sur
we had, I don't think it can happen. our bu
I think it just has to fade away." said. "Il
The invisible participants make ai
As t
While many department- celebral
level staff members have felt plenty
marginalized by the shared alumni
services project, their feelings are begin
likely compounded by a tradition Univers
that has failed to include staff pulling
members in the story of the the edF
University's success. century
James Tobin, a former Detroit Butl
News reporter who has written staff ir
extensively about the University's than of
history, said apart from a few facades
character studies of quirky in East1
University staff members in the and in,
early 19th century, the historical there -

record has often
forgotten the stories of
"The staff members
have been the invisible
participants in the
University's history," he
However, it seems
the University has
taken notice of its
historical oversight.
Recently, University
officials launched
"Stories of the Staff," an
online platform for the
community to share the
impact of Univeresity
mas said the project was
ed to showcase the role
in shaping the University
're trying to create a line of
o the person who cleans the
the person who washes our
vs, the person who makes
ur paycheck is accurate, can
hat in doing the work they
y are supporting a faculty
r that's going to discover a
cancer, they are supporting
tivity ofa chemist,that they
porting the innovation of
siness professors," Thomas
f people can see and feel and
e difference they make, they
n even bigger difference."
he University prepares to
te its bicentennial in 2017,
of professors, historians,
and administrators will
combing through the
ity's collective memory,
out tidbits of the past on
ge of the University's next
thestoriesofthe University's
habit less tangible places
fficial histories or building
. The stories of the staff live
Quad and Markley, on buses
classrooms. The stories are
they just need to be found.


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