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InTouch:  UNC Employee Forum News
Volume 4, Number 4 August 2003

From the Chair, Tommy Griffin…
I Could See All the Hard Work
Hello, everyone. I had a great opportunity in July: I attended a meeting of the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees. This was a very educational and uplifting experience. It opened my eyes and gave me a greater understanding and insight on what it takes to keep the University financially sound. Funding of the Master Plan and everything that is happening on campus take a lot of very careful planning and management. Vice Chancellor Suttenfield and her staff gave a very detailed plan of what is happening with the Master Plan and the funds that it takes to make everything work every day. When they were doing their presentation, I could see all the hard work that it took to put this presentation together and all the staff it takes to support their management effort. You can look around campus and know that things are working well. Everywhere you look, new buildings are going up. The staff can pat themselves on the back because they are the ones making sure everything happens when it needs to. We need to grow so that we can insure the future for everyone and meet the needs of the citizens of North Carolina. The chair of the Forum will be attending all of these Finance Committee meetings in the future, so you’ll be hearing more from me on University finances. I want to thank the Board of Trustees and the Finance committee for sharing information with the Forum. We all have to work together to make it work. Without each other we have no future. So let’s all work together for a brighter tomorrow. Thanks. Your friend, Tommy.

Chilled Water and Parking Deck Issues

 At the July 9 Forum meeting, Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for planning and construction, talked to the Forum and answered questions about the planned addition of a chilled-water plant and a parking deck in the blacktop area behind Cobb dorm and Paul Green Theatre. The University primarily uses chilled water for air conditioning in campus buildings, and we need more chilled water capacity because of all the new construction on campus. The parking deck would replace parking spaces lost to the construction of the plant and provide additional parking. Runberg showed architectural plans for the project and showed how the plans call for extensive buffering (trees and bushes) between the plant and the old cemetery. He said the University will build both the deck and the plant to look like regular buildings insofar as possible, and they will take extensive steps to minimize the noise of the chiller plant. Runberg noted that the plans have been revised to make the plant and the deck no higher than Cobb dorm and the theatre and hence not visible from Gimghoul Road. The plans also call for one-way entry to the deck from South Road, via the road between Connor dorm and the cemetery; one-way exit from the deck onto Country Club Road across from Gimghoul Road; and a new traffic signal at Gimghoul. 
 Also at this meeting, we had a first reading of a Forum resolution in support of the University’s position in negotiations with the Town of Chapel Hill requesting construction permits for the chiller plant and parking deck, as well as a second deck near the Gravely Building on Manning Drive and family-student housing near Mason Farm Road.
 At the August 6 Forum retreat, the Forum had a spirited discussion of the issue. Those in favor of supporting the plant and the deck argued that added chilled-water capacity is needed in this part of campus and that there is nowhere else to put it. Forum Chair Tommy Griffin was concerned that, without support for the combined project, the chiller alone might be approved, with a resultant loss in parking that would affect employees working in the area. Those who opposed the resolution felt that the University administration had made the decision to build the plant and deck without involving either town officials or University staff, and they opposed plan based on the way it was presented. Other objections included concerns about increased traffic coming out of the parking deck and onto South Road, as well as employee parking during construction. The vote was heavily in favor of passing the resolution in support of the new chiller plant and parking deck. 
 Shortly before press time the University offered an amended proposal with an additional entrance and exit along Raleigh Street, in hopes of relieving concerns about traffic problems. The Chapel Hill Town Council eventually decided after two day of debate to approve the University proposal by a 6-2 vote.

Hovious and Vacheron Honored by Forum

Also at the Forum retreat on August 6, the Forum passed resolutions in honor of two long-time, dedicated Forum supporters. The first resolution honors Kay Hovious, the first chairperson of the Forum, and it bestowed upon her a lifelong Honorary Delegate status. Kay retired on July 31, 2003, after 31 years of service to the State, and she is now moving to Wilmington, NC. The second resolution recognized Mary Ann Vacheron, who has diligently served the Forum in various capacities, including serving as chairperson of the Forum’s Personnel Issues Committee for two years. Mary Ann is shortly resigning from the University and getting married to a faculty member from another university, though she will continue to spend some time in Chapel Hill. We extend our heartfelt gratitude and best wishes to both of them.

GED Program on Campus

If you had a GED diploma, it could make a world of difference in your life: a promotion, a better job, more money, and a higher standard of living to name a few possible benefits. If you think getting your GED is hard, you’re wrong. If you need help, there are free classes held on campus to help you prepare for the GED tests, and the University grants up to three hours per week of work time to attend GED classes
General Educational Development Diploma (GED) Guidelines.

The GED test provides adults an opportunity to earn a high school equivalency diploma. In order to pass the GED test, a student must pass a series of five tests in writing skills, social studies, science, interpreting literature and arts, and mathematics. There is a small cost associated with taking these tests. Successfully passing these sections demonstrates that the student has acquired a level of learning that is comparable to that of high school graduates.

Who is eligible to take the GED tests?
The GED tests can be administered only to persons who:

  • have not graduated from an accredited high school or received a high school equivalency certificate or diploma
  • are not currently enrolled in a regular high school
  • are at least 16 years of age

What are GED tests like?
Five separate tests make up the GED battery of tests. Test questions range in difficulty from easy to hard, and cover a wide range of subjects. All the questions on four of the parts are multiple choice with five possible answers given. Part II of the Writing Skills Tests requires you to write an essay. The content of these tests are as follows:
Writing Skills, Part I (55 questions, 75 minutes); Writing Skills, Part II (45 minutes); Social Studies (64 questions, 85 minutes); Science (66 questions, 95 minutes); Interpreting Literature & the Arts (45 questions, 65 minutes); Mathematics (56 questions, 90 minutes).

What to Do Next?
People from all walks of life have taken advantage of the GED program. No matter what your situation, you can improve it by earning a GED. Join the many winners who have advanced themselves with a GED. If you wish to enroll, please contact Ray Doyle, Training Coordinator – Facilities Services, at or 962-4440. Then, just start attending classes. You can start any time; just make sure you have your supervisor’s approval.

Classes currently meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8:15 am and 9:45 am. You will never regret it!

Volunteer Fair


WHEN: Wednesday, September 17, 2003– 10:30 AM – 2:00 PM

WHERE: The Pit (between UNC Student Stores and Lenoir Hall)

WHY: Because community agencies need your help—and you get paid leave to volunteer!
The fourth annual Volunteer Fair is a chance for staff, faculty, students, and the public to learn about service opportunities in the community. Representatives from nearly 40 community agencies will be on hand to answer your questions and recruit interested volunteers. Volunteering with a local non-profit or government agency is a great way to make a difference in the life of your community.

Both SPA and EPA employees working 20 hours or more per week receive up to 24 hours of paid community service leave each year. If you choose to volunteer with tutoring or mentoring programs at local elementary, middle, or high schools, you may be eligible for up to 36 hours of paid community service leave. For more information on community service leave, please consult Section XI of the Human Resources Manual for SPA Employees or contact your HR facilitator.

The Volunteer Fair is sponsored by the Carolina Center for Public Service, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, the Chapel Hill News, UNC Student Government, and the UNC Graduate and Professional Student Federation. For more information, visit or call 843-7568.


Affordable Housing Listserv
Employees interested in receiving affordable housing bulletins can now get on an email list sponsored by the Forum. Send your name and e-mail address to and we will put you on a list that notifies you of affordable housing opportunities as soon as they are announced.

Editorial – Legislature Provides No Raises

The provisions of the state budget relating to state employees this year were disappointing at best, particularly when there were ample opportunities for the legislature to provide raises and avoid cuts to University budgets and other needed programs. This editorial tells what employees did and did not get, it describes several of the options legislators had to do better, and it notes problems with what the legislature did for employees. It should be noted, however, that local representatives are not at fault, as they certainly tried to do the right thing.

SPA and EPA Employees on the payroll as of October 1, 2003 will receive a one-time bonus of $550, to arrive no earlier than late October. This will have no effect on future salaries and does nothing to help against the currently slow creep of inflation. Employees also received ten more days of bonus leave. While there was no raise in salary, the cost of family health insurance has risen dramatically. Other provisions with direct effects on employees include making it much harder to get disability benefits.

What could the legislature have done instead? It’s simple. The state has significant financial problems now because of tax cuts pushed through in the last decade. Because North Carolina can’t simply spend more than we have like the federal government, when we need more money, we have to raise taxes. The legislature could do this in several ways.

The biggest opportunity that the legislature squandered was the opportunity to raise the tax on tobacco. Besides just raising money in the current year, it would also reduce smoking, particularly among teens, allowing them to avoid a lifetime of nicotine addiction, and greatly reducing long-term medical costs, much of which is borne by the state. Since only a small proportion of tobacco is bought in North Carolina, this would have a negligible effect on tobacco companies, despite their protests to the contrary.

Another option was to increase the tax on alcohol. While alcohol use is not responsible for the enormous health costs that tobacco use is, this is a reasonable source of revenue, though it is a regressive tax.
Yet another option that was discussed is a junk food tax. While this is unlikely to go far towards solving the increasing obesity problems suffered throughout our country and particularly by our youth, it is a step in the right direction.

The lottery was another obvious choice. With all the surrounding states having lotteries, many millions of NC dollars go to fund other states’ coffers. The lottery proceeds could pay for new schools and other one-time educational expenditures, which clearly would make more money available for other programs. Perhaps the most obvious choice, which is never discussed in the legislature, was raising the income tax. This is our only progressive tax, and a very small change in the income tax would go a long way.

Thus the state could have come up with additional funds via taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, junk food, or income, or they could have followed the wishes of the majority of North Carolinians and set up a lottery. Any of these options would have allowed smaller cuts to state agencies, such as the University, avoiding the loss of jobs. These options would also have allowed a real salary increase to state employees who have not seen a raise in three years.

Instead, legislators gave us a paltry $550 bonus, providing no help in dealing with inflation, which is eating away at our salaries. They also gave us ten days of bonus leave. This is disturbing because, since many employees will not use this leave until they leave state service, the state is providing a benefit that it does not have to pay for now.

Brian White, Editor