Notes for my 3 minute speech, in front of the University of Oregon Board of Trustees, December 1, 2016:
My remarks are about the initiative known as "IT Rebalancing".
My name is Greg Bryant. As a senator I represent Career Research Faculty on the University of Oregon Senate, and I’m the Senate Executive Committee’s point-of-contact for technology issues. I’m a Computer Scientist in our College of Education. I’ve been in the computer industry for four decades, mostly working in Silicon Valley, with the "digerati", at the bleeding-edge of technological change. I’m a UO alumnus, but I’ve worked on the faculty here for less than two years.
I don’t believe the Board has ever been provided a summary of the negative impact, from a technical and human perspective, of this particular IT reorganization. I’d like to sketch that for you, and suggest what should have been done instead.
There is no doubt that something needed to be done. But not this. It’s no exaggeration to say that every computer person who has been touched by this initiative has nightmares about it. Is that something you want? These are people who are key contributors to our intellectual environment, and most of them have considered leaving because of the opaque and authoritarian approach to this reorganization. These people are talented and hard-working and underpaid, earning half of what they could in the private sector. But they believe in the mission of the university, so they continue to overcome the difficulties this pointless reorg has inflicted upon service and progress here. The phrase “institutional betrayal” is appropriate -- when your Chairman pressured the Interim President to “do something about IT”, which had suffered from the well-known budget-silo problem on campus, his reflex was not to open a campus discussion about the issue, but to hire a series of consultants and managers to investigate and humiliate hundreds of talented and experienced people. Their agency has been methodically removed. Their "buy-in" was not required.
Now, my primary concern is humanitarian, but I’m also concerned about the negative effect this has on the ability of people here to solve campus-wide problems cooperatively. The emerging structure of IT here stunts creativity, causes an exodus of talent, and forces people to waste time fighting against inefficient and outdated top-down, management-heavy practices.
The alternative is to gather computing people together, campus-wide, to create a community self-management process, which is standard in the most innovative technology companies. It is also most appropriate for a community of scholars, so that the IT people on campus have the freedom to inquire and discover, as colleagues with everyone else on campus. If you look up "Agile", "Scrum", etc. you will find this approach well-appreciated in the computer industry. Unfortunately, things are not moving in that direction. This does not bode well for a culture that wants to facilitate "Translational Science". Please talk with me further if you are interested in achieving excellence, which will require supporting freedom of thought, cooperation, and democracy in the workplace.