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April 21, 2020 Executive Committee Minutes

Attending (Zoom Meeting):  Tiffany Carver, Jen DeNeal, Phil Edwards, Stephanie Forman, Shayna Hill, James Holman, Arlene Medder, Katie Musgrove, Ayla Ocasio, Jim Potts, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Greg Smith, Rose Thorp, Tracy Wetherby Williams

Excused Absence: Clinton Miller

Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 11:35 a.m. She hoped to use the Zoom webinar format for future general meetings, which would give more control over attendees. Arlene Medder noted that University Archives has asked employees to record how the pandemic has changed their work lives.  The Chair asked that approval of the March meeting minutes wait until the next meeting. The committee agreed to this proposal.

Ayla Ocasio said that it would be useful to discuss carryover possibilities for the Forum budget. She noted that the Forum will not be able to hold its usual events, leading to a surplus of funds. The Chair noted that the Blood Drive had asked to carryover funds if the summer drive is postponed past the announced June 2 date. Matt Banks read an email from the Human Resources Business Office stating that the Blood Drive funds do not carryover from year to year, and that the funds could not be used to purchase gift cards for the effort.

Laura Pratt asked what the Forum will need to do to zero out its budget given the pandemic. Others noted emerging restrictions on departmental expenditures given the coming budget crisis associated with the pandemic. Katie Musgrove observed that these restrictions would seem to rule out the purchase of promotional items for the Forum. Phil Edwards said that these conversations were occurring all over campus. Rose Thorp thought that the Forum needs to spend its budget now before any funds are redistributed elsewhere. Pratt raised the idea to buy dinner for folks working on campus, but the Chair did not think that idea would receive approval. L.E. Alexander proposed that departmental purchases be made to support employees working from home.

The Chair proposed trying a Zoom call with Finance officers to ascertain what it can and cannot spend and thereafter reporting to the May Executive committee meeting. Ayla Ocasio was disappointed by the negative response to the Blood Drive’s carryover request. She wanted to figure out why this request was refused. Rose Thorp noted the national situation in which the entire country needs blood donations. She thought it would not look good for the University to cancel this drive. Jim Potts noted  the possibility of holding three drives during the 2020-21 fiscal year. Laura Pratt recalled that some professional development grant winners have had conferences canceled due to the pandemic.

Sarah Carrier spoke on behalf of establishing a Women’s Issues committee as a standing Forum committee. She said that she could provide an estimate of committee financial needs later. Katie Musgrove recalled that the Community Service committee had a recent budget in which funds remained at the end of the fiscal year. Stephanie Forman recalled that the Faculty Council’s Women’s Issues committee had joined with the Association of Women Faculty and Professionals to host several events. Carrier thought that staff concerns had been obscured in these meetings, but collaboration was essential for both groups. Carrier emphasized that these groups would not reinvent the wheel but would instead draw on previous groups’ work. She drew a parallel with the University Library’s Women’s Issues group.

Katie Musgrove thought that the idea followed the University’s Diversity and Inclusion unit and was well-founded. Stephanie Forman also thought it was a great idea but thought that the committee’s work might overlap with the Personnel Issues committee. Rose Thorp thought the committee might also overlap with the Carolina Women’s Center’s work. She was concerned that the committee’s creation might open doors to creating representative committees for a range of demographically specific groups. She noted the difficulty the Forum has in staffing its current committees and getting work done now.

Phil Edwards recalled that Forum committees are open to non-delegates, provided they do not chair the committee. Sarah Carrier recalled attending Personnel Issues committee meetings that seemed to overlap with Women’s Issues work. She offered to work with the Forum to find the best arrangement for the committee in its overall structure.

The Chair asked the feeling of the Executive committee as to whether the Women’s Issues committee should stand separately, as a subcommittee of Personnel Issues, or within a Diversity & Inclusion committee. Members were worried that the group might replicate the work of the Carolina Women’s Center. Carrier said that the Women’s Center serves the entire campus, largely students, in its programming and other advocacy work. She noted common concerns of female staff members who are impacted by policies not immediately recognizable by large representative bodies like the Forum.

Rose Thorp advocated a Diversity & Inclusion committee that could include LGTBQ, Black Caucus, Latinx, and women’s concerns. James Holman recalled that the Forum had discontinued the Personnel Issues subcommittees because of a longstanding shortage of personnel. The Chair said that this year the Forum would induct a record number of delegates. She also noted the Forum’s de facto permission to appoint staff employees to fill vacant delegate seats. In all, the Forum will have 70 delegates minus the 10-15% who seem to drop off every year. She thought that this larger number could form the basis of increased committee participation.

Katie Musgrove voiced concern about the number of unknowns facing the University’s staff employees. She agreed that the large number of work-at-home employee-delegates could lead to increased committee participation. Rose Thorp said she would welcome new members serving on committees. Laura Pratt recalled the Forum’s requirement that delegates must participate on at least one Forum committee. The Chair noted this requirement but also recalled a general reluctance among some delegate supervisors to support committee service. She had periodically sent general reminders to delegates urging their participation but had never removed a delegate from the Forum because of committee non-attendance.

Sarah Carrier proposed to return to the next Executive committee meeting to discuss these possibilities further, particularly the choice between a Women’s Issues committee and a Diversity & Inclusion committee. She asked for help in establishing a budget for the new group. Phil Edwards clarified that proposals to establish committees must be approved by the entire Forum.

The Chair noted the change from Zoom meeting to Zoom webinar format for the Forum’s general meetings. She said her office’s IT staff had advised her to make this switch given the number of attendees at general meetings. Laura Pratt recalled that Kadejah Murray and the Office of Faculty Governance have been a fantastic resource in setting up productive Zoom meetings. She also noted that the faculty stream their meetings via YouTube to observers who do not sign up for the Zoom webinars. Katie Musgrove suggested that the Chair set up a test run of Zoom arrangements for the May 6th meeting.

Katie Musgrove was not able to ascertain the use of Community Service Leave (CSL) during the current pandemic. An employee shared hearing of a possible special allotment of CSL hours that could be used by April 30th. Others had not heard of this allotment. Stephanie Forman said that the University might fear legal liability for employees who volunteer in their communities during the pandemic while being paid by UNC. An employee recalled that their department had established a 14-day quarantine period for any employee volunteering or taking secondary employment in areas potentially exposed to live virus strains.

The Chair was proud to announce the Forum’s election results. She was excited to meet the newest members of the Forum at the April 28th orientation. Regarding upcoming Forum Officer elections, the Chair said that she planned to invite the full body to run for office in May and again in June. She noted that every officer position is open this year.

The Chair noted that she had created a video to mark Administrative Workers’ Appreciation Day on April 22nd. Rose Thorp read a concern raised by a TEAACH employee about the perceived recent removal of time and half pay for on-campus work during the pandemic. Thorp granted that not all departments have funds to support this increase. She thought that communication on this issue had been inconsistent. Another committee member reported upset feelings among staff deemed CDME essential, wondering why the time and a half on-campus pay policy was changed. Members discussed the mechanics of time and half earned versus compensatory vacation time earned. Jim Potts found it annoying that the policy was not completely funded. It was thought unfair to leave to departments to explain to employees the policy’s vagaries.

Rose Thorp noted the equity issue involved in this question. She said that employees will bemoan that students and temporary employees receive time and a half pay for campus work while permanent employees only receive compensatory time. Jen DeNeal understood that this question may lie with the Chancellor’s discretion. Phil Edwards said that the University needs a catch-all site for employee reference as Covid-19 changes occur. Katie Musgrove added that she felt employee frustration with the time and a half question. A member thought that an evident lack of attention to this question by administration had left room open for disparate treatment of employees by various managers.

Jen DeNeal thought it unfortunate that the Office of Human Resources officials had elected to cancel the April Vice Chancellor representatives’ meeting. Rose Thorp recalled that campus Administration had responded to a graduate student letter outlining grievances about lack of communication and resources. This letter did receive a response.

The Chair said that she had pushed to hold the April meeting. She suggested calling a Vice Chancellor meeting earlier than June. Stephanie Forman thought that the Forum would get nowhere with its grievances if it relies on small meetings with administrators. Katie Musgrove agreed, with the reservation that the Forum should tone down the language of the graduate student letter given the comparatively vulnerable situation of staff.

Laura Pratt suggested outlining these questions for the Chancellor’s response at the June 10th Forum meeting. Arlene Medder liked the idea of not blindsiding the Chancellor with these questions. Jen DeNeal suggested that the Chair obtain an invitation to the University’s weekly Covid-19 meetings about reopening the campus. She thought that this group needs employees at the table. The Chair said that she would ask for a one on one meeting with Vice Chancellor Menghini, collect issues for a possible open letter to the Chancellor, and work to open a dialogue on these questions in May. The Chair, Katie Musgrove, Tiffany Carver, Stephanie Forman, and Rose Thorp volunteered for an ad hoc group collecting employee concerns for this purpose.

James Holman noted that most employees in his area are upset about payment of administrative leave excluding second- and third-shift differential pay. These employees see this change as a pay cut, a particularly difficult one given uncertainty about when employees can return to work.

Katie Musgrove noted Duke’s website. She asked when UNC-Chapel Hill would establish a similar site for its employees.

The Chair asked for committee reports. Arlene Medder said that the Carolina Community Garden had met via Zoom. She said that recently, the Garden distributed produce to Health Center staff working on campus as Housekeeping employees are not currently on campus.

Laura Pratt said that the Education & Career Development committee will receive professional development grant applications until April 30th. She said that in accordance with current policy, the grants will specify that they cannot be used for travel related activities. She noted that Carolina Family Scholarship applications will open soon.

It was noted that the Peer Recognition Awards nomination period continues through the end of the month.

Greg Smith reported that the Communication & Public Relations committee would publish a condensed version of InTouch this month. He said that the Forum podcast is close to completion. The Chair noted the tremendous positive feedback for delegate Kevin Robinson’s award-winning election video. She congratulated Robinson and said that upper administration and rank and file employees reacted positively to the video.

The Chair asked delegates to consider running for a Forum officer position at the June meeting. Katie Musgrove hoped that the Executive committee could discuss the July retreat at a future meeting. Members discussed the prospects of the Rizzo Center allowing a cancelation of the scheduled July 8 all-day retreat. Rose Thorp suggested that committee chairs could produce short videos outlining the work of each group for presentation at the July retreat, whether face-to-face or virtual. The Chair suggested that the Forum might pursue the idea of contracting with Kevin Robinson to produce these videos. She noted a need to spend the Forum budget before the end of the fiscal year.  Robinson said that he would have to think for a bit about how best to produce these videos.

In the absence of further discussion, Arlene Medder moved that the meeting adjourn, seconded by Katie Musgrove. The meeting adjourned by acclamation at 1:36 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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