In last meeting with Senate Assembly, Coleman addresses diversity and AST concerns

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University President Mary Sue Coleman at her final Senate Assembly meeting on Monday. Buy this photo

By Andrew Almani, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 27, 2014

In her final Senate Assembly meeting, University President Mary Sue Coleman addressed a multitude of faculty concerns, including the implementation of the Shared Services Center, employee wages and diversity at Palmer Commons Monday.

The University is in the process of implementing a variety of cost-cutting initiatives, including the controversial Administrative Services Transformation, a cost-cutting initiative which includes the implementation of the Shared Service Center that will consolidate some University departmental staff in a central location.

In terms of its expenditures, Coleman said the University is much larger than most other public higher education institutions. She cited the University of California – Berkeley’s budget of $2.1 billion — a much smaller amount than the University’s $6.1 billion budget — as an example from a similar highly ranked public institution.

Coleman added that the overarching University of California system performs many of the administrative tasks at Berkeley that the University has to perform autonomously on campus.

“It is not apples to apples to look at the scope of work, the span of control, of individuals work on the Berkeley campus and the Michigan campus,” Coleman said.

Coleman said it is important to limit growth and taper spending.

“We know we’ve got to stay affordable and accessible, she said.

While members of the faculty have voiced opposition to the University’s consolidation efforts, Coleman said the plan affects her as well.

“My own staff in my office has been cut significantly, almost cut in half,” Coleman said. “We’ve consolidated our activates, we’ve asked people to do more, we’ve given people in the office more span of control, and we’ve paid them more.”

Thom Madden, senior projects director of the AST, also spoke to SACUA about the implementation of the Shared Services Center. Madden came into his role after the former leader Rowan Miranda, associate vice president for finance, stepped down from his role.

“I believe in this, I truly believe this is an appropriate and strategic decision for the University of Michigan,” Madden said.

The University hired Accenture, LLP, a Chicago-based consulting firm, for $11.7 million to plan and help carry out the transition process. Miranda previously worked for the firm, which raised concerns among faculty due to speculation that there may be a conflict of interest in his involvement.

Miranda announced on Jan. 21 he will leave the University to become the treasurer and senior associate vice president for finance and administration at the University of Chicago.

Before the holiday season, there was some concern that faculty and staff input wasn’t being considered in the move to the center. Madden said this would not be the case.

“Certainly it was important for us before the holidays to take a step back, look at exactly we were in the process, and reevaluate what an appropriate path forward will look like in order to ensure the success of this project,” Madden said. “We will continue to look for engaged advisers, whether they be staff or faculty … this is a collaborative effort, and from my perspective there is nothing off the table.”

During a question-and-answer session, Coleman was asked about diversity on campus, with specific focus on the declining acceptance rate for Black students.

Since its conception in November, the BBUM campaign has garnered national attention as members used the Twitter hashtag to share experiences of racial injustice at the University. After witnessing student response to the campaign, University Provost Martha Pollack announced a series a new initiatives that the University will pursue to increase minority enrollment and retention on campus.

“I was deeply distressed about the student campaign,” Coleman. “It was very painful to listen to because it is our collective responsibility to make this a welcoming place for everybody. I think we’re going to have renewed effort, we’ve opened a dialogue with students to figure out in a concrete way what we can do.”

Coleman concluded her comments on diversity by assuring the Senate that her successor, University President-elect Mark Schlissel, Brown University’s provost, will be committed to making progress.

“I know that Mark Schlissel cares about this issue deeply, he and I talked about it. He had some of the same issues at Berkeley. I want to, in my last six months, do everything I can; I think we all should.”