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Fight Against Shared Services Plan Continues

Protesters of UT's proposed implementation of share services into its operations held a press conference on Jan. 30, calling for the university to end its relationship with Accenture.

Members of the Save Our Community Coalition held a press conference to urge officials at The University of Texas at Austin to end their relationship with Accenture, a management consulting, technology and outsourcing firm hired to give recommendations in constructing the university’s shared services project.

The press conference was held Jan. 30 in front of the steps of the UT tower.

Shared services, a subset of the “Systems for a Greater UT” initiative President Powers announced January of last year, is one of the ways UT plans to consolidate finance, personnel, information technology and purchasing functions currently scattered among various departments.

According to the coalition, which formed in January of 2013, Accenture has a “blemished” track record which includes a long, and dark history of overestimating savings and underestimating costs, fraud, defective pricing schemes, misappropriation of trade secrets, bid-rigging, illegal harvesting of IP data from its clients and failed contracts with several states, including one with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

“Accenture’s track record speaks for itself and gives us ample reason to be concerned for our university,” Save Our Community Coalition organizer and Plan II junior Bianca Hinz-Foley said. “It confuses me that despite overwhelming faculty, staff, and student concern, the administration continues to align itself with Accenture at the expense of the UT community.”

UT Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty told The Horn that he is confident that the Accenture employees working for the university are dependable.  

“When we engage consultants, we engage people with expertise, not a brand,” Hegarty said. “Our people have real life experience.”

According to Hegarty, though Accenture executives are advising the Shared Services Steering Committee on the best course of action, they are not voting members of the committee. The committee was created to better represent the interests of the community throughout the creation and implementation of shared services at UT.

Hegarty, who is commmitte’s chair, told The Horn that he is open to meeting with the group to address their concerns.

“I met with them three times during the summer; they didn’t like my answers,” Hegarty said. “I volunteered to meet with them again, they refused.”

Sophia Poitier, a UT student and coalition member, confirmed that Hegarty met with the coalition, but said a meeting with UT president Bill Powers is their main goal.

“We’ve asked to meet with President Powers multiple times -a request that has been denied,” Poitier said.

Hegarty said that the opinions of the coalition do not align with that of the majority of the campus which, according to Hegarty, has “embraced” shared services. He said despite opposition, adopting a shared services model is in the best interest of the university and its community.

“We need to be more like a business in our efficiency so we can reinvest that money in academia and research,” Hegarty said.

Both sides have yet to reach a consensus and are moving forward with their plans. Hegarty, who has just concluded a series of more than 40 campus dialogue sessions with various groups, hopes to have his recommendations to Powers in February. The Save Our Community Coalition will hold their next rally on Feb. 7, and is expecting an attendance of about 300 students from across the country. The group is collecting signatures from students for an online petition against shared services.   

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