The UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum
Annual Retreat Agenda
January 14, 2005
8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Sunflower Room, Friday Center

8:00 – 8:30: Social time/registration/refreshments

8:30 – 8:45: Welcome and opening remarks
(Chancellor Moeser and Tommy Griffin)

8:45 – 9:45: Introductions – getting acquainted with our fellow Delagates
and alternates

9:45 – 9:55: Break

9:55-10:00: Remarks from a former Forum Chair (John Heuer)

10:00–10:10: Description of Executive Committee (Tommy Griffin)

10:10-10:20: Break into divisions to choose representatives for the
Executive Committee

In previous years, we have had Delagates sit in their respective divisions at lunchtime in order to select representatives for the Executive Committee. This year, we want to not have assigned seating during lunch and accomplish the task of meeting those colleagues in your Division and selecting your Division’s Executive Committee representative during the body of the retreat.

10:20 – 10:30: Break

10:30-12:00: Roundtable Discussion with Provost Robert Shelton, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Nancy Suttenfield, and Vice
Chancellor for Human Resources Laurie Charest

Beginning last year, Employee Forum Delagates began meeting with UNC administrators monthly to discuss issues of importance to university employees. Each month, about ¼ of our delegate, and our Forum Officers attend these informal sessions, which always involve a recap and follow-up from the previous month’s meeting, and then a “go around the room” format in which new questions/comments/concerns are brought to the table. This section of the agenda is designed to be this type of venue. Tommy will give a summary of the most recent meeting, which will happen THIS THURSDAY, 1/13/05. A “go around the room” discussion session will follow.

12:00 – 1:00: Lunch (Willow Lounge, Friday Center)

1:00 – 1:30: Keynote Address
Chuck Stone
Walter Spearman Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

1:30 – 2:20: Descriptions of Forum Committees

  • Career Development Committee (Curtis Helfrich)
  • Communications Committee (Brian White and Bradley Bone)
  • Community Affairs, Recognition and Awards Committee (Katherine Caudell Graves)
  • Employee Presentations Committee (Katherine Caudell Graves)
  • Nominating Committee (Patty Prentice)
  • Orientation Committee (Meredith Clason)
  • Personnel Issues Committee (Delita Wright)
  • University Assignments Committee (Tom Arnel)

2:20-2:30: Forum Committee Assignments for 2005
(Katherine Caudell Graves)

2:30 – 2:40: Break

2:40 – 3:40: Forum Business Meeting
(agenda to be distributed at the retreat)

3:40 – 3:50: Break

3:50 – 4:20: Committee Meetings

Each newly formed committee will meet to elect a Chair and a Recording Secretary, to select a meeting schedule, and to start forming goals for 2005.

4:20 – 4:30: Concluding remarks (Tommy Griffin)

MINUTES

 

Minutes from January 14, 2005 Forum Retreat

 

Chancellor James Moeser welcomed the Forum to its annual retreat, commenting on the cool weather.  He noted that Governor Easley would soon receive his second inauguration and the Legislature would begin its discussions soon afterward.  He said any action on tuition would wait for a discussion from the appropriate advisory council and the University’s Board of Trustees.  He did not think that the Legislature had arrived at any decisions on the State budget either.

An delegate asked about the likelihood of a salary increase.  Moeser cited the wide variety of factors.  He noted that a state-wide sales tax was due to sunset this year and that there is a chance this tax would be extended.  One could not be sure, however.  Moeser thought that this year’s Legislature would enact an increase in the tobacco tax.  He noted the possibility that the lottery would find approval.  He recalled that the Board of Governors had requested a 7% increase for State employees.  He hoped that State employees would receive a 5% increase at least this year.

An delegate asked about the preferred response to the recent tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean.  Moeser said that experts recommend giving money to accredited agencies.  Relief organizations have asked that people not travel to the region.

A delegate asked the Board of Governors’ opinion on raising salaries for the lowest paid employees.  Moeser said that the Board has no jurisdiction in this area.  He imagined that the Board has a great deal of sympathy in this area.

A delegate asked Moeser’s feelings about the UNC System meetings concerning the State health plan, and the possibility of moving the body of University employees out of the State plan.  Moeser said that the UNC System was advocating just this course.  Moeser also supported this position and he suspected that other System campuses would agree.  He noted that the State plan currently pays all premiums for individual employees, but leaves employees with family coverage paying over $400 a month.  He thought that the current system was now outdated given the weight placed on working families.

A delegate asked about Jack Walker’s rumored resignation from the leadership of the State health plan.  She asked what the Forum could tell Employees if any salary increase was offset by increases in health care costs.  Moeser said that one could not really call a salary increase an increase if the net effect is negative, due to other costs.

A delegate asked if Moeser supported the move to make health care a right enshrined in the North Carolina State Constitution.  Moeser was not certain whether this was an issue for the State or federal government.

A delegate said that some Employees receive better coverage through Blue Cross/Blue Shield than the rest do through the State plan.  He thought that other companies charge less and provide better coverage than the State plan, and wondered why the State could not find another provider.  Katherine Graves said that the UNC System’s task force on health insurance was exploring a number of options.  She said that Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) have generally left the southern states because of declining profit margins.  She said that a number of HMOs used to be offered under the State plan but had left for this reason.  A delegate said that Blue Cross/Blue Shield only administers the State plan but does not provide services to State employees.

A delegate asked why employees should compromise the benefit of free individual coverage given that this benefit is one of the few still remaining that sets UNC apart from other employers.  Moeser said that this was not his suggestion but rather is one of the many on the table.  Graves clarified the difference between family and family plus children coverage.  Chair Tommy Griffin said that the Forum plans to hold a community meeting updating employees about health insurance concerns.

 

Orientation committee chair Meredith Clason welcomed the Forum and noted other administrative arrangements.  She led personal introductions of members, then introduced 2001 Chair John Heuer.  Heuer spoke on the issue of income disparities, in light of the Nickeled & Dimed book by Barbara Ehreinreich which the University used in its summer reading program two years ago.  He noted that the disparity of wealth owned by the wealthiest and poorest sectors of the US was growing annually and was much more unequal than our fellow nations in Europe and Asia.

Heuer observed the difference between low-income and lower-skilled positions, saying that the latter usage was most often a misnomer.  He also noted the varying relationships that the Employee Forum maintains with the campus administration, from cooperative to oppositional, given the subject at hand.  He said that the University has a symbiotic relationship with many of the special interest groups lobbying legislators in Raleigh, for example the pharmaceutical industry.

Heuer noted the lack of a University-wide supervisory rating system that allows anonymous feedback.  He said that his department had begun work on such an evaluation system, and he encouraged other Forum delegates to seek similar solutions in their departments.  He said that supervisory evaluation had not received an adequate treatment by the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace.  He recalled Chancellor Moeser’s proposal that the University weed out its worst supervisors.  However, he said that most University supervisors have never received training in this important skill.  He said that many excellent line employees are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of supervising others.

Heuer recalled Moeser’s first remarks to the Forum that he wanted to work in a partnership in governance with staff employees.  He challenged Forum delegates to exercise this right of governance, noting that often staff employees have the deepest roots in the Chapel Hill community and the best ideas to improve procedures or meet needs.

Heuer noted the importance of getting the work done.  He also recalled Vaclav Havel about the importance of hope, saying that “hope is not a prognostication, but rather an orientation of the spirit and the heart.”  He wished the Forum well.

 

The Forum selected its Executive Committee representatives by decision of the delegates of each division.

The meeting held a roundtable discussion with Provost Shelton, Vice Chancellor Suttenfield and Associate Vice Chancellor Laurie Charest.  The Chair said that this exercise would duplicate the monthly meetings that the Forum holds with these administrators to discuss operational issues.  The meeting then divided up into three different groups to meet with the three dignitaries, who would then rotate positions at the end of a set time period.

 

Meredith Clason introduced Professor of Journalism Chuck Stone to present the retreat’s keynote address.  Stone recalled de Tocqueville’s division of 18th century America into the three races:  European-Americans, African-Americans and Native Americans.  He noted the wide range of diverse ethnic groups through anecdotes about Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, Francis Bacon and Socrates, exemplifying the injunction to be “a citizen of the world.”  He incorporates his experiences with the wide diversity of the world into his dealings with others.  He said that the University must make diversity an issue in its hiring practices and institutional priorities.  He hoped that the Employee Forum would serve as a voice for diversity.

Heuer asked about Stone’s position on health care issues.  Stone encouraged delegates to take stands, particularly to write letters to the newspaper advocating particular ideas.  He averred that editors are impressed by letter-writing campaigns numbering over 200 people.  He said that people can create progressive change, noting the cultural distance between the interracial marriage issue of 50 years ago and the same-sex marriage question of today.

A delegate asked Stone’s memories of Jack Johnson.  Stone recalled Johnson’s boxing career and its effect on him as a black child.  He also noted his dating habits and how they exposed him to the rancor of the white establishment.  He also said that Ken Burns is producing a film based on his life.

A delegate asked Stone to respond to conservative charges of ideological bias and lack of diversity at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Stone said that charges might have some merit, but said that truth and falsehood should grapple equally in the classroom and in society.  For this reason he opposed censorship in public life.  However, he encouraged inviting more conservative speakers to campus to enter the dialectic fray.

Discussion ranged to the recent presidential election and same-sex marriage.  Delegates raised questions about the effect of same-sex couples on adopted children and the original identity of the United States as a democracy or a republic.  In response to a question about campus housekeepers, Stone said that this group is the lowest paid group of Employees on campus.  He said that some housekeepers must do more than accept their economic situation.  David Brannigan said the inherent structural racism of the University impacts upon their economic situation.  The Chair recalled that back in the 1960s, the University’s food service workers struck for better wages.  Soon afterward, the University privatized their functions.  He said that many employees could not risk walking off their jobs given their desperate economic situation.  Brannigan recalled that Martin Luther King was a strong advocate for labor solidarity.  Stone recalled King’s economic radicalism and said that he thought that was one reason he received so much scrutiny from the government.

 

Various Forum committee representatives spoke about their group’s work. The committees outlined their charges and work through the past year.  Much of this information was included in the January agenda packet.  Brian White and Bradley Bone of the Communications committee showed off a new version of the Forum website.  Delegates made several suggestions for improvements.  The committee plans to create a web page policy soon as well as finalize the Forum committee pages.  Bone hoped to focus on the Forum’s stance on various campus issues on the web page.

Delita Wright of the Personnel Issues committee noted the commitment that group requires to accomplish goals.  She recalled the committee’s accomplishment in passing a flat $1000 raise for lower-paid employees, not only through the Forum but also through the Legislature also.  She noted the range of experiences on the Forum from very positive to very negative.

Katherine Graves read the rosters of Forum committees and asked members to make sure they served actively on at least one Forum committee.

 

The Forum heard resolution 05-01 concerning Employee health benefits on first reading.  It would take up the resolution on second reading in February.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

 

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