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COUNCIL Partial Coverage of the October 15 Meeting

Action to Change the Quorum...Discussion of Outsourcing and of Alcohol and Civility

Although the University Council in its advisory role seldom votes formally, it is required to do so in order to change its own bylaws--and under the bylaws a quorum is required before a vote can be taken on a change of bylaws. At least one bylaw change had been tabled repeatedly last year for lack of a quorum when Council began to consider reducing the number required. But to vote on a new bylaw making the quorum "forty percent" instead of "a majority," Council needed a majority under the old bylaw.

That majority was achieved Wednesday, somewhat dramatically after the number appeared to fall short at the outset of deliberations. The procedure at Council is for members to sit at long tables forming a hollow square in McClelland Hall at the Quad, with only observers in an audience space. A count of members showed only 41 present--a shortage of five-- and Moderator Sam Preston was set to rule "no quorum" when a member pointed to the presence of members in the observer section. Professor Preston asked any members not at the table to raise their hands, and five in the audience did so, bringing the total to the needed 46.

Council then heard the required advance reading of additional bylaws changes that are to be voted upon in November if the new quorum is present. One three-part resolution (published in Almanac October 14) would (a) add to the Council membership an elected representative of the United Minorities Council; (b) increase the number of faculty members on the Committee on Open Expression and add A-1 and A-3 staff to the Disability Board; and (c) abolish the Student Fulbright Awards Committee in anticipation of the establishment of a broader committee to include other prestigious fellowships that students will be encouraged to apply for. After the reading of the motion to increase faculty membership on the Open Expression Committee (b), Dr. Arnold Rosoff as chair of the Committee on Committees accepted from GAPSA a friendly amendment that the present membership of "five students" (undifferentiated as to level) also be changed, to "three undergraduate and three graduate/professional students."

Alcohol & Civility...Outsourcing: To make time for a 90-minute discussion on Alcohol and Civility at Penn (now being transcribed for publication), the traditional opening reports had been eliminated from Wednesday's agenda, but the request of the A-3 Assembly Chair to give a statement was honored. That statement, on the signing of a Letter of Intent to outsource three administrative units that handle facilities management and real estate operations, appears below on this page. Executive Vice President Fry's remarks, transcribed from tape, appear opposite. They are followed by comments of three Council members and an one observer from the African American Association of Administrators, Faculty and Staff, who was recognized at the request of a Council member.

-- K.C.G.

Council normally opens with brief statements of the president, provost, chair of steering, and chairs of the two student assemblies

(UA and GAPSA) and two organizations of nonacademic staff, the A-3 Assembly and the Penn Professional Staff Assembly. Wednesday's

distributed agenda eliminated these reports to allow time for the extended discussion on alcohol and civility. But at the meeting, the moderator announced that a request for time to discuss the Trammell Crow Company agreement had been granted. Discussion opened with this statement.

On the Outsourcing of Facilities Management

My fellow Council members:

I thank you for this opportunity to express, on behalf of the A-3 Assembly, my disappointment, disgust and sheer outrage at the manner in which the outsourcing agreement between the University and Trammell Crow was handled.

Throughout the Philadelphia area last Wednesday evening, University employees of Facilities Management sat down at their family dinner tables and said, "Honey, there's something I need to tell you...." Thursday, the shock waves rolled over the campus as the news of this impending transaction was announced in The Daily Pennsylvanian. I ask--why was this such a surprise? Why was this kept so secret?

Has this University not seen nor learned (with examples such as the Bookstore, vending, or Benefits Redesign) that shutting people out of the basic decisions that affect their lives breeds fear, anger, discontent, animosity and general mistrust? Is this the atmosphere that we would like this institution to portray?

This transaction directly and drastically affects the lives of 175 loyal Penn employees--employees that have made personal sacrifices in order to work here in the expectation of long promised benefits--employees that this University has depended upon for many, many years. And yet, they're left wondering just where those promises went and if their expectations were a sheer waste of time and effort. For years, these employees have made sure that your recycling bin was being emptied and now they're feeling recycled and discarded themselves. Is this how their loyalty is being reciprocated? Is that fair? Do you care?

This is not a voluntary transition for any of these employees. As I walked around Facilities Management and spoke to those members of my constituency who are being directly affected by this deal, the feeling of utter helplessness was overwhelming. I was deeply saddened by the statements I heard such as, "I don't know if I'll be able to continue my cancer therapy because my doctor may not be covered under Trammell's health benefit plan." "I was going to retire in three years." and "Now I don't know what I'm going to do about my son's tuition." But what I heard most was "Why are they still not telling us anything?" I'm wondering the same thing myself. How can you expect these employees to come to work every day to perform their jobs with any kind of enthusiasm and pride when they feel that they are being kept in the dark about their future here at Penn?

The fact that this real estate corporation has never managed the facilities of an academic institution, let alone one the size and complexity of this University, leads one to believe that we are the now the proverbial guinea pigs. Don't you feel that they need all the help they can get and shouldn't Penn insist they take it? Couldn't Penn have presented their package to include these 175 employees (which is a small number of employees for such a large conglomerate) as a "take it or leave it" package?

How many Penn employees do you think are coming to work every day thinking, "Am I next?"

Since the Restructuring and Redesign Project of this University started in 1995, many employees in this University, have witnessed examples of drastic decisions made by the Administration, without warning or consultation. Why is this? Today, there are fewer employees exerting themselves to produce the increasing amount of work, feeling less and less secure, unappreciated, overwhelmed and overburdened. And all without being given a chance to even speak and be heard.

While we all understand that this University needs to change in order grow and prosper in order to fulfill its mission as an academic community, we also understand that our livelihoods are at stake here. Who is next? Or won't we know until the deal is done again? Is not the role of this Council to "consider the activities of the University in all phases" and to be concerned with the "general welfare" of the University as a whole?

Our proposal is twofold.

First, a committee should be formed with all constituencies represented to ensure that best interests of the University and its employees are worked out in detail for this and all future outsourcing endeavors.

Secondly, that the Executive Vice President who obviously plays a major role in the decisions affecting the lives of employees of this University, be required to make a report to Council at least once every two months so that we are not caught by surprise yet again.

It is a grave concern that the A-3 employees of this University feel demoralized, helpless, scared and without hope and are being forced to work in an environment that seemingly doesn't care. This is not just about money. If it were, none of us would probably work here. I ask you to please speak up and show your concern.

I have been informed that a town meeting has been called for Monday, October 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. in Room 110 in the Annenberg Center. I would ask that all interested persons please come and participate in this forum. Thank you.

-- Donna M. Arthur, Chair, A-3 Assembly

Discussion on Outsourcing

John Fry: I'd just like to make a few remarks in response to Donna's comments and then take as many questions as you'd like to give me.

The first thing I want to say is that I think in the last week those who have been looking at the newspaper may have seen three events that occurred. The first event was Westinghouse laying two thousand employees off. The second was yesterday when the Allegheny system announced that they were laying off 1200 employees. And the third was news from Stanford University where their Facilities and Project Management Department was completely eliminated and 42 people were laid off.

Those were all basically situations where people were terminated completely and were leaving their institutions. I think the way in which we've tried to handle this restructuring--which was a necessary one in order to improve the quality of our facilities services--was a dramatically different story, and I want to just illustrate by making a few points. The first is that typically in these [TCC] cases--and it will be negotiated contractually--about three-quarters of the employees wound up with jobs, so 75% of the people who are affected, if they choose to [interview], will receive job offers with this new company. That's the first thing: we're not talking about 175 people being laid off. We're talking about three quarters of these people being given new opportunities in what we think is going to be a very good employer in terms of Trammell Crow.

Let me say something about what we've negotiated to date and are still negotiating in terms of things for our employees.

The first point is the base salaries of these employees who are hired will not be lower than their current salary and in fact, every position will have a 5-15 percent bonus incentive because that's the way Trammell Crow incents its employees. So people won't be making less on their base salary, they will be eligible for a 5-15 percent bonus incentive and will be participate in an employee stock option.

There are some differentials on benefits: let me talk to you a little bit about how we are attempting to address medical and dental. At the very least what we are going to do is add to their base salaries the difference between what they are getting now and what they might be getting under a Crow plan from a financial perspective. We're not content to stop there and what we're doing is attempting to negotiate aspects of the Penn coverage that employees would desire to keep in terms of their current situations and that is something that we are doing right now. But at a minimum, the financial effect will be mitigated by an addition to their base salaries. We're making every effort to make employees whole or bridge any gaps in other benefits, and again that's something that we're working on right now. The other things that are germane obviously are tuition, and the minimum commitment is that for children for staff the tuition benefit remains through Spring 2001. All the general rights and privileges of the University, from parking to utilization of facilities, will remain in place. These are just minimum commitments. This is what we were able to announce to the employees when we brought them together. People have criticized us for not having worked out all these details before we made the announcement. In my judgment, the fairer thing to do was to sign the agreement, which we did about 8 o'clock the morning of the announcement, and within three hours I stood in front of those employees and told them. I thought that was the only fair way to do it. I did not want them to find out through leaks, through The Daily Pennsylvanian, or through any other means but direct conversation.

We have extensive communications now ongoing with the effected employees. Next week we are starting the resume writing and interviews preparation workshop. We have retained two firms to help our employees over the next three weeks, prepare their resumes, get ready for the interviews. We will coach them through that. We know many of the vast majority will be successful in obtaining those jobs.

In the meantime, we are negotiating on an item-by-item basis every one of those benefits to try to make sure that people are as whole as possible if not slightly better. So we're not Allegheny and we're not Stanford and we're not Westinghouse. What we're trying to do is two very difficult things at once: The first thing we're trying to do is to follow through on the commitment that we've made to this institution that we're going to manage better, and more efficiently, and more cost-effectively. I have reports dating back from the 1993 Cost Containment Committee of the Faculty Senate that implore the administration to get its act together in terms of better management and we're merely following through on that commitment. At the same time, what we're trying to do is honor the years of hard work, dedication, commitment and talent of a lot of people who have done really well for us in the Facilities and Residential areas.

We think by negotiating the kind of arrangement that we are with a very enlightened provider of service, Trammell Crow, whom we've had good experience with, we're going to try to create a win-win situation. It's a very, very difficult thing to do but it's more difficult to do what we're doing than just merely laying people off and saying that's the end of the story. So I hope you'll understand that we are trying to be a little bit different and a little more humane in our approach.

I will now take any questions.

Ms. Arthur: Are there representatives of the constituencies involved in the committee that is making these decisions...the A-3s and the A-1s?

Mr. Fry: No. Management is negotiating this directly with the Trammell Crow Company. We will seek advice and counsel, though, from the A-1 and A-3 Assemblies.

[Moderator Sam Preston indicates that two more comments will be accepted.]

Dr. Larry Gross: I have two things: One is to emphasize, probably unnecessarily, what I think is the critical importance of the tuition benefits. It strikes me as probably the most nearly unique and idiosyncratic component here, that clearly will mean the most to affected employees--and 2001 is rapidly approaching though I hope that that minimum turns out to be the minimum and not the figure we end up with. The other point is to express a concern ...that in this sort of situation we become vulnerable I would imagine, to people who want to hire away the best and the most talented of the affected employees. The analogy that occurs to me is what happened in Minnesota last year when a university that was giving the appearance of redefining the terms of it's agreement with faculty becomes very ripe for picking: if you wanted to recruit top faculty from Minnesota, that was the year to do it. I'm equally concerned here that as you have said, and some of the stories have said, one of the reasons that Trammell Crow is interested in us was because of the excellence of many of the people we have. My concern is that there are firms, construction firms, management firms and so forth that will be looking at this as a very opportune moment to hire away the very people whom we have benefited from in the past. I'm really very hopeful that that will not happen and we won't find ourselves precisely losing the very people we most depend upon.

Dr. Anthony Tomazinis [chair of the Facilities Committee of Council] : My concern is a little different. I see that the University has produced a very good deal--for the University; John did not mention, even, the $32 million given to the University as a bonus, practically, for the experience the company will gain. And details that were presented today indicate that their heart was in the right place. What concerns me is the message, and the message is that "What we want from you is 9 to 5, and shut up. Don't get involved in our responsibilities; we'll tell you what you are going to do and when you are going to speak." And this is extended on matters as vital as their jobs, for people with 20 years, with tremendous commitment. I know some of the people at the very top, and I hope that they were taken into confidence.

I think the results would have been enriched if the announcement [had said] "We received this kind of an offer, and we think it's very advantageous to the University, but we'd also like to hear you, and discuss what particular personal problems that may produce." And at the end, for instance, the $32 million dollars could become $31 million, a very minor adjustment--but with the feeling that the University values its employees, not only the A-1s but also the A-3s, but particularly the A-1s who carry so much personal responsibility for the welfare of the University.

I'm not an A-1, but A-2 is just the next one over--and the next thing, you might outsource, for instance, a whole school without announcing it, just because another University offers a better price--incredible as it may seem, of course. I think there is an atmosphere of total distrust which has been cultivated by actions which really mean well, but produce havoc.

Matthew Rubin [member of GAPSA] : In the spirit of civil discourse, I just would like to register as a representative of the student population my concern for what's going on, and I'd also like to build slightly on the last comment-- that in the realm of academic, or reputedly academic concerns, the way that this was handled would never be tolerated. In the realm of the reputedly business concerns, we can be told in an aside, "This was necessary, and in that context this is what we're trying to do to make it as good as it can be within the context of its being necessary to have done this." We can be told "We made the announcement, and as soon as we signed the contract we made the announcement." The question of what happened before the contract was signed is completely bracketed out. And as I said this would be completely unacceptable on the "academic" side at Penn.

As someone who considers myself a member of this community, and who considers everyone who lives, studies and works here a member of this community, I don't think this is acceptable. I don't think this is right. I don't think that the exigencies of the economic side of the situation necessarily have to preclude the kind of open and democratic participation of all stakeholders the way that we would like to have it done on the academic side. Now I'm sure that this may sound naive to a lot of people here...but I think the bottom line is that these people are members of the community, and the outsourcing did not have to be done the way it was done; and the need to better manage physical plant did not necessarily have to be done by outsourcing to a company that has absolutely no track record in managing this kind of institution.

Insofar as the efforts that the Executive Vice President has outlined will help maintain the quality of life and security of the people who are being affected by this, I applaud them and the University for being a little bit different, as you said. Insofar as these efforts will not pan out to anything material, I think they merely serve to obscure the basic logic at work here, which is that outsourcing has extremely deleterious effects on people who are often not really considered part of this community when people are away from microphones and not speaking in public forums. I think it's extremely important that we all do everything that we possibly can to truly make A-1s and A-3s a part of this community a part of this community in the way that the rest of us are when we have our democratic input to decisions before they're made, when we have longer and larger forums dedicated to our needs, and when we enjoy a sense of entitlement about our full participation in the affairs of the University. Finally I would just say that it is not 175 people being laid off, but it could certainly be more; because after the contracts of the unionized physical plant employees run out in a few years, then we will really know what the full impact of this management switch has been, in terms of people who have been working for this university.

[After brief discussion between Dr. Helen Davies and the Moderator, one additional speaker is recognized.]

Rashida Abdu [a member of the Association of African American Administrators, Faculty and Staff, known as Triple A] : This is a real problem, and it's not acceptable. We will not accept it as Triple A, we will not accept it as A-3s or A-1s.

This was something that was done. None of us had any input into it. It was a bomb dropped into our laps last Thursday morning, and everyone sat there frozen not knowing what really was going on, how this was all coming down all of the sudden.

This impacts on everyone here, every single solitary worker at this University. We came here. We applied here at the University--we did not apply to Trammell Crow. We will not accept our jobs being outsourced and having to apply again to an outside company in order to continue working on this campus, at less pay. You did not come prepared as "the University" or as "that Company" with anything--no packets, no nothing. You just wanted to tell us a whole bunch of bull, and we were supposed to accept it, walk out and say "Okay, fine,we have no jobs."

You started years ago by doing it with the hotels, Penn Tower and Sheraton. You moved on to do it to the UCA, University Real Estate or whatever it was. Then you went on to the Bookstore. People did not rally, but people will rally now--because they see that it does affect all of us. It affects us any worker in any position here.

You are only concerned, I think, with the professors; you're not really concerned with the students and how they feel. I am glad to hear that the students are going to back us, that they are angry about this.

But it's not acceptable, and I'm not going to accept it--because I don't feel as though my last 16, 17 years working at this University should go down the drain just because you want to bring in somebody else and say I'm not doing my job. I'm doing my job. And so is anyone who really appreciates working for a living and making a salary, even though it is not comparable to anything outside. But there is something that holds people here. Anyone who stays here for any length of time is not going to accept this, and there are organizations, many of them, that will come together and fight this.


Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, October 21, 1997, Volume 44, No. 9