Hundreds protest UT ties with Accenture and job-cutting plan (UPDATED)

AUSTIN _ Hundreds of students and campus workers gathered Friday at the University of Texas Tower and marched in protest of a university plan to partner with global consulting and outsourcing firm Accenture that they said will cut 500 jobs and move hundreds more to an off-campus “shared services” center.

Citing the company’s “long and dark history” of issues ranging from data mining, underestimating costs, failed performance, and a host of states that have cut their ties to the company, protesters called on university leaders to halt the plan and cut ties with Accenture, which has been paid $4 million for its involvement in the program.

“I think it’s scary how involved UT is with this company that has repeatedly mismanaged what they’ve been hired to do, ” said Sydne Lea, a sophomore at UT. “Programs like Shared Services are meant to provide students less and lower quality services while we keep paying higher and higher tuitions.”

In a statement to KXAN on Monday, Feb. 10, UT officials said there is “no current contractual engagement of Accenture as of today” and defended its use of Accenture to help hammer out the logistics of implementing shared services.

“In April 2012, a group of external business leaders, later known as the Committee on Business Productivity, was recruited to draft a set of recommendations on how UT Austin could improve its business processes. One of their recommendations was to implement shared services,”UT Austin’s Vice President and CFO, Kevin Hegarty said. “Accenture was hired because the university did not have the shared services expertise nor the adequate permanent staffing to support the Committee’s research efforts. In April 2013, Accenture was hired to assist UT Austin with its internal research and planning of shared services. Because Accenture had significant experience with assisting other institutions of higher education in their planning and/or implementation of shared services and because they had supported the Committee’s recommendation that shared services be considered by the UT Austin campus, the UT administration felt it was appropriate to work with Accenture.”

In a news release distributed by the Executive Board of the Texas State Employees Union, critics cited numerous concerns about the company:

·In 2005, the state of Texas granted Accenture a $1 billion contract to run the food stamp and TANF eligibility program — but was forced to end its contract in 2007 after over a year of failed performance. This failed contract cost Texas taxpayers $243 million, and cost one Texas child his life.

·Numerous cities and states have been forced to cut contracts Accenture or sue the firm because of failed performance, including Colorado, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Colorado and Atlanta.

·University of Michigan alumni and graduate students wrote a report presenting evidence that the University’s continuing contractual relationship with Accenture threatens the financial viability and prestige of the school. The report outlines Accenture’s history of disastrous performance, and explains, “Accenture promises to save the public sector millions but fails to deliver or delivers services that are severely under par, resulting in irreparable damage to the public.”

“There are other avenues of cost savings beyond those proposed in the Shared Services plan, which has not even proven itself cost effective,” said Associate Professor of Communication Studies Dana Cloud. “Moreover, we must weigh serious costs beyond the financial—cuts to staff and services, the creation of a dehumanizing work environment—against the utilitarian goals of efficiency and cost effectiveness.”

From the release: “The Save Our Community Coalition fears that any continuing relationship with Accenture puts the University at risk. The Save Our Community Coalition, a UT and community-based group, are committed to putting pressure on the UT administration to protect UT as a place that values each community member, including hard-working and dedicated staff. The group is calling on Chancellor Cigarroa and President Bill Powers to terminate all current contracts with Accenture, and prevent any future relationships with the firm. “

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