Open letter to Vice President for University Services Pam Wheelock

John Knobel — University Facilities Management employee

Welcome, incoming Vice President for University Services Pam Wheelock — your official start date is less than a week away, which coincidentally and unfortunately for all of us at the University of Minnesota — and all Minnesota tax payers as well — is the one-year anniversary of Facilities Management Associate Vice President Mike Berthelsen and his upper management staff’s implementation of team cleaning here on campus.

In regard to the search for your predecessor’s replacement, I spoke at some length with the search committee’s co-chairs, Vice President Richard Pfutzenreuter and Dean Tom Fisher, at a public forum April 16 about the bogus claims of team cleaning efficiencies — so-called research rationalizing the cleaning industry’s “best practices” notwithstanding — and I informed them that I would be willing to publicly debate the concept, practice and issues related to “green team cleaning” with Mr. Berthelsen anytime. Please consider researching “team cleaning” — for what could be one person’s information may be another’s propaganda; either way, beware your tolerance level for obtuse falsehoods.

I referenced other remarks I made at the April 16 forum in my June 8 evaluation form of then-University Services Vice President candidate Mike Berthelsen — which were to be read by President Eric Kaler. For example [I said that] I have found only one time among countless references to the Facilities Management financial year budget crisis when Mr. Berthelsen has stated the full truth: that the “52 less” custodians is on paper only; otherwise every time it has been mentioned he has engaged in half truths, deliberately leaving the false impression that by Aug. 15, 2011 — the starting date of team cleaning — Facilities Management had 52 fewer custodians available. He has continuously implied that Facilities Management went from 477 custodians to 425 without a timeframe, though the actual numbers range from over 470 in the summer of 2009 to around 430 this summer.

At this June 4 open forum, Mr. Berthelsen repeated that the move to team cleaning happened “so fast” because of “budget reality;” the reality is that on Aug. 12, 2011 we had approximately 418 custodians cleaning “areas,” and Facilities Management had exactly the same number of custodians three days later — there was no “crisis” need to switch anything in Facilities Management, even more so now given the increase in the number of regular and student custodians. Mr. Berthelsen’s  justifications for whatever drastic changes they were contemplating for Facilities Management did not exist a year ago and do not exist now.

I wrote a follow-up email to my June 8 evaluation form to President Kaler regarding his choice for vice president of University Services in which I voiced my concerns for the lack of “operational excellence” in Facilities Management administration and that the need for a thorough external audit of Facilities Management is long overdue — a strong belief shared by many at the University, both inside and outside Facilities Management. I concluded my remarks with the observation that you, Ms. Wheelock, are a demonstratively competent professional who would bring thoroughly needed outside leadership to University Services, with consequent oversight to Facilities Management. I know that I can speak with confidence for the vast majority of my co-workers — and, no doubt, many other members of the University community — that we are grateful to President Kaler for selecting you to be the vice president of University Services versus Mr. Berthelsen. The insight provided by my colleagues in last month’s Minnesota Daily article and all previous articles going back to last summer are, sadly, the smallest tip of the iceberg of endless issues pertaining to the overall “integrity, accountability, results-delivery, maturity, and professionalism” of Mr. Berthelsen and his administration team. These values are the University’s “leadership competencies.”

For the sake of our physical campus and all who study, work and visit here, and all who pay for the University, we look forward to working with you in order to find and travel down an actual realistic, rational, competently functional path to “achieve operational excellence” — thank you President Kaler — for the Facilities Management department, the largest one in your University Services organization. Once again, I and countless others sincerely welcome you to the University.