September 19, 2017 Executive Committee minutes
Attending: Bryan Andregg, Tiffany Carver, Jackie Copeland, Clare Counihan, Lori Haight, Naquan Hill, Shayna Hill, Arlene Medder, Greg Smith, Kathy Ramsey, K.D. Welsh
Excused Absences: Katie Musgrove, Natiaya Neal
Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 11:30 a.m. She asked for a motion to approve the August minutes of the committee. Bryan Andregg made this motion, seconded by Kathy Ramsey. The motion was approved.
The Chair said that she had worked on maintaining an open and positive relationship with the Office of Human Resources. She had requested access to the Forum accounts through InfoPorte. She did note that former Forum Chair Charles Streeter had submitted his requests to the Chancellor’s Office later in the year. She granted that it is difficult to make plans without knowing how much money is in the budget. She said that Human Resources had directly asked the Forum to watch what it spends on food. Naquan Hill wondered why the request to access InfoPorte had taken so long to fulfill. He recalled that the request was submitted in July. The Chair noted that the Forum’s accounts are not held separately from the Office of Human Resources, although there have been program codes assigned to Forum transactions.
The Chair noted that the Forum accounts as currently projected have substantial imbalances in in its overhead and Staff Development fund accounts. She noted that the Forum pays for a class that OHR offers, the notary public training classes. These classes typically cost around $95/person. She noted that employees have registered for the fall version of these classes but not yet for the spring. Clare Counihan suggested that the Forum is not seeing a return on this investment and thought that the Forum could shift some of this cost back onto Human Resources. She preferred using these funds for professional development grants. Arlene Medder said that as a notary, she offers her services for free during work hours to the University community. It was noted that Durham Tech offers these courses separate from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Discussion moved to the limitation on expenses for Forum events such as the book club and monthly meetings. Naquan Hill noted that the Forum would likely have to pay for the 25th anniversary event in December. The committee agreed to cut the notary public class for fiscal year 2019 while keeping its commitment to fund the notary class for spring 2018. The Chair wanted to trade the cuts to the Executive Committee lunches to resume funding for the book club. Ricky Roach asked about obtaining permanent funding for the Carolina Blood Drive, as each year the Drive must go to the Chancellor’s office to request funding for projects piecemeal.
There was a question about InfoPorte access for the Forum Chair, Treasurer, and Assistant. The Chair noted that Vice Chancellor Felicia Washington sees herself as a liaison between the Chancellor’s Office and the Forum. Members questioned the appearance of others telling the Forum in what areas it should cut its budget. The Chair said that she can adjust the Forum budget in follow-up meetings with the Office of Human Resources Accounting unit.
Clare Counihan understood that Washington has asked the Forum Executive Committee to vet delegate questions before submission of the Vice Chancellor representatives’ meeting agendas. The Chair emphasized Forum unity in discussions with campus administration. Tiffany Carver asked how former Forum chairs Charles Streeter and Jackie Overton handled discussions with campus administration. The Chair recalled hearing Streeter say that he would press on controversial questions in the Vice Chancellor’s meetings while keeping things more tranquil in full Forum meetings.
Tiffany Carver asked if this was the first time the Forum has had its budget cut. Matt Banks recalled that the personnel budget of the Forum was cut in 2011. The Chair said that the Forum should be able to justify its arguments for taking a different path with its expenditures. Ricky Roach said that those in power are likely to test new players in negotiations. The Chair said that she had worked to explain the Forum’s committees and projects. Roach commented that campus administrators likely feel the Forum has no teeth in its pursuit of concerns. Carver recalled that Jackie Overton was very close to Chancellor Thorp, a relationship that likely would not be repeated with future Chancellors.
The Chair recalled the University’s organizational chart which depicts the Forum as having a direct reporting link to the Chancellor. She thought that this relationship should grant the Forum standing in discussions of relevant questions on the same level as faculty.
The Chair recalled feedback at the last full Forum meeting that some delegates do not feel free to speak as they believe. She challenged delegates to speak freely and listen to each other. Kathy Ramsey observed that some delegates may be afraid to speak in full Forum meetings because of the presence of media. She suggested going into closed session for some of these discussions. Others noted that the use of closed session for State meetings is limited to a few very specific circumstances.
Clare Counihan suggested that the Forum look into adapting the SafeZone and HAVEN group discussion agreements to facilitate conversations. Ricky Roach said that delegates may often forget that press are present at full Forum meetings.
Members discussed the upcoming State Health Plan registration process and the need for employees to do a tobacco attestation. Delegates were generally troubled by the increase in premiums this year. Bryan Andregg offered that the Personnel Issues committee and the Benefits Office could work to suggest a more simplified information format for the attestation process. K.D. Welsh said that Human Resources representatives reach out to supervisors regarding the attestation but need to also address employees at large.
Andregg asked what issues the Forum can advise the Chancellor about given its status as an advisory body. Tiffany Carver suggested revisiting goals from the past retreat. The Chair noted goals of increasing participation and numbers in blood drive and community garden work, among other items. Andregg recalled the issue of employees working flexible hours not being paid to take vacations for the full day that they are off. The Chair recalled that this was a legislative decision and she did not know how to increase these vacation hours. Ricky Roach said that the holiday period should match an employee’s schedule, flexible or not. The Chair said that the Legislature has granted only 8 hours vacation leave per day for full-time employees. Tiffany Carver suggested that this question could be approached as a schedule issue requiring flexibility for that week.
Bryan Andregg wondered how many employees are affected by this situation. He said that the job of the Forum is to speak for the number of employees adversely affected by this situation given the way their schedule is fixed. He said that the Forum could propose that General Administration or the Office of State Human Resources work to provide a solution. Kathy Ramsey suggested that the UNC Staff Assembly could pursue this issue with General Administration and other campuses. Ricky Roach said that Gena Carter of Human Resources had said that there was little this campus could do to change the policy. She had noted the worry that employee pay not exceed 40 hours/week.
Naquan Hill asked what occurs when the University implements closed days every year around the winter holidays. Bryan Andregg said that the University asks that some employees not work five eight-hour shifts that week. Ricky Roach said that even on closed days maintenance and other workers are required to stay on campus. He asked why the University could not pay to add vacation days given the lack of a need to turn a profit. Bryan Andregg noted that SEANC had lobbied for the winter holiday closed days for the University. Roach said that the requirement that he take a paid day of vacation for the holiday means that benefit is lost for that month.
Clare Counihan said that a discussion among the larger group of delegates could rely on group agreements to set the principles for engagement. She proposed to e-mail an example of this kind of agreement. Matt Banks suggested that the Forum request that the Chancellor issue a statement to protect delegates and employees from retaliation for remarks made in Forum meetings.
Tiffany Carver suggested that delegates have the chance to e-mail questions anonymously to promote free discussion. Arlene Medder added that these questions could go to the Forum Office at CB# 3488.
Ricky Roach added that no matter what is said, he hoped that all would remain friends when discussions and meetings end. The Chair said that everyone’s perspective differs but she thought the Forum was done a disservice when people label each other politically. She wants to celebrate diversities within the University. Naquan Hill agreed that the Forum needs open discussion and mutual respect for one another’s views. He said that everyone is entitled to an opinion, no matter how unpopular. Lori Haight said that delegates must assume that they will face difficult conversations because of representing others when elected. The Chair suggested that the Forum put this question on its discussion for new delegate orientation in April.
The Chair recalled her goal that University supervisors urge their employees to seek election on the Forum as a means towards professional development and growth. Clare Counihan noted a frustration with the concept that “only one person will say” something in particular because of their political leanings. Lori Haight noted that Forum delegates must be careful not to create their own echo chamber. Counihan agreed, but noted that some may feel that rolling their eyes at another’s comment is the only way that they feel they can participate because they know that they will be shouted down.
Bryan Andregg understood that Forum service requires a willingness to speak for oneself and those interested. He also understood that all may not feel safe in this role. He did note that delegate service is a choice. Ricky Roach said that anyone serving on the Forum or any representative body should speak without reservation. Lori Haight thought that rolling one’s eyes at another’s comments in a professional setting is not appropriate and dismissive. Roach said he was not offended by this act.
The Chair commented that delegates should be challenged to speak for others of similar mind and with others of different mind. Roach said that the Forum reflects the political nature of the general community. He did not think that the Forum should involve itself in political topics but should stick to employee problems.
Tiffany Carver said that when a delegate brings up a question, it becomes an issue for the Forum and by extension an employee problem. She noted the need to be respectful of people’s opinions and that everyone is a minority on some specific issue.
Kathy Ramsey noted that the next Executive Committee meeting in October is scheduled at the same time as the UNC System Staff Assembly. The committee agreed to reschedule its meeting to Wednesday, October 18th, in the Forum Office.
Clare Counihan noted upcoming events at the Carolina Women’s Center. Arlene Medder noted an upcoming “Weed Dating” event in the Carolina Campus Community Garden. Kathy Ramsey noted recent new stipulations on the work of the Center for Civil Rights that will likely lead to the Center’s departure from the University.
In the absence of further questions, the meeting adjourned at 1:31 p.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary