Shelton Discusses Transformation Plan at Staff Town Hall

Shelton Discusses Transformation Plan at Staff Town Hall

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGillUniversity Communications
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Employees packed a room in the library during a town hall with President Robert N. Shelton.
Employees packed a room in the library during a town hall with President Robert N. Shelton.

More than a hundred employees packed a meeting room at the Main Library yesterday to hear President Robert N. Shelton speak about the University's Transformation Plan during a town hall held by the Staff Advisory Council.

The meeting also was broadcast live via telecast to an additional 75 or so employees at UA South, the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix and the Arizona Health Sciences Center.

Shelton set aside an outline he prepared for the town hall, saying he decided to instead speak off "the top of my head and from the bottom of my heart."

"I value the experience and need to draw from the collective wisdom to implement a plan with clarity and transparency to make this University better that it is today and was yesterday," Shelton said.

"I spent my first two years here getting to know the community within and outside of the University, building leadership teams and thinking hard about on what it is to be a premier research university. Now that teams are in place, we are moving toward finding answers and have developed task forces to guide us in making the University better than it already is and, second, to address fiscal responsibility," Shelton told employees.

The Transformation Plan entails strengthening UA scholarship, research, and teaching, while also identifying financial savings. Reorganization, restructuring and the consolidation of departments and units within colleges, and potentially across colleges, are being considered.

Shelton said the UA must be a leader in helping the state come out of its budget crisis and to do so it must restructure to save funds. He also acknowledged that staff members feel most vulnerable during budget cuts.

"I cannot say there will be no layoffs but we will give existing employees every opportunity to continue to be part of the University," Shelton added.

After his opening remarks, the president answered questions that the Staff Advisory Council collected prior to the town hall, as well as some asked by those in attendance.

The questions sought more information about the various plans for restructuring and savings including department consolidation, administrative centralization, and whether tenured faculty positions would be cut to save money. Some also asked whether curriculum and tuition would be reviewed.

"There are many task forces who have been working since last June whose recommendations will come in by the end of this semester," Shelton said.

Shelton dismissed the notion of hiring freezes or cutting employee benefits.

Helping the president field questions was Allison Vaillancourt, vice president for human resources. In response to a question about how the University would help laid-off employees, she said her office was developing a "career resiliency strategy" that would enhance programs already in place to help employees who lose their jobs.

Shelton urged staff to submit feedback and ideas to the Provost Office's Web site, where frequently asked questions will be posted.

Because some employees who planned to attend ended up turning around when they saw the crowd, the Staff Advisory Council hopes to schedule another town hall soon.

"Typically, Staff Advisory meetings draw in about 50 people," said Randy Livingston, president of the council's Advisory Executive Board and a principal office automation specialist for Facilities Management, explaining that the council had set up the meeting before the Transformation Plan was announced. "We will contact the president's office to schedule another one in the near future."

The Staff Advisory Council exists to foster and enhance communications between classified staff and the University community; to provide a forum for discussing and defining the role of classified staff in the University; to represent and advocate their concerns within the University community and statewide; to serve as a resource for inquires and requests;  to advise and make recommendations on existing and proposed University policies and procedures; and to ensure inclusion of classified staff on University committees.

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