Hello friends. Another month has gone by, and so has another school year. Graduation will be over with by the time you read this, and all the folks that worked so hard to get another senior class to the end of one journey and to the beginning of a new life will be able to say we have done it again. Have you ever thought about how many hours of work it takes to get a student through four years of college? Well, as a parent with two in college and over thirty years of service here at the University, I know that it takes twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. The University opened to students in 1795, so staff have been working here for over 208 years. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to work that many years. Think about all the folks that were here before us and the ones that will follow us. What kind of legacy will we all leave behind? I know that when it comes time for us to move on we will leave behind part of ourselves, our dreams, and our love for each other. The folks here at the University are truly what being a Tar Heel is all about. Once you have joined the University family, you can’t get it out of your blood or off of your mind.
Whether you are Tar Heel born or later decide to join the Tar Heel family, once you are there you will always belong. Even if you leave you will never lose that Tar Heel spirit. We all need to share the gifts that we have, no matter what they are, our time, our knowledge, our strengths, our courage, our faith, and our ability to care about each other so much, so that we can carry out our missions here at the University. I know that we have some tough times in front of us because of everything that is happening in our state right now. I know for sure that we will get through them together. We must continue to think positively and support each other more and more every day. When times get tough, sit down and talk to a friend. Take time to listen to someone who needs a friendly ear, a smile, and someone who truly cares about what they have to say. When we look back at these tough times, we will be better friends and colleagues because of them. Just take the time to care about one another. Thanks for everything.
Your friend always, Tommy.
The Forum would like to thank former state senator Howard Lee, who spoke at the May 7 Forum meeting. Mr. Lee has served the public in many ways, including serving as mayor of Chapel Hill for six years. On 5/1/03, he was elected chair of the State Board of Education by his fellow board members. He was already serving as an education advisor to Governor Easley and is now vice chair of the Education cabinet. Lee recently lost a close state senate race to his long-time political ally Elly Kinaird, whom he was forced to run against because of changes made to the legislature’s redistricting plans by judge Knox Jenkins, a Johnson county Republican. Dean Gene Nichol of the UNC-CH School of Law, when he spoke to the Forum last September, said Jenkins did not have authority to make these partisan changes, and the NC Supreme Court’s refusal to review the case before the election was, in Nichol’s opinion, lawless and without justification. Lee’s comments in the Forum today were primarily on the state budget.
Senator Lee said he wants to see the legislature finish its work and leave town quickly. While this won’t be simple, particularly in light of revenue shortfalls of around $400 million, the pain will not be as great as last year. This is because Easley planned well this year and withheld money from state agencies, and this money can be used to make up much of the current shortfall. He thinks the budget this year can be better than last year, though not painless. Next year, however, concerns both Lee and Easley, he said.
At the time of Lee’s talk, both the House and Senate budgets were in conference. Both produced budgets, and they now have to reconcile their budgets and deal with the hole in the budget left by the revenue shortfall. To achieve a final budget, Lee said, there must be a process of cutting and a process of “revenue enhancement”, i.e., tax increases. Various proposals are on the table, including a tax on sugar drinks, aimed at improving North Carolinians’ diets in the face of a growing obesity problem; as well as an increase in the tobacco tax, which would decrease teen smoking and cut health care costs dramatically.
Senator Lee was not sure how the tax issues would play out. Unfortunately, he feels that it is unlikely that the tobacco tax will be enacted, despite the many positive effects it would have on North Carolina. Also, while the House and Senate have 1.6% and 1.8% raises in the budget for state employees, he said it was unclear what we will end up with. However, he said, state employees have been asked to “sacrifice beyond reason” in previous years, by receiving minimal pay increases while retirement contributions were cut and health care costs increased.
Moving on to subjects more directly related to his duties in the Education cabinet and as chair of the State Board of Education, Mr. Lee said that North Carolinians should enact a state lottery. With all our neighboring states now running lotteries, the NC legislature’s failure to do so [despite overwhelming support for a lottery by voters] deals a “devastating blow” to North Carolina, as other state’s lotteries entice people to other states, where North Carolinians also buy gas, bread, and other items. This reduces NC sales tax revenues, which are drastically down this year. Lee would use the lottery funds for one-time expenses like building schools.
Lee also spoke about the need for increased support of community colleges and universities in the face of increasing demand, he discussed his work on the No Child Left Behind program, and he fielded questions regarding advertising for the lottery and testing of students in public schools.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Laurie Charest introduced the HR generalist team leaders at the May 7 Forum meeting: Linc Butler, Administration and Student Affairs; Connie Boyce, Academic Affairs; and Gena Carter, Health Affairs. Human Resources is currently looking for a senior director for the HR Generalist program. As you probably already know, the HR generalist teams are a result of a reorganization and extensive training of HR staff, so that a single contact person can now provide a whole set of services for which you previously had to contact several different people. The reorganization makes it easier for employees to deal with Human Resources and thereby provides a better service.
To find out the name and phone number of the HR generalist for your department, go to http://www.ais.unc.edu/hr/generalists. This presents you with a variety of ways to find out the HR Generalist for your department. The editor found it simplest to scroll to the bottom, click on “Department name”, and then scroll down to your department.
Forum Insert in Next University Gazette
The Employee Forum will have a four-page insert in the University Gazette on July 16. This will have a feature on Forum chair Tommy Griffin, an article on Forum resolutions over the last year, a focus on the Personnel Issues Committee, and a variety of staff- and Forum-related pictures. Be sure it read it!
Much of the work done by the Employee Forum is done by the Forum committees. This year we will be running an article each month focusing on the activities of one of the committees, describing what the committee does in general and particular issues they are working on this year. We’ll start this month with the Communications Committee.
The Communications Committee’s charge is to develop and implement a variety of communications with the Forum’s constituencies, paying particular attention to communications with SPA and EPA non-faculty Employees at UNC-CH concerning Forum activities and opportunities. The main ways the committee achieves this communication is by publishing the InTouch newsletter monthly and providing an insert in the University Gazette annually. We meet monthly on the Thursday following the Wednesday Forum meeting at 2:00 in the Forum office, so we can discuss topics from the Forum meeting that should be included in the next issue, as well as other topics to be covered. The articles in our communications are generally written by members of the committee or other members of the Forum, but this is certainly not a requirement.
If you’re an employee or have something to say that concerns employees, we’d like to hear from you and make your thoughts known. The chair of the Communications Committee doubles as the editor of InTouch. This involves organizing meetings, coming up with ideas for our communications, overseeing the content of the newsletter, collecting and editing articles, and passing them on to Matt Banks, the Forum Assistant. Matt is really the mainstay of the committee; he writes many of the articles, formats and edits the entire publication, and sends InTouch out in both email and paper formats.
In addition to working on InTouch and the Gazette insert, the committee also provides some input to Matt Banks on the organization and content of Forum web page (../index.htm). This year, the committee has not yet done much in this area. We are waiting for some possible changes to the standard format for UNC web pages, so we can implement those changes at the same time as any reorganization of Forum pages.
There is a right way and a wrong way to run a Staff Appreciation Day, as this example illustrates.
In the summer of 1995, Tim Quigg joined the Computer Science Department as its new Associate Chair for Finance and Administration. The following May, he observed the department’s Staff Appreciation Lunch. Like the other meals served on occasion in the department, this one was organized by staff, and the staff handled getting food delivered, setting up tables and chairs, serving the food, and cleaning up afterward. Everyone was happy to have the food, but the new Associate Chair felt that the faculty could do more to show their appreciation.
The next year, Tim Quigg decided to change things. He organized the faculty to get the food, set up, serve, and clean up. Not only did the staff feel considerably more appreciated, but they also got some entertainment and went so far as to take pictures, in case it never happened again. However, these lunches have continued, and for the last couple of years they also included a drawing where staff won prizes, including some gift certificates at local businesses. We really appreciate that. The faculty still put on the lunch, while staff that normally handle such duties hover nearby, restraining themselves with difficulty from pitching in.
If your department does not do something like this, you might suggest it to your chair.
Sue Estroff, outgoing chair of the UNC-CH Faculty, encouraged and challenged us at the May meeting with moving words on several topics. Her talk is included here in its entirety.
Employee Appreciation Week doesn’t touch it. That’s the trouble with designated weeks. Like Mother’s Day, they’re more for the card company, for politicians. I kind of don’t pay attention, like you. I think it’s more a matter of appreciation and respect, the latter from authentic partnership, active peer relations, daily regard – not yearly regard. I hope this better characterizes me and individual faculty members on a daily basis.
The earlier speaker described staff as silent supporters. We don’t see them as being in the background. They are right beside us, in front of everything else. I think these gestures are well-intended, but it’s more about shared governance. That’s where we’re going, I think. We have a ways to go, before things are good.
Tommy Griffin is an attentive advocate, a strategic pusher on the system: he is behind the issues, seeing that they are getting pushed. We are well represented by him; he takes the time to sit on committees. Committees are where the real work is done, where individual tasks are taken on.
I’d like to start by apologizing. During my three years as Faculty Chair there was less focus and progress on issues of salary and compensation than I had hoped.
The state health plan – the alleged state health plan – continues it’s before your very eyes vanishing act. There are some possible avenues of escape and repair: Judith Wegner [incoming Faculty Chair] is our best hope. It is clear from what Howard Lee said that there is no plan to do anything about it. I think there are no potential avenues for the state to repair it. I think the only way to get decent health insurance may be to get out of the State plan. Wegner will make me look like I was standing still. She understands the legislature and the law; get ready on this one.
We worked very hard to keep the issues of compensation on the screen. I regret that we have not done more, talked about it more. That’s the first step: you have to talk about it. Student Body President Matt Tepper works at the Inter-Faith Council Food Pantry. I was shocked and dismayed to learn that many UNC employees use the IFC Pantry to feed their families. This is a disgrace; this is unacceptable. I’m repeating this to the Trustees, that this is unacceptable. They don’t care. They talk about revenue enhancement – it’s almost insulting. We can’t continue to run this place on people’s backs.
We talk about a living wage. I was shocked to learn so many UNC employees earn under $20,000 a year. The battle is not over. It is surely not enough, but graduated parking prices are a huge step forward. I believe there is a broad and deep desire among faculty to help. They recognize inequities between the highest and lowest paid employees. While we salute our colleagues at UNC-G, this is more substantial in terms of dollars and has more impact, [and] is more enduring than any single fund drive. This goes for five years. There has to be a large transfer of costs from lower to higher paid employees.
Howard Lee had no good news for us. So it is important, not just to work on things, but to work on the right things. Personally, I think we are too nice. I really think that. We’re too nice.
There are a few things on my wish list. One is to leave podiums like this for a while.
We need to get the UNC Study commission going. They’ve been set up to look at the Office of the President and the unified system, but they have not met, have not appointed members.
We may need to get the UNC system completely out of the state health plan. We need to work toward that. If we stay together, we need to make sure it doesn’t just insure itself. It’s not serving us well. Laurie Charest is working with us. We are being asked to give, to cut. For more give, we need more take. The more we give, the less they give. Something’s wrong with this picture.
I’d like to see tuition remission or substantial tuition remissions for all UNC employees who are here over 10 years. If they are not going to pay us in dollars, they need to provide some payment in kind. In some states, Employee’s children pay no tuition at all. It is a wrong choice to have to choose between giving a raise or filling a vacancy. They do this to us: they give us a raise, but not enough to fill vacant positions. This makes the job impossible. They’re talking about 1.6%? That’s still behind. For the University budget, they say they are going to give us $11 million dollars in enrollment increases, but then cut us somewhere else $10 million. Who do they think they are fooling?
If we’re not going to get salaries, then they need to start matching our retirement contributions. Over the lifetime of employees, this adds up to many thousands of dollars. They need to stop borrowing our contributions.
There is not a reasonable parental leave policy. Now that I have two year olds at home, I don’t know how people do it. I didn’t do this when I was 30, but I’m not sure I could have.
We need to make good on our covenant with the people of NC. I think we do fabulous things. Our covenant is: we serve them, they support us. The people of North Carolina are under the illusion that we receive adequate support from the legislature, because we dig so deep, we do so much with so little. Really, we are enablers of their denial.
The bottom line is, at all costs, we need to do whatever it takes to protect quality. Enrollment growth? We can’t handle it. We can’t handle it in the classroom, having fewer filled positions and more work. We can’t just teach more, and work harder. We have to draw the line on quality, not let class size increase, even if it means huge wait lines for classes. Enrollment is going up while funds are going down. They talk about access. Access to what? We can’t do more and shouldn’t have to. We have to keep our covenant, keep it going back and forth.
What makes history? Not reaching the goal. It’s more than progress, not just being well-behaved. It’s been said that well-behaved women seldom make history.
What I value most is that I leave with new friends, better informed about who you are and what you do. There is a sense here of fierce pragmatic optimism, of a future together here.
I leave you Wegner, a lioness, with you. And let me leave you with a thought. Nelson Mandela said just because you silence someone does not mean you have changed their mind. I say to you two things: it’s about strategic compromises and planned persistence. Don’t change your mind about what is good for the University, and don’t be silent.