Letter: An Open Letter To Weingarten

President Weingarten,

On Dec., 18, 2006, my “expense report”–actually a travel advance–was approved by PeopleSoft and so ended a year’s frustration, my and many others’ time wasted, worry that I might have to find $6,000 out of my pension and, most seriously, interference with my research. In late 2005 PeopleSoft staff had entered a travel advance twice under different codes and it took 10 months for this simple error to be corrected, 10 months of emails and phone calls involving six members of the support staff besides upper management and myself. During this wearing period my SSHRC grant expired and it was only after the intercession of Martin Kirk of Research Services that my funding was restored–though it took a further 50 days to extract the money.

My case is symptomatic of a black hole that is sucking in vast amounts of faculty and support staff time, effort and spirit better employed on fulfilling the university’s mission. Holger Herwig’s 2005 letter to On Campus, “The creature from the Okefenokee Swamp,” (www.ucalgary.ca/oncampus/weekly/oct28-05/letter.html) described the contortions required of researchers attempting to fill in an expense report.

My own experience–my last travel claim involved six currencies, some unknown to PeopleSoft–is as exasperating. In another role as a sessional instructor and in the absence of any online or other instructions, I had to waste my time and that of PeopleSoft staff again to submit a claim for the petty expense allowance. As program chair of an international conference I found difficulty in accessing our funds was so severe that the organizing secretary had to use her own line of credit–and pay the interest. Six months after the conference, the system has still not cleared all transactions of that date. That my various and uniformly frustrating interactions with PeopleSoft are typical is confirmed by colleagues. Neither have I come across any member of the support staff with a good word to say about the system.

Presumably there must be advantages apparent to persons higher up in the hierarchy and it is to them through you, Mr. President, that this letter is addressed. We know PeopleSoft as a monster that is devouring our labor, hindering research and damaging morale. Staff involved with PeopleSoft are failing–and not, I suspect, for lack of effort or goodwill upon their part. It is hardly coincidental that three of the people I dealt with have either fallen sick, left the university or been transferred.

If it is too much to hope that PeopleSoft be exorcised, then the very least that can be done is to allow all faculty to revert to the previous system, which took an hour to learn and allowed us transparently to account to the Canadian taxpayer, and to attach to faculties accessible persons tasked with mediating between us and the monster, relieving departmental support staff of an intolerable burden and freeing faculty to get on with what we long–and most of us are paid–to do.

Finally I note that no one from PeopleSoft has offered me any hint of an apology. Neither did Herwig’s earlier complaint elicit any explanation. This is bad management. If we treated our students like PeopleSoft treats us we would, and should be, fired.

I look to you, President Weingarten, to redress this situation. We will all be grateful.

Nic David

Faculty professor of Archaeology

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