From the Chair, Tommy Griffin…
Carrying Our Message Forward
Hello friends. We have started another new year together, and I am looking forward to all of us working together again. We accomplished a lot together last year and we will get more done this year. I know that we are all still having a tough time surviving theses hard economic times, but we have made it through them over the years and we will continue to do so. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The economy has started to inch forward, and we are starting to hear about new jobs beginning to open up in the state. That’s what we need to do: get folks back to work. The more people we have working, the better off we are. The more jobs we have, the more revenues we have coming into the State. The more revenue we have, the more we can do for the North Carolina citizens. As the economy starts to improve, it’s going to take all of us working together to get the message to our leaders in the State that it is time for State employees to have a turn at bat. We have been sitting in the dugout very patiently, waiting for our turn. Now is the time when we should be rewarded for our hard work, our dedication, our loyalty, and our patience.
We have been carrying our message forward this past year and will continue to do so this year by providing great information to our Board of Trustees about our benefits and compensation and every thing that is happening on campus. Our Board of Trustees is very interested in what’s happening here on campus and what they can do to help. They listen very well and even want more information so they can help. This same information is being forwarded to our leaders throughout the state and in Raleigh. This information has been provided by Chancellor James Moeser, Provost Robert Shelton, Vice Chancellor Nancy Suttenfield, Associate Vice Chancellor Laurie Charest, Associate Vice Chancellor Carolyn Elfland, Faculty Chair Judith Wegner, Student Body President Matt Tepper, all their staff members, and more other folks than I can name in this article. I want to thank everyone for everything they are doing to help. We are getting support from staff and faculty and the students: we are all working together to improve things on campus. Folks from all areas of campus have provided information to help with our cause to make sure that we are being heard. I have had the chance to take information to the B.O.T. Finance Committee, and they have taken it to the full board. We are being heard, but we must continue to strengthen our voice so we will be heard and not forgotten.
Let me close by saying I know that there is a brighter future coming for us in this new year, because we are all still here and we all still care about each other. I want to thank you for your support and help and all that you are doing to keep us number one here at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Thanks from your Employee Forum and someone who truly cares, Tommy Griffin.
Robert “Tommy” Womble, Assistant University Cashier, is the recipient of this year’s Employee Forum Community Award. Perhaps better known as the Three-Legged Stool award, the Employee Forum Community Award is designed to recognize distinguished contributions by individuals who work to promote cooperation and collaboration among faculty, staff, and students.
According to his nominating material, Womble has “almost single-handedly created the most congenial relationship between the Cashier’s Office and the Financial Aid Office that the two offices have ever enjoyed.” He is credited with fostering cooperation instead of competition, to create a community within the wider institution.
In addition, Womble has demonstrated leadership by example, by taking time for questions, responding thoughtfully and courteously to problems, and visiting personally with colleagues in the Financial Aid Office.
He was presented with the award at the Forum’s February meeting. Past recipients of the award have been Elson Floyd, Rachel Windham, James Peacock, Paul Hardin, Linwood Futrelle, Laurie Charest, Jack Evans and Susan Ehringhaus.
This is the first in a series to introduce topics from the 2004 Forum Personnel Issues Committee (PIC). We will spotlight different issues each month, and keep you posted on their progress.
The PIC charge is to “Consider Employee concerns about personnel policies and practices, salaries and benefits needs and make recommendations to the Forum for action on these issues.” Grievances and benefits are our first focus this year. Out of the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Laurie Charest is developing a proposal to expedite the grievance process, due to the Chancellor 4/1/04. PIC is also looking at the grievance process and expects to pass its suggestions to the full Forum soon.
Other areas PIC is tracking are follow-through on the recommendations of the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace and the coming Career Banding initiative.
Please email Delita Wright (email@example.com) or any member of the Employee Forum to submit a comment or suggestion to the Personnel Issues Committee.
The following notes, which cover Facilities Planning issues that were presented at the January 2004 Board of Trustees meeting, were provided by Anna Wu, Director of Facilities Planning.
The Board approved the designs of:
Information Technology Services Building: This new building is located on Manning Drive on the site of the existing Bennett Building. This 100,000 square foot building will house the University’s Information Technology Services and Academic Technology Services groups. The project is funded by a combination of Higher Education Bond and departmental funds. The building will be constructed of brick with pre-cast concrete accents and large windows to bring daylight to the interior offices. The landscape design extends the sidewalk, street trees, and stone bollards introduced at the new Residence Halls to this site.
Genetic Medicine Building: This new building is located on the site of the existing Grounds Department. This 220,000 square foot building will house research laboratories, office, and support spaces. The project is funded by overhead receipts and gifts. The building will be constructed of brick with precast concrete accents. A new pedestrian arcade on the north face of the building will continue to improve the pedestrian connection from the new Bioinformatics Building to the ACC.
The Board reviewed the preliminary design of:
Residence Halls Phase II: This project will construct five buildings of apartment style housing for upper-class undergraduates. Three buildings are sited south of Craige Parking Deck and create a new quadrangle. Two buildings are sited south of Hinton James and form a more intimate open space. The new buildings are designed to recall the north campus residence halls and are similar in scale to the new Residence Halls on Manning Drive.
The Board also approved the designer for the new Student and Academic Services Building which is located on the site of the existing Chase Hall.
At the Employee Forum Annual Retreat this January, an impressive group of campus leaders spoke to Forum Delagates on issues of interest to UNC-CH employees. The speakers included (in order of appearance) Nancy Suttenfield, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration; Provost Robert Shelton; Laurie Charest, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources; Judith Wegner, Chair of the Faculty; Matt Tepper, Student Body President; and Jerry Howerton, Director of Compensation Services at Human Resources. We were delighted to have such a large group of respected campus leaders at the Retreat. Some of the highlights of their talks, particularly as they relate to staff, are given below.
Nancy Suttenfield talked about the value of the ongoing monthly meetings that she and Provost Shelton have with Forum Delagates, where Delagates have the opportunity to express their concerns to policy makers in a relatively small, informal group setting. She also discussed the non-academic side of the five-year financial plan. Four of the ten priorities on this plan are of specific interest to staff: money for staff salary improvements, staff positions and materials for facilities maintenance, adequacy of support functions, and adequacy of IT functions. She mentioned a study comparing benefits at UNC-CH compared to peer universities, where Carolina came in lowest, and a newer study showing that benefits in North Carolina also lag behind those in the 13 other southeastern states. The results of these studies are being shared with the legislature in hopes of getting some improvement in benefits.
Robert Shelton reiterated the importance of the monthly meetings with Forum Delegates, and he applauded Tommy Griffin, Nancy Suttenfield, and Laurie Charest for coming up with the idea. He spoke of recommendations of the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace on which he is directly involved, including establishing a UNC ombudsperson’s office to provide equitable and confidential dispute resolution, and enhancing opportunities to use flexible scheduling for employees. He also talked about the Tuition Advisory Task Force’s recommendation to put $1.4 to $1.5 million toward staff salaries, because of the key role staff play in the mission of UNC-CH. He stressed that it was the impassioned speech by Employee Forum Chair Tommy Griffin that won the people over to recommend funds for staff salaries. Provost Shelton noted that the Forum is an effective organization, because it has good leadership and is focused on specific issues.
Laurie Charest, who comes to all the Forum meetings and has attended more Forum meetings than anyone, spoke of her role as Forum liaison. She encouraged Forum members to become aware of Human Resources issues by visiting the HR website and by attending the Supervisory Resources classes (which are not just for supervisors), and she encouraged Delegates to contact HR generalists in dealing with HR issues. She noted that while this was a difficult year, there had been some progress, including the staff salary money recommended by the Tuition Advisory Task Force, as well as money the Governor provided to bring the lowest-paid employees up to the federal poverty level. The funds provided by the Governor were from the state salary adjustment fund, and this was the first time these sources of funds have been available for staff; while the amounts are small this still represents enormous progress, by opening the door for use of these funds for salary increases. She spoke of a report she has now presented to the BOT, showing that the increase in staff over recent years is a result of an increase in grants, while non-grant-funded staffing has remained constant or decreased; this is true even as workloads have increased in areas like Facilities Services with increases in square-footage supported.
Judith Wegner spoke of the function of the faculty council, which is made up of faculty, including librarians, with representatives from the various divisions of the University. She discussed a couple of issues she is interested in that are of particular relevance to staff: She would like to see improvements in health benefits, and she is asking for $1000 per state employee to go toward medical costs. In addition, she favors the creation of the ombudsperson’s office, which she described as a neutral person, to whom one can talk in confidence, who can help sort out problems. She closed by noting that she enjoys working with staff and students and values input and ideas from staff.
Matt Tepper told this year’s Delegates that he had found working with the Forum to be a rewarding experience. He described the structure of the Student Government, which is composed of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. As Student Body President, Tepper heads the Executive Branch, and he has served on various Executive Branch committees whose work affects staff, including the IT and transportation committees. He is concerned about the plight of low-paid workers and UNC-CH and pointed out he had read and discussed Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed before it became a controversy. He noted that two students chaired subcommittees of the Task force for a Better Workplace and that he had served on the Task Force. Tepper also served on the Tuition Task Force. He originally opposed putting tuition money toward staff salaries, feeling that the money proposed was symbolic, not enough to amount to a meaningful change, and that this served to get the state legislature off the hook. However, he changed is mind in response to Forum Chair Tommy Griffin’s speech in favor of tuition money for staff salaries.
Jerry Howerton talked about the Career Banding initiative he is heading up on campus. Career Banding “is a form of broad banding pay that reduces the number of classification titles, but increases the size of salary ranges.” The University has already successfully implemented Career Banding for Public Safety positions, and HR plans to implement Career Banding for IT employees starting 7/1/04. Information on Career Banding at UNC in general and on the IT Career Banding project is at http://hr.unc.edu/Data/SPA/paysystems/careerbanding/