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Layoffs start at the UT System administration, with more expected in the months ahead

Sixty-five positions are being cut this week. The reductions could go further than the 110 number originally anticipated.

The University of Texas System building in Austin on Feb. 7, 2018.

*This story has been updated with a correction and comments from UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken.

Three months after an internal report forecast the reduction of up to 110 jobs within the University of Texas System administration, layoffs have begun, with some 65 positions cut this week and more layoffs expected in the months ahead.

About half of the 65 positions were openings that will remain unfilled, and the remainder were reductions in force, UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said Tuesday. Over the coming months, the reductions could go further than the 110 number originally anticipated.

"We are a ways from finishing this process," Milliken said. "The administrative functions of the university — and this goes for the institutions as well as the central administrative offices — ought to be as cost-effective as possible. We ought to do the best job we can in managing this complex system for the people of Texas, and do it in a way that ensures that as much as we can put into education and research and student support as possible is done."

Before the layoffs began, the system had about 700 full-time employees on its payroll, and had slashed its headcount 25 percent over two years. Four departments, those for facilities, employee benefits, information services, and general counsel, are still being reviewed to see if positions within them could be realigned or eliminated. The total number of layoffs — and the cost-savings associated — won't be known until those reviews are completed in the next few months.

"Most departments" were affected in some way by the cuts made public Tuesday, Milliken said.

The announcement follows the release of a report in October that called for the elimination of "top-down initiatives" and suggested that the system administration should adopt a "service-provider" approach to working with its "customers," the 14 universities and medical institutions it oversees. Former state Sen. Kevin Eltife, an outspoken critic of system-level spending, headed the task force that produced the report, and was elevated to the board's top job, its chairman, in December.

The former chair, Sara Martinez Tucker, convened the task force but tendered her resignation shortly before it produced its report. She cited reductions already made to the system administration's size in the note announcing her departure as chair.

Milliken, who joined the UT System in the fall, was charged with implementing the report's suggestions, and told the board in November that he embraced the guidance.

The task force's "thoughtful work," he said Tuesday, has been "invaluable and timely to me as a new chancellor.”

"The board's made it clear they want as much as possible invested in the core mission of the university system: the teaching, the research, patient care, the student support."

"I completely agree with that," he said. "This is not unique to this board; I've certainly seen this across the country."

Eltife, the board chair, said he looked forward to continuing to work with Milliken “to meet our shared goal" of operating to system administration in "a manner that is cost-effective and in the best interests of our state."

"The more efficiently we operate our administrative functions, beginning with the system administration, the better we’ll be able to directly pass resources along to educate students and enhance the lives of patients who depend on us," he said.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Correction: This story has been updated to specify which departments are currently being reviewed.​​​​​​ Reviews of some departments have already concluded.

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