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August 18th, 2020 Executive Committee minutes

Executive Committee Members Attending L.E. Alexander, Rich Brandenburg, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Jen DeNeal, Phil Edwards, Stephanie Forman, Adrienne Gibilisco, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Haydèe Marchese, Arlene Medder, Katie Musgrove, Natiaya Neal, Ayla Ocasio, Laura Pratt, Robert Smith III, Kevin Robinson, Jacob Womack

Other Forum Delegates Attending: Dzenita Blackwell, Jessye Bongiovanni, Hallie Butler, Alicia Brandt,  Chrissie Greenberg, Quin Jernigan, Joe Ormond, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, Rosemary Thorp

Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 11:32 a.m. She welcomed State Employees’ Association of North Carolina (SEANC) Executive Director Ardis Watkins to provide opening remarks. Members discussed the recent announcement that University classes would go on-line. A member commended Chancellor Guskiewicz for his quickness in using the offramp option given multiple clusters in the residence halls.

Ardis Watkins agreed that the University needs to do the safest thing by its community. She said that this course, however necessary, would affect employee livelihoods through the loss of income and health care. She added that if online learning becomes a standing reality, decisionmakers may look at privatization as an option to provide services. She noted SEANC’s pride in securing a $15/hour minimum wage for State workers.

Watkins noted the pandemic’s impact on community health and the need to support families and keep safe practices. She said that University staff have kept up the promise to open campus and keep operations clean and sanitized. Stephanie Forman suggested asking faculty for their attendance and partnership at Forum meetings. The Chair recalled a commitment from leaders of the Faculty Council and Carolina Black Caucus to partner in holding a town hall. She said that the Forum is committed to holding one to two community meetings each year. She thanked Watkins and SEANC for their work on the Forum’s August health care community meeting.

Adrianne Gibilisco suggested inviting Special Advisor to the Provost and Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion/Interim Chief Diversity Officer Sibby Anderson-Thompkins to speak to issues unique to people of color in a robust way.

The Chair asked if faculty are willing to take on the burden of a pay-cut as well as staff employees. She thought that there needs to be a public statement to this effect. Gibilisco asked about leadership starting with a pay-cut to save positions on campus. The Chair directed attendees to the resolution on possible budget cuts under discussion. She thought the resolution might be a good jumping off point for the town hall. She emphasized the resolution’s clauses addressing possible disparate impacts upon Black and Brown employees and those making less than $100,000/year.

Ardis Watkins thought it important that the Forum initiate a public event. She said that the University needs a commitment from its constituency groups to show solidarity. No one should go without health care, for instance. She advised a multipronged approach and offered to share a list of action items with the Forum Chair. The Chair suggested seeing what Mimi Chapman of the Faculty and Dawna Jones of the Carolina Black Caucus will do. She hoped that unity and action would typify discussion.

The committee discussed whether employees have received furloughs or merely reductions in hours this past summer. Jacob Womack advised obtaining concrete numbers and stories regarding these situations. The Chair said she would share these stories as she could. Womack advised a personal and direct appeal leading to the town hall. A delegate noted that a call has gone out for white tenured faculty to withhold their labor from the University. Others reported similar discussions among graduate student employees.

Adrianne Gibilisco asked about the early retirement idea for senior employees. The Chair said that she had made this suggestion but had not heard a response yet.

Members discussed the timing of the proposed town hall. The Chair proposed to keep the Executive Committee updated on the group listerv.

Arlene Medder moved that the July minutes be approved, seconded by Jen DeNeal. The motion was approved by acclamation. Ayla Ocasio presented the Forum’s monthly budget report, noting that there had been only a few professional development grant expenses this month.

Members discussed wording of Resolution 20-02. Kevin Robinson noted that the Executive Committee could move to suspend its rules and consider approving the resolution upon first reading at its September general meeting. Arlene Medder moved thus to suspend the rules, seconded by Laura Pratt. The Chair noted the need to have votes on the record to comply with open meetings rules.

Executive Committee members voted as follows: Tiffany Carver, Aye. Natiaya Neal, Aye. Jen DeNeal, Aye. Phil Edwards, Aye. Arlene Medder, Aye. L.E. Alexander, Aye. Shane Brogan, Aye. Katie Musgrove, Aye. Laura Pratt, Aye. Kevin Robinson, Aye. Ayla Ocasio, Aye. Antonio Squire, Aye. James Holman, Aye. Jacob Womack, Aye, Stephanie Forman, Aye. Tiffany Carver announced that the motion to suspend the rules had been approved. The Chair thanked the committee for its vote.

Matt Banks said that he would create the Teams pages for the Forum committees.

Kevin Robinson move to ask the Chair to empanel a special committee to review the Forum Bylaws. Jen DeNeal seconded. There was no opposition to this motion. Phil Edwards, Quin Jernigan, Arlene Medder, Jen DeNeal, and Matt Banks offered to join Robinson in this work.

Natiaya Neal reminded the committee about the selection of the Clark Staff Award for Moral Courage. It was noted that there have been around ten individuals nominated for the award to that point.

Katie Musgrove read an email from University Development regarding creation of a support fund for employees facing difficulty due to the pandemic. She said this effort may align with the work of the Community Service committee. Musgrove noted potential confusion of this effort with the Employee Assistance fund. Jacob Womack said he had worked with Development to convey the size of the pandemic’s impact upon employees. He shared a listing of activities the Community Service committee will work on this fall, including the extension of the Carolina Cupboard resource to employees in need. He praised the University for its efforts to help employees through the Development initiative.

The Chair proposed asking the Chancellor to be a standing presenter for the Forum’s monthly general meetings. She would present this idea to him. Katie Musgrove asked the status of the one-on-one meetings with the Chancellor. The Chair said that plans are to resurrect this practice in the fall.

Robert Smith III encouraged employees to take care of themselves given the continual immersion in University affairs since the March closing. The Chair appreciated Smith’s thoughts about this subject. Smith offered to collate coping resources for possible distribution to delegates and employees. He noted the toll that sustained stress can take upon employees.

Stephanie Forman suggested creation of a mental health day for employees to encourage conversations about mental health care. Womack said that Human Resources has resources like Counseling Services and the Employee Assistance Program.  The department anticipated a large uptick in the use of these programs that surprisingly has not yet occurred.

In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 1:25 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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