Company advertisements are not facts: A response to the Daily Texan

On November 15th Daily Texan columnist Chris Jordan’s article appeared criticizing mine and Cloud’s guest column on the implementation of Shared Services at UT. There are a number of issues with this article, however, given that Jordan is a Daily Texan columnist I will focus on those that bear directly on issues of accuracy and journalistic integrity.

The article claims that mine and Cloud’s piece is “ill-informed” and “dangerous”. One of our criticisms was that the implementation of Shared Services lacked transparency, which is what Jordan takes issue with.

We criticized the administration for not disclosing the research in the Final Report on Business Productivity on which the Shared Services recommendation is based. Accenture was paid $960,000 of UT’s money to help produce that research and thus we think it fair that the public should have access to it and so that it can be assessed by the entire campus community.

Jordan completely misses this point, but proceeds to counter-pose our argument with what he calls “facts”. He claims that Shared Services “is a tested supply-chain optimization plan which has been successfully implemented, not only by Accenture, [sic] in many other public and private institutions, including Yale, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill”[1], but fails to discuss any of the results of these tests. In particular the complaints from Yale and University of Michigan are not even brought up [2]. Furthermore, the first part of the statement is practically plagiarized from an Accenture brochure and not based on independent research [3].

His two other sources for attacking the lack of transparency are quotations from the chief financial officer of UT, Kevin Hegarty, and the vice president for finance at the University of Michigan Rowan Miranda, a former executive with Accenture. Allegedly Mr. Hegarty said “I want to see the detail, I want to see what backs it up,” in response to the recommendations of the committee on Business Productivity.

But this is in direct contradiction to what Mr. Hegarty has maintained about the data at the Town Hall meeting on October 30th ; “I didn’t want the committee’s information, the committee didn’t offer it and we didn’t want it” [4]. He was asked the same question at the Graduate Student Assembly and maintained that he was not interested in the data [5].

Jordan also claims that UT has constructed focus groups to talk about Shared Services, but then fails to describe what these focus groups discuss or whether they have any meaningful input. He appears to have made no attempt to find a single UT staff member, student or faculty member that participated in one of these focus groups (I was one). The only people who are quoted are Mr. Hegarty and Mr. Miranda, a former executive for Accenture [6]. In actual fact these focus groups answered questions in the manner of the recent “town hall” meetings, but they had nothing to do with gathering data.

It is embarrassing to see that Jordan’s column was not vetted for factual accuracy and that the Daily Texan has such an Orwellian stance on what constitutes a fact. Sadly, most of the article quibbles irrelevantly with definitions (I am not convinced Jordan has any idea what is meant by “corporatization” when used by the “opposition” he derides) [7]. Plagiarized company advertisements and contradictory quotations from administrators tasked with implementing Shared Services could be called a lot things, but not “facts”, if words have meaning.

Adam J Tallman

[1] Chris Jordan, “Plan to eliminate jobs is not about corporatization”, Daily Texan http://www.dailytexanonline.com/opinion/2013/11/15/plan-to-eliminate-jobs-at-ut-isnt-about-corporatization-%E2%80%94-its-about-affordability

[2] The protests and agitation coming from Michigan are growing daily; The Michigan Daily, http://www.michigandaily.com/article/sacua-meeting, http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/11viewpoint-share-government-shared-services18http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/11daily-shared-services18,

Inside Higher Ed; http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/21/u-michigan-tries-save-money-staff-costs-meets-faculty-opposition#ixzz2lLF9knax,

A petition has been made at the University of Michigan to remove the very ex-Accenture executive that Chris Jordan relies on as his primary source, due to conflict of interest http://studentunionofmichigan.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/the-university-of-michigan-accenture-and-shared-servicesast/

Yale Daily News http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2012/02/24/shared-services-creates-conflict/

http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2012/02/08/shared-services-under-fire/

[3] Achieving High Performance in the Energy Industry, Accenture p. 8

http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-Services-Achieving-High-Performance-Energy.pdf

[4] Podcast of the Townhall meeting; Hegarty makes that exact statement at approximately 39:00

http://mediasite.aces.utexas.edu/UTMediasite/Play/b906091f708f416db977e79d79e4957d1d

[5] For the GSA podcast please the following link. Look for the meeting on October 30th

http://www.livestream.com/utgsa

[6] http://www.finance.umich.edu/about/elt/rowan-Miranda

[7] Jordan makes a big deal out of the “opposition”‘s conflation of outsourcing with insourcing (Shared Services). The conflation was never made in mine and Dana’s article. Students protested outsourcing in response to the Final Report of the Committee for Business Productivity which does mention outsourcing as an option multiple times, however this is a different issue. Jordan should do a better job trying to understand the actual position of the groups he critiques before making such incorrect and sweeping claims. Just as well, he cites no literature from the opposition and takes up none of their arguments.

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