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Employee Forum Agenda — August 1, 2007

9:15 a.m.—Meeting: Wilson Library Lobby Pleasants Family Assembly Room

I.            Call to Order

II.           Welcome Guests & Members of the Press

III.         Opening Remarks

IV.      Special Presentations

    • Brenda Denzler on University Gazette Controversy
    • Chuck Stone on Censorship Issues
    • Al McSurely on Censorship Issues

V.          Human Resources Update

VI.         Stretch Time

VII.      Minutes

VIII.    Old Business

IX.        New Business

    • Proposed Resolution 07-10Concerning Censorship at UNC-Chapel Hill (First Reading)
      • Supporting Documents

X.           Employee Presentations or Questions

XI.         Forum Committee Reports

  • Communications and Public Relations: Brenda Denzler
    • Forum Newsletter
  • Community Affairs, Recognition, Awards and Outreach: Jane Tornow
    • Peer Recognition Awards
  • Compensation and Wages:  Alan Moran
  • Education and Career Development: Jane Majors
  • Health Benefits:  Robert Agans
  • Legislative Action:  Mike Hawkins
  • Membership and Assignments:
  • Staff Relations, Policies and Practices: David Brannigan

XII.        Chair’s Report (Executive Committee):  Ernie Patterson

XIII.       Task Force/University Committee Reports

  • Board of Trustees Finance Committee—Ernie Patterson
  • University Priorities and Budget Advisory Committee—Ernie Patterson

XIV.       Announcements/Questions

XV.        “Go Around the Room”:  A Chance for Attendees to Share the Issue Most on their Minds

XIV.       Adjournment


August 1, 2007 Employee Forum Minutes (draft)


The Chair called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m.  He welcomed Claire Miller to make the Forum’s customary Human Resources update.  Miller noted that the TEACHERS retirement plan had distributed information to employees that can be accessed online.  She also noted that the ORBIT on-line retirement system will begin in October of this year.  She reported that the retirement system is extremely strong.

Regarding the State Health plan, Miller reported that premiums are expected to increase 11% effective October 1.  These rates will be effective for two years.  On the indemnity plan, deductibles will increase from $350 to $450 annually, and aggregate family amount will increase from $1050 to $1350.  Copayments will increase from $15 to $25.  Mental health coverage for chemical dependency continues to lag behind.  Prescription drugs will rise from $25 to $30.

Miller noted that the special enrollment period will last from August 1 to September 1, allowing employees to choose their plan before October 1.  She advised employees with further questions to consult the State Health Plan website.

Chris Chiron confirmed that career banding moratorium is effective as of July 1.  Steve Hutton asked about a rumor that the University System had been excluded from this moratorium.  Alan Moran noted the outmoded and outdated skilled trades classifications used by the Office of State Personnel.  Miller said that the University does have some influence over changes in classifications.  Moran said that the skilled trades positions were last reviewed in 1979.  He urged that employees should have some input into how decisions are made.  Jessica ??? said that focus groups will work in each job category to collapse positions in larger bands.  Moran said that front-line supervisors should receive materials earlier to have time to gear up for questions.  Sue Field noted the frustration among technical workers within the career banding system.

Brenda Denzler spoke describing the timeline of the Communications Committee’s discussions with the University Gazette concerning publication of an article on collective bargaining in an insert to the Gazette.  She said that Patty Courtright had said that the University had a commitment to work through General Administration to communicate anything regarding legislative priorities. Courtright said that she was acting at the direction of Mike McFarland, Director of University Communications and Nancy Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Relations.  Denzler wondered in particular why the Gazette had chosen not to publish this article as opposed to others.  The Gazette had relented on other edits but would not allow the collective bargaining article to be published.  She stated that the Gazette does publish articles about others’ opinions and legislative issues, even contested legislative issues.

Denzler surmised that the University had entered into an agreement with General Administration not to lobby the Legislature directly and should instead reinforce the priorities of General Administration.  She thought that the InTouch insert should have its own editorial character and not be subject to the Gazette’s editorial control, even if published simultaneously with the Gazette.  She noted that the University Gazette does not publish InTouch inserts on its website.  Denzler theorized that big money supporters who are not supporters of collective bargaining would be offended by the article.  Furthermore, Denzler thought that decision-makers felt that the issue was too sensitive to be remotely connected with the University.

Denzler cited Chancellor Moeser’s statements in support of free speech following the September 11, 2001 attacks as reason for fighting for publication.  She saw the issue as involving censorship, not collective bargaining.

Denzler read a statement from Jane Majors that said that this discussion touched on one’s basic rights as a citizen of the United States.  She said that the issue was whether one had the right to speak and publish freely.  She noted that the article does not libel or slander or lie.

Dr. Chuck Stone spoke about what constitutes censorship, namely, a prohibition that circumscribes the expression of a committee or individuals.  He noted the tension between censorship and editing.  Stone saw this issue as a clear example of censorship.  He urged the Forum to be resolute and courageous in this manner and to pursue the question with journalism schools around the country.

Al McSurely gave a historical and legal overview of freedom of the press questions.  He cited in particular North Carolina’s refusal to sign the constitution until civil rights guarantees were included in the document.  He also noted the prior restraint case involving Daniel Ellsburg and the Pentagon papers.  He noted Justice Brennan’s admonition concerning the ban on prior restraints on publication.  He also cited the speaker ban controversy that emerged at UNC.  Finally, he noted that the First Amendment guarantees are needed most of all when the issues involved are controversial.  He said that content should not be a factor in deciding whether to publish.

Alan Moran noted the importance of the University Gazette insert in reaching those employees without computer access.

The Forum took a five minute break.  It then considered a resolution on the University Gazette issue on first reading.  The Forum heard the resolution on first reading and would consider it for passage at the September meeting.

The Forum moved to adjourn at 11:24 a.m.


Respectfully submitted,



Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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