UT System to slash 65 jobs in second round of layoffs

The announcement, made in an internal email, is part of a new but expected wave of cuts aimed at trimming the system's overhead.

The University of Texas System is cutting jobs from a central facilities and construction office.
The University of Texas System is cutting jobs from a central facilities and construction office.  Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

A second round of layoffs has hit the University of Texas System administration.

In an internal announcement, Chancellor James B. Milliken said 65 positions would be slashed from a central facilities and construction office — part of a new but expected wave of cuts aimed at trimming the system's overhead. The changes will be phased in over the next year. Ten of the 65 posts were already vacant, and eight employees will be transferred from the system office to campuses.

"I know this is a difficult time for many of our colleagues, and I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for everyone’s understanding, patience, and dedication to the UT System during a time of significant transition," Milliken wrote in an email to system staff, dated March 5. "The changes made thus far and the ones I am announcing today are the result of reassessment of some of the functions at the system administration, and they do not reflect the dedication and contributions of our employees.

"While that doesn’t make the consequences easier for those affected, I do want to acknowledge the good work done by many and pledge to help in any way we can with a difficult transition," he wrote.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The layoffs were teased in an October report released by a task force of regents that called for the system administration to adopt a service-provider model and curtail top-down initiatives. Steered by Kevin Eltife, a regent and former state senator, the report forecast a reduction of more than 100 positions within the system's central offices. Around 65 of those posts were cut in January.

The cuts announced last week are part of a reorganization of the central facilities planning office, which oversees construction projects and manages related contracts. Twelve members of the office will be moved to a newly created Office of Capital Projects, and many of the remaining positions and department responsibilities will be outsourced.

System offices for employee benefits, information services and general counsel have not been reviewed in-depth, and more layoffs could be announced once they are.

"Department supervisors and human resources professionals are assisting with transition support, re-employment, and additional services," Milliken said in his email. "I cannot stress enough that the actions we’re taking are about aligning mission and organization and do not reflect performance of the fine professionals who have served the state of Texas" and the university system.

The email comes as the university system is in the midst of leadership changes. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed four new regents to the board last week, and Eltife was named board chair in December, after the previous chair resigned unexpectedly. Once a minority voice on the board calling for system-level initiatives to be curtailed, Eltife was greeted warmly by state senators when he appeared at a committee hearing alongside Milliken earlier this year.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Disclosure: The University of Texas System 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.