COUNCIL Addendum to Special Meeting November 5, 1997
At University Council's regular meeting on November 12, Moderator Sam Preston asked Council if minutes of the November 5 Special Meeting were needed in view of Almanac's near-verbatim transcription published November 11. GAPSA's Alex Welte asked that minutes be entered for the record; later clarifying with Council Secretary Constance Good-man that the minutes could be a memorandum with the published transcript attached. The transcript will now include the material lost in the taping, below-reconstructions made by GAPSA members Matthew Ruben, Victoria Tredinnick and Mr. Welte, and an expansion of notes on the remarks of the A-3 Assembly's Donna Arthur. Note that in Almanac November 11, the comments attributed to the two women speakers were transposed; they more nearly said what is given here.--K.C.G.
November 5 Statements
Matthew Ruben: As to the first resolution* before us: The community here is broken. That's a fact. It's a fact whose evidence is the widespread negative reation to the administration's announcement of this proposed arrangement with Trammell Crow. This is not a reaction that has been voiced just by the facilities workers directly affected by this deal. It's been voiced all over the campus, in resolutions and public statements, by a wide variety of constituencies including the BSL, the Triple-A, GAPSA, the UA, the PPSA, the A-3s and the Faculty Senate. People are concerned. They're afraid. In some cases they're outraged. There is an atmosphere of distrust. This is a fact, just as much of a fact as any of the numbers and figures that are used to justify the Trammell Crow deal itself. It's not a number, but it is a fact just the same.
Now one thing everyone knows about this administration is that it has dedicated itself to excellence, to innovation, to ingenuity. It has shown that it will do whatever is necessary to fix problems and get things done. If you presented this administration with a problem in any other area of the campus-any area except this area of communication and consultation-they would start with the assumption of this fact that there is a problem, and they would then say, "Okay, we've got this problem; now what do we have to do to fix it?"
And that is why I find it alarming that the administrators here today have instead responded by insisting they did consult us on this matter. They have pointed to a meeting or statement here and there from three years ago or two years ago and therefore maintained that they did consult with us. Pointing out times when something was said about this situation doesn't change the fact that people are scared and upset with good reason, and I'm sure those administrators, if asked directly, would agree that simply pointing to these instances is not sufficient to allay the fears and negative feelings, or to fix the problem with this community.
Rich Cipollone just stated that when Trammell Crow takes over it will be a public corporation beholden to stockholders, and that like any real estate management company it will be accountable to the landord, which is the administration, and that the rest of us will be tenants. Now I'm sure most people here are not used to our community being described in these kinds of terms. And I'm sure the administration would say, "No, Trammell Crow will be accountable to the community, and the Penn administration will be accountable." And they're right, but not in the way they think they're right. The administration is accountable to you-but only if you fight. Only if you stand up and protest and say, "This is wrong." Every graduate student here knows what we went through with our health insurance. Every faculty and staff member knows what you went through with the benefits redesign process. And indications are that the undergrads are going through this themselves again with residential facilities. You don't get a hearing unless you fight.
These willy-nilly, last-minute meetings the administration has with as many people as it can only happen as a result of people protesting whatever is going on. Protest becomes the only way to get the democracy and the accountability that are supposed to be part of this community. Everyone knows this. Everyone on this campus has a story. A lesson learned with vending is a lesson not learned with health insurance, is a lesson not learned with benefits, is a lesson not learned with residential facilities. There has got to be a structural problem if these lessons learned do not transfer from one office to another, or even in some cases from one agenda item to another on the desk of the same administrator.
So that's what this resolution is about. It's about what kind of a place you want this to be. We know what the administration has done and how it's acted. It's a fact that's a part of the experience of everyone here. The question for you today is, what do you want to do about it? The resolution asks you to tell the administration to fix this problem. It says, empower a committee to look specifically and only at the consultative process. It says, fix this problem. Or, you can say that everything's fine, that the problems we all know exist are not really problems at all. It's up to you. It's your choice. This is your meeting. You get to decide. What are you going to do?
As for the second resolution,** I'll be brief. This resolution is also about what kind of place you want this to be. The fact is that 175 people's lives are thrown into disarray by this proposed arrangement. Regardless of whether they get jobs with Trammell Crow, they're not sleeping well. They have to look over their shoulders. They have to wonder how long Penn will protect them from getting transfered off the Penn account and losing tuition benefits for their children. Benefits which, along with the sense of community, were the reason they took below-market salaries for all these years to work here in the first place.
And it's not just those 175 people. The fact is-and still no one wants to talk about this-that in two or three years there will be hundreds of others laid off when the contracts of the unionized physical plant workers run out. And no one should think for a minute that this Dallas-based company is going to pick up the union contracts of those Philadelphia locals.
Now, the Trustees will do whatever they deem to be in the best interests of the University's fiscal health as they interpret it. But that's not the point. The question is, what are you going to do? What are you going to say to the Trustees about how you and this community feel about this? How are you going to reconcile your conscience with the fact-and it is a fact-that 175 people now and hundreds more later are having their se-curity undermined, their livelihoods undermined. You have to go home tonight and you have to have an answer when you ask yourself, "What did I do? What did I say to the Trustees? What was my role in this?" So I put it to you: what are you going to do? What are you going to do?
* calling upon the Administration to take steps "..to rehabilitate the culture of consultation...by appointing a committee of faculty, students, administrators, and support staff, which is charged to examine the prolbems that have been raised about the consultative process...
** calling upon the trustees to act by "...witholding approval of
the proposed outosourcing of facilities management at this time."
The Three Final Speakers
Victorial Tredinnick: I think the point is clear, but maybe it has to be said again, that the question is not whether there is a problem with facilities management, but what happens once a problem has been identified. There are certain very highly paid members of the administration whose job it is to provide leadership and management. For example, Residential Facilities was left without top leadership for 18 months, and in that case I'm not surprised there are management problems. These highly paid members of the administration are presumably there to provide leadership and management to the university, not to sell off parts of it once problems have been identified.
Alex Welte: I would like to appeal to a natural justice notion of burden of proof. We have before us a significant proposal for restructuring in a particular way. That facilities management needs to be improved, I think, is not under dispute, but there has been no clear statement made about what the problems actually are, or what the options are for dealing with them. We have not heard one word about what exactly it is that Trammell Crow brings to Penn that we do not already have. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case, since Trammell Crow is paying $32 million to get what we have.
For a proposal to solve facilities management problems by outsourcing, the case just hasn't been made.
It was Donna Arthur whose short speech said [paraphrasing from
Almanac notes] that she did not feel the proposal had been researched as
much as it should have been-that there were not enough answers for solving
the problems stated, and that not enough consideration had been given to
the proposal for it to go to the Trustees now.