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The errors of Campus Shared Services: We’re not making widgets

Sam Davis, professor emeritus, architecture | November 10, 2015

Placing 600 university employees on 4th Street was problematic from the beginning. There were and are other alternatives that would not only help the City of Berkeley, but also reinforce the position of staff as partners in the enterprise rather than back-of-the-house support.

Beginning in 2009-10 with a $3 million study by Bain & Company, the campus underwent an administrative reorganization under the name Operational Excellence. The intention was to combine administrative staffing thereby streamlining processes and procedures in order to save money. This effort led to Campus Shared Services (CSS) where individual units, schools, colleges and departments no longer employed and supervised certain support staff, but rather staffing was centralized and shared among several units.

To accommodate the more than 600 people in a single location the campus initially signed a 10-year lease on 1608 Fourth Street. Soon thereafter the University purchased the property for $24 million.

I voiced my concerns over this location when it was first announced. In my correspondence I cited the negative environmental impacts, the loss of an opportunity to economically support other areas of the city and the dissolution of staff as full partners in decision-making within units. The response was:

We would also have much preferred a location on campus or within walking distance of the campus, but no such space was available in the market.  We also looked at alternatives that were further away (Emeryville and Oakland), but rejected those as even less desirable alternatives.  The 4th Street location provided us the required amount of space in a safe neighborhood with good amenities.

Environmental impact

The 4th Street location undermines the campus green strategy. The North Berkeley BART station is 1.3 miles from CSS. There is a shuttle that runs from 6:40-9:20 AM and again from 4:10 – 6:10 in the afternoon, but none that runs from 4th Street to campus. More than half of those at CSS drive, 30 percent take BART. About 5 percent ride a bike. To its credit the administration has identified several ways to reach CSS, but unless you live in west Berkeley, walking is not among them. Walking is also not an option if you need to meet on campus.

The 4th Street building is not on the campus energy grid. It is independent. While there is a substantial flat roof and no obstacles to obscure the sun, no solar equipment was installed.

Campus Shared Services is adjacent to an asphalt processing plant. There have been recurrent calls to the EPA when the smell and soot are obvious, but the plant is in compliance. Cars arriving in the CSS parking lot have a dusting of soot within minutes.  This may explain the absence of solar panels as they would need to be cleaned constantly.

Economic impact

The university, as the city’s largest employer, has a responsibility to consider its impact on the local economy when making land use decisions. The few blocks of commercial 4th street where CSS is located represents nearly 7 percent of the sales tax revenue in the city. All of downtown, a much larger area only a block west of campus, is 10 percent. Berkeley is unusual in that 14 percent of sales tax is generated by restaurants whereas in most other cities the figure is 10 percent. Very few at CSS frequent the restaurants on 4th Street as they are expensive. The range of restaurant options in and around campus is much greater, and hundreds of employees would have a measurable impact on the economy of the area.

Staff as partners

A primary reason for working at the university is to contribute to its noble mission of educating future generations and creating new knowledge for the benefit of all. Separating the management and administration from its academic and intellectual enterprise undermines a main motivation for employees, creates a caste system, and limits collaborative problem solving. We are not making widgets.

Most of the work undertaken by CSS is transactional: travel occurs and payment is made; a person is hired; or a purchase is required. Before a transaction comes decision-making. It is within the decision-making context that staff make major contributions. Because staff know the mission and culture within a unit, they know what will work. Decision-making in the sciences is often different than in the humanities.

In my own field of architecture we learned this long ago. Large rooms filled with draftsman (yes, they were mostly men) detailed the creations of designers who worked independently often on separate floors. Now architects work in collaborative teams wherein design and production is a seamless and iterative process. By combining all aspects of the process there is no disconnect between intention and execution.

Another benefit of being on campus is the joy of seeing faculty, researchers and young scholars in the learning process. Those in academic units have the opportunity of working with students on a daily basis helping them navigate their programs. Just working around campus or sitting in a nearby café one can feel the energy and dynamism. No matter how pleasant the working environment may be, working miles away limits both the opportunity for an employee to participate in, and to experience, campus life.

Is CSS working?

It is unclear CSS is saving the money intended, but I doubt it is. While there may be fewer employees overall, this savings must be offset against the cost of purchasing and operating the new building. Before CSS most employees were in buildings already owned by the university. (It is also unclear to me how a campus with major funding problems has the resources to buy the building.)

Employees that remain within units are burdened with additional work either to interface with CSS or simply to do the work because that is more expeditious than dealing with CSS. Faculty are also doing some of the work once performed by departmental staff. Staff members now report to those outside of the units for which the work is done, so oversight is disconnected from the end user. Even with severe funding problems, some schools and colleges have reverted to hiring additional staff either to deal with CSS, or because CSS is not responsive to their needs.

Some of these problems may be growing pains. Change is always disruptive, and no one disputes that operations were inefficient. My concern, however, is that by being detached both physically and intellectually from the campus, CSS will ultimately become like any other operations center. People will be attracted to the jobs not because of the greater mission of the public university, but rather because of good working conditions and benefits. Many of our long-term loyal staff have already left. Like Silicon Valley, turnover will increase as bright young employees find more meaningful or lucrative work elsewhere. Recurrent budget problems that result in layoffs will also increase turnover and make staff less loyal to the campus.

Alternatives – existing buildings and vacant sites

The ultimate goal should be to bring staff back onto campus where they can once again be full partners. It is still critical to run efficiently by streamlining processes and operations using technology, but it is unnecessary to have an entire silo of people handling the transactions that can be done at the unit level.

While bringing staff back onto campus, it is unlikely all will once again populate individual schools, colleges, and departments. As is already the case, some of the CSS units have satellite groups on campus. Where will they go?

There are several sites already owned by the University near campus, including office buildings. The university owns the Golden Bear Building on University Avenue. This“Class-A” office building has 120,000 square feet (the same as 4th Street) much of which is occupied by UC functions such as University Extension. Not all the current occupants have the need for direct contact with campus units.

Similarly, the university owns 2850 Telegraph Ave. Once primarily occupied by Berkeley Law, it has vacant space. While not quite as near to campus or BART as the Golden Bear Building, it is walkable to campus and on the bus line. Warren Hall, just across the street from campus, is currently occupied by the controller’s offices and may not need to be in such close proximity. Rethinking space allocation, rather than adding new space, may be a more efficient solution.

University Hall will be available when the new School of Public Health building is completed on Shattuck at Hearst. The architecture of University Hall is undistinguished, but much could be done to improve the interiors. It was, after all, designed as an office building. Better still, it could be razed and a new structure housing not just CCS, but also other administrative and organized research units currently leasing space.

There is also campus-owned vacant or underutilized land. The site west of the new aquatics facility is an excellent site. It is relatively flat, close to BART and buses, across the street from campus, and near downtown.

Why were these alternatives not considered? Timing. The campus was so keen on moving forward that it only looked at existing office space. The short-term goal took precedence over any long-term planning that might help both Operational Excellence and the nearby campus community.

This is unfortunate as the university is in a unique position to make sound planning and design decisions with broad impact whereas most business entities do not. Uber locating to downtown Oakland was its business decision, and now the City of Oakland must try to compel Uber to be a good fit socially and not just economically.

The university also lost an opportunity to create a state-of-the-art workplace that features sound environmental and ecological features.

It’s not too late

The university can sell 1608 4th St. and, given the current real estate climate, make a good profit, then use this windfall to undertake any of these options.

Before the purchase of 1608, the campus was paying slightly over $2 per square foot each month and the building is approximately 120,000 square feet.  Rents throughout the Bay Area are increasing and the building has already been renovated, and as a result I would estimate the value of the building at $30-40 million.

Just as a comparison, Uber purchased its downtown Oakland building for $325/square foot and will add another $100/square foot to renovate. At $425/foot, 1608 4th St. would be worth $51 million. Not to get too crazy, but Salesforce purchased its Fremont building for $770/square foot, which would make 4th Street worth $92 million.

If the campus is intent on retaining the property, there are uses other than CSS. It could be converted into loft apartments for faculty. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, faculty recruitment is increasing difficult because of housing prices. The university needs to find innovative ways to overcome this obstacle.

A mission of a great university is to experiment and seek new knowledge. Failure is part of the learning process. It is clear that Campus Shared Services is less than expected.  We should learn from this and develop a system that works environmentally, economically, and socially.

Comments to “The errors of Campus Shared Services: We’re not making widgets

  1. I am also a retiree who had recently attempted to return to campus to fulfill a short time contract position. The entire process was met with missteps (junior css staff not being familiar with how to process me, delays, outright misquotes) and other issues too numerous to mention. Without a formal offer letter I finally walked away but made sure one of the directors knew what was going on

  2. I was a former Business Tech Analyst II at Haas and I loved my job and the people I worked with. I left before implementation of Shared Services because of Shared Services. I knew from the get-go that the whole plan would be inefficient and unworkable.

  3. I have been a university employee for a long, long, long time. Never in all my years has a Research Administrator 4, formally known as a _Assistant 3 or Administrative Specialist, received a new job and a raise of $20,000 annually. I can’t express how unprecedented this is. It’s also documented on the Web! A non-academic position, not supported by a union, has to fight for a 2% to 5% increase. with a likelihood of it never getting approved.

    I was shocked to discover that this was not just a one-time fluke. One time I could justify in my little brain as maybe this person had a master’s degree. It wasn’t once but it’s happened at least 5 additional times and all to research administrators in one Campus Shared Services team.

    Talk about being in the right place at the right time. See 2013 to 2014. Talk about clicks and I’ll get you promoted if you get me promoted.

    I have witnessed these new managers going from meeting to meeting, never sharing information with staff. Arriving to work at 10 a.m. and leaving at 3:30 p.m. for either another meeting or to just go home. Not being able to answer or solve the simplest problem. These problems range from customer issues, to financial overdrafts, to staffing problems. It has taken a group of more than 10 upper management 2 years to develop a job description for a position that has already existed for 255 employees as of 2014.

    We seem to be at a turning point. CSS has started to “trim the fat” from upper management. They are also trimming other support staff. CSS has been very tricky in the ways they have been hiring these poor people. New hires that would have been classified as union represented are all of the sudden no longer in that job classification. So these “suckers” now have no one to lean on for support.

    Don’t be fooled by the great Fourth Street location. This was a campus investment used to hide the layoffs. These people can picket all they want at Fourth Street but no one on campus knows. We are not affected. We find out maybe a week later that there was a strike, what for we don’t know.

    Now while customer service is still our mantra, management has kindly realized that they should also care for their employees. I wonder what employees? The ones at Fourth Street that now have double or triple the workload? The campus employees who are the face to the faculty who get yelled at because upper management is not handling “escalated” issues?

    I’m sad, disillusioned, and tired. In my naiveté I thought that if I worked hard there was a direction for me. I keep getting kicked in my bits by supervisors who ask me questions from someone else because they can’t answer. Who let their units fall and just shrug their shoulders, staring at me.

    CSS has a newsletter that comes out at least once a month. This month’s newsletter shares awards to employees for outstanding service, only 2. Employees who are in the spotlight (this is new), only 1 person in that section. Finally, two pages that highlight 28 farewells (resigned/layoff), and 7 welcomes (new hires).

    So that was nice…

  4. I am surprised at all the negative comments about CSS. Yes, there have been hurdles and obstacles. However, it is not time to throw the baby out with the bath water. I have faith in the CSS management team and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in seeing this reorganization completed and achieving savings and efficiency that was promised in the beginning. I want to thank Chancellor Dirks and VC Wilton for their steadfast support of CSS.

  5. There are pro’s and con’s working in the department and CSS. There is no growth working in departments, people are stuck at same job. People get treated the way department wants.

    Although CSS bring opportunities, but most of those has gone to outside hires and young ones. The outside folks didn’t have skills, experience, campus culture, knowledge and connection to UC mission. The environment is so small that they are intentionally stopping individual growth regardless of their performance. And situation is still the same after 3 years.

    Regardless of if you worked in departments or in CSS, the biggest problem is ethical leadership !! at all levels. Consultants can only suggest the strategy and change, but they are no good when it comes to operations, and UC is a big operation. We all are smart and can figure this out with consultant. Don’t spend dime on consultant, they learned from us.

  6. The concept of CSS is basically good (with tweaks), however campus does not want to run any of the business portions of their work in any sort of consistent manner.

    Faculty are amazing, which is why Berkeley is the number one public college in the world. However they are NOT experts at running payroll, managing HR, managing their funds, or many of the other services CSS provides. I’m honestly shocked that the University has existed this long without ending up in court or in the news.

    CSS will never be successful because no one on campus is willing to push back and say “this is how we’re going to run things – ONE way.” Every school at Berkeley wants things their own way and doesn’t care about following rules, regulations, or even laws half of the time.

    CSS tries to help limit the liability the campus faces, but is fought at every turn. CSS is crumbling and will ultimately fail, but campus puts themselves at a huge risk if they return to doing business like they did pre-CSS.

  7. The bottom line is that Cal upper management does not research the methods they take on, plows ahead, wasting millions of dollars for a system that is not better. They have already decided that its main workforce is expendable and just cheap labor. “They should work at Cal for the glory of UC Berkeley, but not expect to earn salary increases.”

    As a 14 year staff member I can say that working at Cal under these conditions is not an honor. Cal is not a good CORPORATION to work for any longer.

    CSS is an expensive mistake that campus will never admit to.

  8. I wrote a comment to one of the “monkey surveys” several years ago, bringing up the same points that Professor Davis does about 4th Street, especially the environmental issues and impracticality of what CSS was doing, moving people to such a location.

    It was dangerous to comment; it wasn’t received well. And it wasn’t going to go anywhere as long as I wasn’t faculty.

    Luckily, after 27 years of dedicated staff IT service, I “got out” just in time. I feel sorry for my longtime former coworkers who have given their careers to the University and have to endure this.

  9. As a current employee of Campus Shared Services, I am elated that Professor Davis came out to say everything that we all wish we could say. Unfortunately, open communication and transparency are not operating principles that they abide by. They don’t want to hear from their staff, they don’t care what the supervisors and managers have to say, they could care less how the people doing the “real work” feel. CSS is like fight club, we don’t discuss it.

    Campus Shared Services started off wrong by rushing through the planning stages and not speaking with the staff on the ground and embedded in the units. Having staff fill out a survey in regards to how much of their work was “shareable” was meaningless, since no one understood the consequences of filling out such nonsense.

    The next blunder was hiring a bunch of bonehead consultants who walk around asking people how they feel, almost like group therapy, except their feelings are just scribed onto a piece of paper and never addressed. The open working space at 4th Street is supposed to create an inclusive working environment, but it just creates distractions for the staff on the floor and fosters a cliquish environment.

    CSS has also beefed up their communications and process transformation group, which would have been a great idea. Unfortunately the communications are horrendous and prove to cause more angst for employees because they are never allowed to openly discuss these communications with directors or upper management.

    The process transformation group is a complete joke! Since CSS started, I haven’t seen one process transformed or improved. If someone thinks that it is valuable to have a person who makes in excess of $100k stand in front of a group of people to lead a brainstorming session in which nothing is accomplished, then all hope is lost. Getting rid of these two groups would probably save over a million dollars alone, if not more and allow for CSS to staff up accordingly in the areas in which it is flailing.

    There are a lot of good employees in Campus Shared Services. This includes ground level staff, supervisors and managers. The constant micromanagement of supervisors and managers has crippled their ability to do their jobs. Having functional directors and service directors is complete overkill, especially when it is still unclear what their actual role is. They are completely clueless to the actual work that needs to be done and lack the institutional or breadth of knowledge to accomplish such a goal, since many were not hired from within.

    In order for Shared Services to succeed, staff needs to be brought back to campus. Not only do staff need to be located near or on campus, they should be embedded in the units that they provide service to. This allows staff to focus on building relationships with their peers to accomplish their work and allows for the units to receive streamlined service.

    Next, the functional and service directors need to go. Let the people who know the work actually plan and implement the work. There are a lot of hard workers that would not mind putting in the effort to fix this, but unfortunately lack the motivation to do so when they see their friends and peers quitting and finding something better.

    When is this going to stop? John Wilton and his office have the opportunity to make this right.

  10. To be fair, CSS has not had enough time to prove whether or not their approved proposal is working in the best interest of the University, however this does not excuse the validity of the points raised by Prof. Sam Davis in this article. For perspective only, if this was sport, CSS looks like they are in the 3rd quarter of football game and they are loosing 21-54. My only hope is they have what it takes to come back and win the game. Otherwise this blunder could turn into CSS taking an L.

    As a former employee I must remind everyone that prior to CSS, things were not so great. There were several incompetent managers in charge of Organized Research Units (ORU) whom had questionable leadership practice and were draining Cal resources by grossly abusing their power as managers. Thus, I understood the need to re-organize and look for alternative ways to support the research mission of the university.

    This being said, what did CSS do? From what I recall CSS worked with those same incompetent managers to collect data to justify their future decision-making. Anyone engaged in research knows that the first question that one must ask is “how did you get your data?” This is a very important question because without accurate data you cannot successfully evaluate. Not one time did CSS staff contact employees directly engaged in in the work to obtain the data they needed with respect to identifying the real work that supports Principal Investigators (PIs). This common sense approach was overlooked and the work the staff was doing to support PIs was overlooked and assumed to be irrelevant. Such oversight has paved the way for CSS to be in their current position.

    If CSS would have dug deeper to get accurate data they may have had better metrics to support their decisions and organization effectiveness. They would have also had the opportunity to engage those who were doing the work as partners and provide them with more of any opportunity to contribute towards the future of CSS. Because CSS failed to do this and instead chose to rely on data provided by incompetent managers CSS has revealed their laziness to all now finds themselves in a position that’s equivalent to a PI having to ask their sponsor for approval to “re-budget” and for a No Cost Extension on their original proposal. I believe CSS now realizes that managing research is a lot more complicated than it seemed on paper and I hope they can figure out solutions that work and not further complicate the situation.

    CSS’s initial proposal failed to address their impact on morale. CSS like the former incompetent managers failed to realize that Research Administration is a delicate field that requires people with specialized skills. Any administrator who can handle their role and provide PIs with the support they need should be looked upon as partner and asset for the organization, but sadly, it is often the case that very talented administrators are often viewed as expendable and driven out by management who feels threatened by their skills. Having such a culture only leads to more and more blunders and does nothing to help facilitate an improved research culture on campus.

    I give CSS a another year and if they are still in this rut.. I’m sure heads will roll. One thing is for sure. Once the faculty unite and say, “We’ve had enough of this CSS OE busines” CSS will soon be a thing of the past. #GoCal

  11. Rehire process for retirees needs to be reviewed and improved. I could not believe what I and the hiring department went through this summer to get me back on campus (I retired in 2013 with 26 years of service).

    In early 2014 when I was rehired in a department that was not yet with CSS, the process was seamless. I was hired in three weeks time from offer, compared with three months this time.

    Multiple mistakes were made on my hiring contract. Then when I finally arrived at the “new employee on-boarding,” the UPAY 726 form designated me as a new employee with benefits (BELI 4 instead of BELI 5 – NO BENEFITS). This error would have been disastrous to my retirement and insurance benefits.

    Due to the problems getting processed, I started work that day and worked for three days before I could get my Cal Net ID token. I’m grateful to the hiring department HR for getting involved to correct the error.

    In 2013 I went to an HR workshop encouraging retirees to return to work and bring our value. Our institutional knowledge was desired. Now I’m not sure that is really the case – a very mixed message!

  12. I love this article but I would have liked to have seen an in-depth review – lots and lots of details – of how faculty view the services they now actually receive via Campus Shared Services, as a way to frame the question “Has CSS improved service?”

    I have many reactions to CSS but I want to call attention to three of them:

    (1) For all the good arguments that moving staff to Fourth Street did not improve anything, remember that underlying the shift to CSS conceptually and in reality has always been, first and foremost, to CUT ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS. This was stated publicly as the evolution of CSS got underway, but when it had a devastating effect on staff moral, this at-the-heart motivation got buried and replaced by the much more palatable, “improving services.”

    (1) In the early years we were told that over-budget spending in the early years to re-vamp the service systems would be quite acceptable, because central campus knew that the savings that would be obtained would offset early over-spending in the long run. Well, I don’t believe that has happened, and I would like to see accountability on this issue. How “over-spent” did CSS get to? What has been the dollar savings that supposedly has been generated by the structure? And, for the current day, why are there now BUDGET CUTS taking place in CSS?

    (2) I was more than horrified in the early years of CSS to see the new creation of level upon level of middle management. The “process maps” I was privy to seeing gave me no confidence that CSS understood what was needed in terms of core services. The middle-management positions seemed useless and irrelevant (one example would the the “functional directors”, if one would like to delve into the categories). I would like to know:

    (a) What was the budget-dollar ratio of spending between core service staff and management personnel, before CSS? In the early years of CSS when all the new structure, and a multitude of middle-management positions were set in place, what then was the ratio of budget dollars between core staff and management?

    (b) In the budget cuts now under way, what is the ratio of dollars between core service staff and middle management positions?

    I fear that deep answers to these questions would climb to the highest ranks of UC administration, which has a vested interest in maintaining itself. Never a good thing.

  13. The only one who has gained anything from this boondoggle of an organizational misadventure is Bain and Co. It’s positively bainful.

  14. As a ground-level staff member, I can verify that the supposed cost savings of consolidating functions, particularly timekeeping and financial functions, is offset in our department by the considerable amount of work we now have to do to prepare requests for CSS. And I believe our department is then charged by CSS for many of these services.

    Even if we were making widgets, splitting teams up into specialties and separating them is counterproductive, as the author illustrates in his comments on collaboration in this field of architecture. Great piece.

  15. Many of us have said the same things for years. Especially in HR where human connections are important. You can not cut up HR work and turn it into an assembly line!

    Where one person once handled a new hire from initial request to the face-to-face onboarding, which kept continuity and a personal touch, now 5 to 8 people might be involved in that “transaction” and the mass hire sessions are led by someone who has just received a “ticket” to hire that person and has no connection. The pressure to close tickets quickly or game the system to satisfy metrics has replaced what previously had been for some of us an intrinsically rewarding prospect of recruiting and hiring a great staff person to add to a beloved department — or working with a postdoc to get a visa and being the first person to welcome and orient them to UCB.

    Not only is this less productive, less intrinsically rewarding, but they’ve also made the jobs incredibly boring. One person who may have formerly sat in their office in their department and answered questions, hired people, procured visas, recruited staff, updated HR records and done some filing – now does their one assembly line task ALL day. I don’t mind filing away a folder at the end of the hiring process or updating an HR record to give someone a raise when it is one of many steps of a process — but filing or typing ALL DAY? Is it any wonder why there is constant turnover??

    You are correct that banishing staff from the campus they support lessens people’s connection to the campus. I saw the artificial division of labor into “thinkers” and “doers” create a class system and more dissatisfaction. I saw people who loved their departments become disenchanted and leave UCB altogether after many years of dedicated service.

    When you speak about environments, another consideration of how unproductive an open workspace is. There have been multiple studies to prove this, and yet the attempt to cram hundreds of HR employees into one open floor led to greater dissatisfaction and much less productivity (and not just from those losing an office with a view of the Campanile moved into a big cattle pen – but an actual disruption in work due to noise and distractions).

    Furthermore, the reliance on highly paid outside consultants who do not understand how Berkeley works, who think only in short-term, and who do not have UCB’s best interests at heart — but want to come in and tell us all how to do our work is aggravating. We have intelligent analysts who have worked at UCB for many years. They can and have offered analysis and opinions that are more realistic, long-term and in Berkeley’s best interests… not some generic model they learned in Business school or that works for corporations, but not non-profits.

    I’ve been at UCB long enough to see that there is a pendulum. When I came to campus, HR and Payroll were centralized. I was part of the big change of decentralization (and saw many benefits in our department). Then came the next swing, back to centralizing (and moving off campus). My hope is that we can hunker through this latest administrative move until we can swing the pendulum back towards the a more balanced approach. (Though with UCPath center looming for all 10 campuses, I fear the problem will just become 10 times worse before anything is done).

  16. I’m one of the staff members housed at 4th street, and I absolutely concur with this argument. When I’ve expressed concern over the push to make faculty and other academics bear more of the administrative burden, rather than doing everything I can to assist them the way I did when I worked in a department, I’ve been told again and again that we all just need to adjust to a more efficient, corporate way of working. It’s really disturbing to feel like the decisions about administration are being made by people who are only looking at the financial bottom line, and ignoring the real mission of the University.

    Furthermore, it seems to me that separating the staff from the campus has not only created an underclass, it has created an underclass to which far too many faculty members feel entitled to be uncivil. When I worked in a department, I had relationships with my faculty – we saw each other, chatted about lunch and vacations and kids. Now I’m just a disembodied voice on the other end of a telephone or e-mail, and faculty seem to be more prone to forgetting that I’m a human being. The level of rudeness directed at me and my colleagues seems to me to have increased significantly.

    If working here is no different from working at a private corporation, aside from the lower pay, we’re going to have a difficult time attracting and retaining good staff, something that I’m already seeing. All in all, we should stop throwing good money after bad, and bring staff back where we belong.

  17. People keep hearing “give them more time…” Time equals money. And for departments that are already teetering on bankruptcy, due to the CSS fees imposed on them, the planned budget cuts, and the additional staff time spent checking and tracking work submitted through CSS, they don’t have a lot of time. Every month, departments watch their discretionary fund balances go down in order to support the CSS mission. Move the staff back to campus and embed them in the departments!

  18. When I started work on the campus in the Graduate Division — then in Sproul Hall — in 1967 as a “Foreign Student Specialist,” I worked with a group of smart, dedicated staff members — many of them veterans of the FSM who were committed to the University and its mission. And although often critical — we felt strongly we were part of a community. The Shared Services idea has been a great disappointment and, I believe, a loss for the campus. I do hope it can be reversed as you suggest.

  19. CSS staff has already been told that lay-off is imminent, so your question of “is CSS working?” – the answer is NO – they have a large deficit and now need to cut from the bottom and charge more to departments to clear their deficit … whoever thought of this is probably laughing their head off to the bank! They won’t say it’s a failure because they LOVE to hire outside consultants, make these big huge decisions and then say “oops, let’s hire more consultants to fix this!”

    • Yvette: The reason for outside consultants is that they objectively analyze the problem and suggest solutions with impartiality. In the early stages of Operational Excellence, it was suggested that we could have the existing faculty and staff to provide solutions. Chancellor Birgineau rightfully pointed out that faculty and staff were too close to Cal to provide an objective analysis. I am sure that VC Wilton and the CSS management team have the best interests of UC Berkeley at heart. I don’t think they are bringing outside consultants unless absolutely necessary. We need to give them more time.

      • incredibly naive, and quite the contrary: “a consultant starts by offering a ‘solution’ and creates a problem” (nassim taleb)

      • Are you serious?

        You think all of this is just dandy and they just need more time. Sure, after they layoff 200 staff at 4th street, union bust and run on a budget in the red.

        You must be getting something out of this, and not one of the staff that is hurt by being pushed off campus and later laid off. You sound like one of the managers whose job is secure.

  20. Give John Wilton and the CSS management team more time. Rome was not built in a day. They will achieve the goal of reducing administrative expenses and let the Faculty do their job of research and teaching.

    • Wilton et al. have had five years to produce dysfunctional administrative services and a structural deficit of $160 million. Faculty antipathy to CSS is unambiguous. How much more time do you want to give these people?

      • Good question. Why should we be convinced it will get better? Outside consultants may offer an objective view, but they lack the experience of understanding the campus culture. They do their consultation and then leave everyone in the dust.

        In the beginning when CSS was announced, there were various meetings with CSS where staff and faculty were allowed to give feedback. Any criticism was met with judgment that those people were resistant to change. Staff were promised by CSS that the connection to campus would continue, as they would make daily shuttles available all day, so staff could participate in the many benefits campus has to offer: lectures, the library, concerts, recreational facilities.

        That never happened and the shuttles that are there are for CSS staff to get to work. CSS staff who have to meet on campus need to find their own way to campus and at their own expense. Other promises were made that still, after many years, have not come to fruition. CSS staff are under the threat of layoffs; they are applying for jobs on campus in droves to get out of Fourth Street, and they are being deprived of the ability to learn from their co-workers in a department to understand the flow and mission of academia.

        Never have staff both at CSS and on campus been more demoralized. The relationships created between staff and faculty and students is invaluable and one of the reasons why many long-time staff members have stayed loyal to their departments.

      • How much more time do you want to give these people? This question was posed by a Cal Professor. I say 3 more years. If things don’t improve significantly, then think about a plan B.


      • I totally agree with you! CSS was a big mistake. They can sell the building and bring staff back to the campus where they belong. I’m a retiree and worked for 18 years and love to interact with students, professors, and co-workers in the campus. I felt like CSS is alienated from the campus.

  21. Are you active with the city of Berkeley regarding the architecture of the proposed projects that are in the process of approval by the city? some of the new bldgs are ugly.

  22. As a retired staff person I love, love this piece and I agree with you completely.

    When I started work on the campus in the Graduate Division — then in Sproul Hall — in 1967 as a “Foreign Student Specialist,” I worked with a group of smart, dedicated staff members — many of them veterans of the FSM who were committed to the University and its mission. And — although often critical — we felt strongly we were part of a community. The Shared Services idea has been a great disappointment and, I believe, a loss for the campus. I do hope it can be reversed as you suggest.

  23. A wise and considered argument. Hard to imagine the case for continuing to exile 600 staff from the campus they serve (other than not wanting to lose face by admitting a mistake). I would imagine many have become alienated from the campus and their work.

    This deserves an equally thoughtful response from UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Real Estate Bob Lalanne. Let’s hear from you Bob.

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