Dear LSA Faculty and Staff,

I’m writing to you about a range of issues related to the Administrative Services Transformation (AST) project. 

I want to thank those of you who have expressed your thoughts in person, over email, or by phone. Over the last few weeks, I have heard numerous questions and concerns regarding affected staff members, faculty and staff morale, the voice of faculty members in important university decisions, and the work processes post-AST within your departments and programs.  I hear and understand these concerns. This process is painful and difficult for everyone in the College — and especially so for those who will be leaving their current positions and those who work closely with them.  

My goal in writing to you is to continue a conversation regarding how we as a College can move forward most constructively.

First, I hope that all of you have seen the message that Provost Martha Pollack and Executive Officers Tim Slottow and Royster Harper sent Thursday afternoon, notifying the university community that there will be no staff lay-offs in the move to the Shared Services Center. I thank Martha, Tim, and Royster for sharing this important news. In my view, this was the most urgent of all the concerns that have been raised regarding AST, and it is tremendously reassuring that our staff will continue to have a place within the university.

Second, as AST proceeds, we in the college will be working closely with every affected unit during the transition to support those staff members who will be moving to the shared services center. Both the AST group and the LSA Dean’s Office are working to provide additional resources to the staff during the transition. We also are committed to working with you to help determine the best ways to continue to carry out the tasks that need to be done within your departments, programs, and centers. There will be a governance board for AST, and I expect that LSA will have active representation on that board to ensure that we are served well under the new approach to HR and finance. We have much work ahead of us, and I hope I can count on you to help with this process.

Third, I wish to reaffirm my commitment to consulting with and including you in decisions that affect your work and well-being at the University. This includes AST, but other issues as well. We have a tradition of shared faculty governance in the College. We also have a long history of engagement with the voices and advice of our staff members. These qualities are part of what makes LSA a truly extraordinary place to work. In this vein, I would welcome an opportunity for us to talk together about AST, including our processes within LSA. I wish to hear your concerns, but also to communicate with you any information that we have available. This will be essential as we move through this process. In the next few weeks, I plan to schedule a special faculty meeting to discuss AST, as well as a special meeting with the Key Administrators. I am also committed to continue conversations with LSA Chairs and Directors in the weeks to come.  I would also welcome your ideas for other ways to engage.

Finally, I wish to emphasize that, as important as AST is to all of us right now, we have a great deal of other important work to do this year, especially in this time of transition between deans. During this year, we must continue to work on the vast array of issues that are central to the academic mission of the College, including all of our research and educational activities. Some of the pressing issues for this year include continuing conversations about diversity and climate on campus, as well as the impact of online education in the college and in the academy — in addition to our ongoing work of faculty hiring, tenure and promotion, budget planning for next year, planning for major building projects in LSA, and more.

I have been interim dean for only 11 weeks, and AST has been by far the most difficult and time-consuming issue I have faced in this time — and rightly so. I understand that this process is an enormous challenge for all of us. At the same time, the goal of AST is to help address a very real problem that the University faces: to maintain an affordable and high quality education for our students in the face of dramatically declining support from the state. We have a stewardship obligation to protect and support the academic mission of the schools and colleges, and this reasonably includes efforts to reduce administrative costs over time.   

Despite the problems and difficulties that AST has presented to date, it is my hope and goal that we can work together through the AST transition as smoothly and responsibly as possible, going forward.

Thank you for your deep commitment to the College and University.  

Sincerely,

Susan Gelman

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