November 11, 2021 Executive Committee minutes
Attending: L.E. Alexander, Sharron Bouquin, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Jen DeNeal, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Stephanie Forman, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Brigitte Ironside, Anthony Lindsey, Arlene Medder, Katie Musgrove, Brooke O’Neal, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Antonio Squire, Matthew Teal, Tracy Wetherby-Williams, Jacob Womack
Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 11:30 a.m. She asked how many attendees had received word from their units that their pilot program had been extended. Around half of the delegates indicated they had received word. The Chair thought that this information should have been communicated to all employees. She lamented a “trickle-down” approach to communication from the Deans and Vice Chancellor level down which clearly did not work in this case.
Shayna Hill asked about areas which did not officially participate in the pilot program but went “rogue” and went ahead anyway. She thought that several programs in the college were doing hybrid work despite not receiving official word of being in the pilot program. L.E. Alexander said that units have been encouraged to be flexible without officially being part of the pilot program. Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth recalled that her dean had said that departments can be flexible with staff as well.
The Chair recalled the communication from the College of Arts and Sciences seemed to contradict main campus’ OHR statement that flexible work arrangements could only be a month long, with any longer arrangements needing to be part of the pilot program. Shayna Hill thought that no one questioned this contradiction because areas want the flexibility. Alexander said that employees are still doing their jobs and achieving what is needed as departments have plans in place. She noted that the College is so large that it would be impossible to submit one plan for the entire area. The Chair noted that planning for the Future of Work group cannot be meaningful if data about participation is not available.
The Chair called for approval of the October minutes. This motion was approved by acclamation. The Chair then asked for discussion of the November budget report, noting a double entry for Hovious award plaques. Matt Banks said that he would send out a revised draft after further examination.
The Chair asked if there were any further information regarding professional development grant funding. L.E. Alexander said that these grants are still to be awarded.
The Chair noted that in-person attendance for the general hybrid meetings of the Forum has dwindled to only a few people in recent months. She said that the in-person meetings represent a lot of work for Forum staff and the School of Social Work team to prepare to host. She had the sense that the in-person feature is not needed and asked the committee to consider pushing general meetings fully back on Zoom.
Shayna Hill recalled that developing best practice for these meetings is to hold fully remote meetings when one or more attendees must be remote. The Chair recalled that some Housekeeping and Facilities delegates might have difficulty attending, but most have been able to do so. She recalled that there were only three people attending in person along with the groups of speakers, which was a bit uncomfortable. Jacob Womack proposed holding an informal training session for delegates on how to attend meetings via Zoom. The Chair asked that Matt Banks create a survey polling delegates as to whether they plan to attend the December meeting in person or via Zoom. She would plan for December’s status based on survey results.
The Chair raised the subject of upcoming Staff Assembly meetings. She said that the UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum had been asked to host a future meeting but must receive a budget allocation for this purpose. She had not heard much more on this front. Shayna Hill thought that the Assembly would likely continue to meet remotely, although nothing had been announced.
Regarding Employee Appreciation Day’s postponement to the spring, L.E. Alexander shared that Jessica Pyjas had told College managers about a well-being event in the spring in conjunction with an employee appreciation event. Shayna Hill confirmed that March 18th is the date involved.
The Chair asked if Matthew Teal has any further information about the sustainability committee proposal. Teal said that the Personnel Issues committee is studying peer institutions with similar committees. He would soon meet Alice Joseph and others regarding results and next steps. The Chair welcomed any resultant proposal from the group on this subject.
The Chair commented that the Future of Work design team’s influence on the overall process has been superficial. She said that Operational Excellence managers will likely draft the final playbook by the first week of December. Laura Pratt asked if the design team had received the campus survey results. The Chair said that the Operational Excellence team has not made the survey results a meaningful part of the design team’s process. Thus, it seems that all the data and research is happening behind closed doors, with Operational Excellence managers looking into trends at other higher education institutions. She thought that the entire process seemed very performative as the managers seem to have a preconceived notion of what the playbook will be. Design team members are left to wordsmith and develop content.
The Chair noted that the design team will take a first look at the draft then it will go to a focus group for additional feedback. She said that the administration is also providing feedback and context for the team. The goal is to create a final version that is ready in early January.
Stephanie Forman asked if others on the design team have expressed concerns like the Chair’s concerns. If so, what was the response? The Chair said that there had been discussions around data, but that the design team’s scope and timeline didn’t allow for inclusion of in-depth data analysis. She noted the teambuilding activities the design team has followed do not seem to affect the behind-the-scenes policymaking process. Forman suggested inviting representatives to speak at a future Forum meeting. The Chair would see if this were possible.
The Chair confirmed with Shayna Hill that the Computer Sciences-based staff scholarship had not yet raised its $25,000 endowment. Hill recalled that the Education & Career Development committee would handle administration and selections for the award.
Shane Brogan reported that the Communications & Public Relations committee will put out an InTouch newsletter in early December featuring blood drive figures and other end of year information.
Brooke O’Neal reported that the 2022 book club information is now finally available. She was proud that the club now has over 20 members in its new virtual experience team site. All communication about the club will come from the Teams site. She thanked the UNC Libraries for their purchase of several books for the Forum book club in multiple formats—as an e-book, print book, digital audio format, even CDs.
Jacob Womack reported that the Community Service committee will discuss support logistics for various drives. The committee also plans to hold a toy drive this winter and must find large boxes for donations.
Jen DeNeal said that the Blood Drive committee is actively taking appointments and volunteers for the December 8th drive. She particularly encouraged power red donors to give. The drive will partner with CBS Sports to publicize Red Cross donations in conjunction with a December 14th CBS Sports Classic basketball tournament featuring UNC, Ohio State, UCLA, and Kentucky. All these schools will conduct drives as a separate competition, advertised by CBS.
DeNeal also noted the upcoming Jingle Bell Jog on December 3rd for employees. The Chair suggested that committee members participate as a final advertisement before the December 8th blood drive event. DeNeal suggested that a committee member could wear the Blood Drop costume at the Jog. Phil Edwards agreed to wear the costume.
Shayna Hill read breaking news that the State budget had been signed by Governor Cooper. Members were pleased this had occurred.
Kira Jones asked about the status of people changing jobs between the deadlines for staff salary increases. The Chair thought that pending further guidance from the State, past practice would hold. Jones hoped that the Forum would choose to do some advocacy for employees in this situation. The Chair was open to the idea but was uncertain about how much of this decision was made internally and thus subject to campus-level change. She suggested that perhaps the UNC System Staff Assembly could advocate for possible changes. Shayna Hill mentioned the Chairs’ meeting that will take place in December at which the question could be discussed. Members discussed the logistics of submitting a proposal to the Assembly.
Arlene Medder reported that the Community Garden group had met for the first time since April 2020. She noted the $6,000 corporate grant that the Garden had received. She also noted continuing issues related to food distribution.
Antonio Squire reported that the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee had canceled its meetings until January. He said that the group continues work on the sustainability subcommittee proposal.
L.E. Alexander reported that Professional Development Grant applications are being reviewed this week and will be awarded before the end of November. There were 32 applications for grants this term, with many applying for travel support. Laura Pratt recommended a very nice article in The Well about the grants process and the Education and Career Development committee. She noted the positive publicity resulting from the article.
Tiffany Carver said that the Membership & Assignments committee is ready to contribute where needed. Given the pandemic, the idea of a winter potluck was declined. The Chair hoped that the committee could work on 30th anniversary event planning in 2022.
Stephanie Forman reported that the Personnel Issues committee will hold its next meeting on November 22nd. The committee started drafting a resolution addressing housekeeping staffing issues. Tiffany Carver asked about an ongoing COVID leave bank. Forman said that the University has a COVID leave bank but that accessing this leave has been difficult for applicants. Jacob Womack confirmed that shared leave cannot be donated directly to an individual person, and that leave recipients must have used all their personal leave before receiving donations.
There was no report from the Recognition & Awards committee.
Kevin Robinson of the Rules committee shared that he would leave the University in January due to layoffs in his department. He planned to step down as parliamentarian at the December full body meeting to assist in position transition. He would have transition materials for the new parliamentarian. Phil Edwards was nominated for the new position but offered to mentor another delegate who might serve.
Shayna Hill noted that the Erskine Bowles Staff Award nominations would open soon. Shane Brogan recalled that he had been appointed the new Forum representative on the Advisory Committee on Transportation and Parking. Members discussed different ways of appointing staff to University committees. There was no report from the Buildings & Grounds representative or Peer Support Collaborative representatives.
Phil Edwards reported that the Policy Review committee had submitted revisions for the policies on prohibited discrimination and harassment-related misconduct. These wording changes bring the University closer to compliance with what the Office of Civil Rights has mandated.
There was no report from Student Stores Advisory committee representatives.
Delegates discussed possible special presentations for the December general meeting. Kira Jones advocated a new software platform meant to offset Zoom fatigue amongst staff members. The Chair was interested but recalled the Forum’s limited budget.
Shayna Hill noted the real need among staff for mental health aid, as evidenced by participation numbers at the recent mental health clinic. She was frustrated by a feeling of not talking beyond the surface of questions. Stephanie Forman recalled the words of one staff member, who said that, in response to Administration calls for kindness between people, the University cannot “kind” itself out of this organizational, systemic, and structural problem. In this case, mental health is not an individual problem to solve.
The Chair said that she was also frustrated about how the summit unfolded and how staff essentially were uninvolved beyond inviting her to participate at the very last moment as Forum Chair. She would work to continue this conversation, nonetheless.
Kira Jones returned to the advocacy question, asking how to hold people’s feet to the fire to change structures and systems. She asked about possible actions available to get people to really listen to the Forum. She noted a longstanding feeling of not being seen or valued as a Forum delegate. She thought that the University is approaching a sort of tipping point in which something must shift.
Jen DeNeal thought that faculty could be a very good ally in these mental health discussions. She noted that presenters included faculty concerns mainly to improve students’ lives in the classroom. She though the Forum could present faculty concerns and staff concerns as a way of partnering with faculty. The Chair reported interest in housekeeping issues among leaders of the faculty and the Student Body. She hoped to expand these partnerships to hold the administration’s feet to the fire on these many issues.
Phil Edwards and others recalled a different University-wide conversation in which faculty indicated that staff do not have a role in shared governance at all. Stephanie Forman suggested doing a six-month progress update on the most recent report on staff feelings about COVID reentry. She thought the Forum had done a good job of honestly and specifically reporting this mental strain, but this reporting had not changed the Administration’s current course.
Members discussed the Forum’s past relationship with UE 150.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned by acclamation at 1:30 p.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary