I finally had a chance to watch last week’s Town Meeting. I pointed my browser to the webcast, which was slightly more glitchy than usual (we’ll look into why and try to get it fixed). I didn’t know what to expect; I think everyone who heard it came out with their own unique take on what was said, and comments I’d heard ranged from “He/They didn’t say anything new” to “Dr. Stobo did a remarkable job.” The other refrain I heard again and again was “1000 RIFs,” “1000 jobs.”
I do think Dr. Stobo did a good job laying it out; it was good to go from the past to present and into what hopefully will be a successful future. I didn’t suffer any “shock” at the number of jobs to be cut; I’d heard and read that already. (Whether it’s 800 or 1000, there’s no doubt it’ll change how we look.) I was surprised that there were 900 Navigant recommendations; that’s many more than I imagined. I found the formation of the seven-person Strategic Executive Council interesting. Although at many levels it makes sense, I can see why some may wonder if they still have a voice. I was really discouraged—but maybe at some level deep down, not surprised (more on this in a later post)—by our low productivity. I was intrigued by the notion of “re-engineering” ourselves. In the broad strokes that define us as an institution, I understand what we have to do and why. As it drills down to entities and departments and people and roles, questions naturally remain. I understand why there’s still uncertainty and fear, and cases where these feelings might manefest themselves as anger or the poor morale one person asked about. We’re human.
Stobo said “It won’t be easy.” The question we each have to ask ourselves is “Are we up to the task?” If we accept that the world around us is rapidly changing, are we ready to change with it? We’ve held up a mirror and taken a hard, objective look at ourselves: Will we have the strength to act on what we see? Do we believe enough in ourselves and in the importance of what we do to see this through?
I’m hopeful, maybe even optimistic. UTMB’s had some tough times, but the years that followed our first big RIF brought a rebirth to UTMB. It was a time that the bar was set high, a time with a new level of accountability and responsibility. But people believed and they worked hard, worked together. We accomplished some incredible things. We developed an identity and the closest thing we’ve ever had to a shared mission and sense of purpose. It was a proud time for our university. I’m ready to recapture some of that fire and pride.