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University chooses new leader for shared services initiative

By Sam Gringlas, Daily News Editor
Published December 11, 2013

The University announced Wednesday that Thom Madden, the University’s director of sponsored programs, will replace Rowan Miranda, associate vice president for finance, as the leader of the shared services initiative.

Madden will now serve as the chief architect behind the implementation of shared services, a component of the Administrative Services Transformation Project designed to centralize 275 department-level staff in a principal service center.

University faculty, staff and students have raised concerns about Miranda during the past month because of his previous employment with Accenture LLP, a Chicago-based consulting firm that the University hired to facilitate the shared services implementation. The Accenture contract is worth $11.7 million.

In a statement, Timothy Slottow, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said Madden has worked closely with departments and faculty on financial reporting of research grants, making him a strong candidate for the position.

“Thom Madden is in an excellent position to lead the next phase of this initiative,” Slottow said.

In orchestrating the leadership transition, Slottow said Miranda’s focus was needed elsewhere as the University of Michigan Health System begins steps to acquire Jackson-based health system Allegiance Health. The statement also said Miranda will focus his attention on the next wave of cost cutting related to procurement costs and the selection of the University’s next treasurer.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Miranda’s previous position at Accenture and the resulting faculty outcry had no influence on the change in leadership.

“As you know, he wasn’t a part of the selection of Accenture,” Fitzgerald said. “It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with this project moving into a different phase. As associate vice president, he has a very broad area of responsibility and needs to focus his attention on other areas.”

He added that the transition comes at a time when the initiative’s strategy has refocused on seeking additional faculty input and a more inclusive implementation process.

“At this point, we’ve essentially turned the corner for getting the important input in exactly what form to move forward,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s gone from conceiving the shared services initiative to the best form for implementation.”

The transition in leadership comes only a few days after about 50 students, faculty and staff, many of them members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, Lecturers’ Employee Organization and the Student Union of Michigan, marched from Rackham Auditorium to the Fleming Administration Building to deliver a letter to Miranda.

The letter included a satirical job application indicating that Miranda would need to re-interview in order to maintain his job — referencing the University staff members who will have to re-interview for positions in the shared services center.

Business junior Sumana Palle, a SUM organizer, said the University’s decision to replace Miranda is almost certainly a reaction to recent faculty and student uproar. Palle said she does not believe the timing of the University’s announcement was coincidental.

“They thought maybe if we get rid of this particular person the protests will die,” Palle said.

However, Palle said Miranda’s departure from overseeing the shared services transition does not translate into a total victory. She said faculty and students are still have broader concerns with AST, such as the University’s approach to cost-cutting and failure to gather input outside of Fleming.

“This is not an overall success,” Palle said. “This is a very small victory in the fight against what is going on at the University.”

Palle said SUM plans to continue their fight against AST in low-key forms such as letter writing or seminars as well as public demonstrations. Protest, she said, garner attention and educate the campus community as well as show administrators the presence of vocal and widespread dissent.

Additionally, Palle said the University should have acknowledged faculty and student concerns as the cause of AST’s leadership transition.

“That comes off as very uncaring at a time when you have to show staff who are very angry with you that you genuinely care,” she said.