Campus Shared Services gets new leader, aims to tackle criticism

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Karin Goh/Staff

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Last month, Peggy Huston — former director of the Operational Excellence Program Office, or OEPO — began serving as chief operating officer of Campus Shared Services, or CSS, a campus efficiency and staff realignment program.

Huston replaced Thera Kalmijn, who stepped down after two years. The program aims to streamline services from areas such as finance and human resources across multiple campus departments. Nonsupervising staff who reported more than half of their work as “shareable” were relocated to an off-campus center.

CSS is part of a larger initiative, Operational Excellence, which began in 2009 to reduce costs and generate revenue by improving administrative efficiency in the face of state budget cuts. Due to its aim to save $75 million in administrative expenses annually, the initiative faced criticism for laying off and relocating staff.

Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton said Huston was chosen based on her familiarity with campus operations and experience in CSS’s early design. One of Huston’s top priorities will be improving customer service.

“With her knowledge and expertise, we are confident that she can tackle CSS’ challenges and improve service,” Wilton said in an email. “CSS will focus heavily on standardizing and simplifying processes, making it easier for the campus to get things done.”

CSS is also updating CalTime, a system that records employee work hours. CalTime will be switching to a web-based format that replaces current methods, many of which are paper-based and prone to error, Wilton said.

“It’s possible this new leadership will be very helpful,” said Christine Rosen, vice chair of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association. “But it’s also possible that this could be a costly interim process that would require structural changes and innovations that will be very difficult.”

In a campus memo Tuesday, administrative officials acknowledged CSS’s communication and training shortcomings. Yet, the OEPO is still on track to meet its annual $75 million savings goal, and campus officials are optimistic the initiative can improve efficiency.

“(The memo) … suggests that the problems are smaller than I really think they are,” said Academic Senate Chair Panos Papadopoulos, who conducted a recent survey of faculty opinions of CSS that garnered “overwhelmingly negative” responses. “We all want to save money on administration costs. But the current state of affairs is flat-out unacceptable.”

Faculty raised concerns that the ongoing staff realignment could reduce funding for research and displace vitally needed staff, according to Rosen. These fears have been exacerbated by a perceived lack of communication on the part of CSS, she said.

“If (OEPO) want to have faculty participate in more positive, collaborative ways with them, they’ll have to be more transparent about what (the) actual problems are,” said Rosen.

CSS currently serves about 75 percent of the campus and will be fully implemented by early 2015.

Contact Alex Barreira at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @abarreira_dc.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that CSS will be fully implemented in January. In fact, it will be implemented in early 2015.