August 4, 2021
UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum
Zoom Remote Meeting: Connection Details Below
NOTE: This is a draft agenda and is subject to change without notice.
I. Call to Order & Opening Remarks: Chair Katie Musgrove (9:15 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.)
- Welcome to Guests & Members of the Press
II. Special Presentations/Remarks of Welcome (9:20 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.)
- Roundtable with Provost Bob Blouin
- Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Leah Cox
III. Human Resources Update (10:00 a.m. – 10:25 a.m.)
- Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Equal Opportunity & Compliance Becci Menghini
- Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler
IV. Consent Agenda (10:25 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.)
- June Minutes (to be sent separately to delegates)
V. Old Business (10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.)
- CLOSED SESSION- Second Reading of Resolution 21-02
VI. New Business (10:45 a.m.-11:25 a.m.)
- First Reading of Proposed Resolutions 21-03 & 21-04 (To Be Announced)
- Forum Committees
- Composition and Meeting of Forum Committees (via Zoom breakout rooms)
VII. Announcements/Questions (11:25-11:30 p.m.)
August 4,2021 Employee Forum minutes
Delegates Attending: L. E. Alexander, Jessy Bongiovanni, Randall Borror, Sharron Bouquin, Rich Brandenburg, Alicia Brandt, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Vanessa Concha, Emma Dehne, Jen DeNeal, Elizabeth DuBose, Phil Edwards, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Chrissie Greenberg, Natasha Hanks, Leah Hefner, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Brigitte Ironside, Quintara Jernigan, Kira Jones, Mary King, Haydée Marchese, Amber Meads, Arlene Medder, Mandy Melton, Manisha Mittal, Katie Musgrove, Joseph Nsonwu-Farley, Ayla Ocasio, Joseph Ormond, Sara Pettaway, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, Theresa Silsby, Sarah Smith, Antonio Squire, Jake Stallard, James Stamey, Janet Steele, Matthew Teal, Alice Whiteside, Tracey Wiley, Michael Williams, Danielle Wingler, Jacob Womack
Excused Absences: David Bragg, Keith Hines, Evan Marsh, Janice Singletary, Tracy Wetherby Williams
Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. She welcomed Provost Bob Blouin to speak at the Forum’s customary roundtable discussion. Blouin introduced Leah Cox, the University’s new Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. Cox thanked the Forum for its invitation and noted her excitement to join the Carolina family. She was entering her third week on campus, and she looked forward to providing the Forum support and advice.
Blouin noted how thrilled he and the Chancellor were to have Cox on campus doing her work on behalf of Carolina. He is currently involved in daily meetings with infectious disease experts regarding planning for a safe return this fall. He was buoyed by the general availability of the vaccine and the high vaccination rate for campus students. He did note however that things are evolving.
In North Carolina, as in the nation, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all increasing. He noted that 50% of the American population is vaccinated, stating the tremendous power that vaccines have in dealing with this disease. Ninety-nine-point five percent of individuals hospitalized are non-vaccinated people. Blouin encouraged everyone to get vaccinated for themselves, their family, and their community. He was pleased with Orange County’s 64% full vaccination rate, 67% partial vaccination rate with a positivity rate of 3%.
Here at UNC-Chapel Hill, of the 29,500 students likely to enroll this fall, around 25,000 have attested to their vaccination status. Around 94% of these students have attested that they have been vaccinated, a very encouraging number. Eighty-five percent responded to a question about the specific date, location, and brand of their vaccination. Sixty percent have uploaded their vaccination documentation, a voluntary task.
Blouin said that the University has similar access questions for faculty and staff employees. In response to a recent advertisement campaign, these numbers increased quite a bit the last week and a half or so. Eighty-two percent of the faculty and 54% of staff had attested that they have received vaccinations. He asked all to encourage colleagues to attest via the website and to upload documentation.
Blouin noted the general question of whether the University can mandate vaccines for its students, faculty, and staff. The Faculty Council and its Executive Committee have been very aggressive in pressing for a campus-wide mandate. He observed that while many private universities in the state have implemented a vaccine mandate, UNC-Chapel Hill does not have the authority to do that alone.
He said that discussion had touched on various reasons why UNC does not have this authority. First, it was thought that was because the FDA had not yet given full approval to the vaccines. However, a Federal Court ruled that Indiana University does have the authority to mandate vaccines, along with other public universities like the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia.
In North Carolina, the question is a bit trickier. There are slightly different laws and governance processes here. He said that the UNC System Office holds the authority to implement a vaccine mandate. UNC-Chapel Hill cannot independently make that decision without the System Office’s support and approval. Blouin said that the UNC System President and other members of the Board of Governors will continue these discussions throughout the month.
Blouin recalled that the Faculty Council Executive Committee will meet later that day and will likely discuss implementing a mandatory vaccine for those on campus. He said that such a mandate would make things easier for decisionmakers.
Blouin noted that staff employees have had the least level of enthusiasm towards testing and vaccine attestation. He wanted to be certain to record staff members’ opinions in this conversation. Blouin said that a problem with a vaccine mandate or attestation mandate requires consequences for failure to comply. He noted that imposing conditions on student enrollment is more within the purview of the University than imposing conditions for non-compliance upon staff.
He asked delegates’ thoughts on determining what consequences the University should place on staff failure to comply with a vaccine mandate. Blouin said that the roadmap notation team is considering an attestation mandate, requiring all to report their vaccination status. He reiterated that the combination of mask wearing, and vaccination will do a lot to protect you and your family against the delta variant. Blouin said that the nation is moving into new territory with the pandemic, as it either goes away or likely becomes endemic (more or less permanent).
The Chair thanked Blouin for his remarks. She noted concerns that even vaccinated people can spread the delta variant in the light of the University’s expectation of a fully residential experience this fall. Blouin agreed that the Provincetown study showed that vaccinated people can spread the delta variant, further evidence that the nation is moving towards an endemic. He noted that the problem with an endemic situation like that of flu season is that widespread testing is not commonly done. People are expected to take precautions to self-manage and live with the virus as an annoyance for vaccinated people, rather than as a deadly affliction.
Blouin said that the roadmap implementation team is considering requiring testing twice a week for unvaccinated students, although testing’s overall effect is debatable. Haydée Marchese thought that the University should provide some education about the virus along with vaccines as many believe in politicized conspiracy theories about the disease. Blouin agreed, noting the negative impact of misinformation, even upon educated people. He was uncertain that a university-mandated education program would be successful in countering these deeply held, if incorrect, beliefs. He noted that faculty and students have generally complied with community standards and vaccination advice. Staff employees, however, have a lower rate, around 55-60% attestation.
Blouin asked the Forum’s help in finding ways of convincing staff to obtain vaccinations and attest to their status, to improve this number. Robert Smith III recalled his time as a young clinician when colleagues would treat patients on life support from tobacco use, then spend their breaks smoking cigarettes. He said that the addiction was strong even among people who knew firsthand the ravages of tobacco use. Smith advocated continuing education through a multi-pronged approach, emphasizing the real-life consequences of this agonizing disease.
Shane Brogan noted concerns of staff who have been vaccinated but are wary of a vaccine mandate as they worry about the University knowing their medical information. Blouin noted that UNC Health has mandated vaccines as a condition of employment. He said that UNC-Chapel Hill has no interest in this information beyond verifying that someone has been vaccinated. There is no resultant access to medical records for anyone beyond one’s clinician.
Leah Hefner asked if the University would add vaccination statistics for faculty, staff and students to the Carolina Together dashboard. She asked the University’s plans to communicate this information. Blouin said that the dashboard’s use is changing. He said that the percentages and number of cases will increase in the upcoming fall and spring. The University will need to learn to live with the virus as it does with influenza. He recalled conversations about adding percent attestations or percent vaccinated to the dashboard. Questions could emerge because the University cannot mandate vaccination, perhaps making the data less than accurate and thus less credible.
Phil Edwards said that many staff are trying to support the roadmap for the return to campus back to quasi-normal and are also readying eventualities related to a possible shift to remote teaching and remote work. He said that staff seem to be doing double work or more to prepare for all these eventualities. Blouin granted that most campus units feel tremendously overburdened and the transition to campus has not been easy. Blouin said he had never seen so many people working so hard as of now.
Terri Phoenix noted the communication that there would not be accommodations for people who have immune-compromised or unvaccinated people in their households. Phoenix was concerned about this rule given his unvaccinated daughter and his immune-compromised spouse. Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini said that the formal American Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations do not accommodate family members, only individual employees. System Office guidance is that the University does not have additional benefits to extend beyond Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies. Still, Menghini said that while the University continues to work with the System Office to try to find additional options, none have yet emerged. The University does not have the authority to afford leave or make additional accommodations above and beyond Federal rules.
That said, Menghini recognized that immunocompromised family members are a separate consideration in these discussions. She had not heard traction among decisionmakers with the System Office or the State for accommodations for unvaccinated children at this point, given in part that school will start soon. There does not seem to be the same interest at the State level for addressing accommodations for employees with unvaccinated children.
Phoenix replied that his family is considering pulling their child out of school given these concerns and the exposure involved with the return of 29,000 University students. Phoenix loves the work he does and wants to stay but given these circumstances he and other employees are weighing their options.
Jacob Womack also advocated a testing requirement for those who have not received vaccines. Blouin agreed that in the absence of a vaccine mandate this is the best option available. He hoped the campus could get to a 90% attestation rate overall, if staff can pull their numbers into the high 70s or low 80s. Womack noted the additional friction that vaccination attestation will produce among staff already under stress. He thought that shifting the reporting burden to a systemic focus would be beneficial.
Blouin again raised the question of what to do if a staff employee does not comply with the testing regimen. Laura Pratt confirmed that the University would have the authority to conduct a testing regimen. Menghini said that the University is trying to determine whether to make testing attestation or a mandate a condition of employment.
The Forum moved to its customary Human Resources update. Becci Menghini hoped that the transition back to campus has gone relatively well. She expected an update from the State House outlining their budget proposal, which will likely contain increases for State employees as well as expenditures for campus buildings. She anticipated that the eventual State budget will contain salary increases and possibly one-time bonus money also. Much will depend on the conference committee and its eventual work with the Governor’s proposal. She hoped that the State Legislature would produce a budget for the Governor’s signature by the first week of September.
Menghini said that the House proposal does limit the Governor’s authority in emergency situations, like mask mandates and vaccine requirements. She hoped that any salary adjustments would be retroactive to July. She also hoped that the temporary suspension of Human Resources’ actions would be removed with the new budget. However, the State has implemented a freeze memo on top of the temporary suspension, limiting expenditures from all funding sources, not just State sources.
Menghini said that this freeze memo is very common and intended to ensure no State agency spends beyond their existing budget allocation from the previous year. The freeze would likely end upon approval of a State budget, however.
Menghini also anticipated the Board of Governors’ lifting the 20% rule should the state budget receive final approval. She noted that the General Assembly has approved SB 620 establishing UNC System priorities, mostly pandemic related. This law changes how the System must handle Reductions in Force (RIFs). The law also provides an early retirement option, with six months advanced pay to people who are retirement age or close. The System Office is working through how this non-guaranteed money will be paid out to employees.
All in all, the delta variant has thrown everything off, leading decisionmakers to do the best they can with the best information available now. Menghini noted the current unrest in the nation, and she thanked all for the work done these past 18 months. She looked forward to seeing everyone as we return to campus. The Chair thanked Menghini for the work that she and her team have done this past year. Menghini thanked the Chair on behalf of all the staff at OHR and Equal Opportunity (EO).
Arlene Medder thanked Menghini for her efforts on behalf of the early retirement option, noting that employees are watching developments in this area. Menghini hoped that individual campuses could augment or support this option moving forward.
Chrissie Greenberg asked about the prospects of newly advertised or created business officer and finance positions. Menghini said that the System Office has worked to obtain authority to negotiate classifications and job responsibilities for individual campuses, given the unique responsibilities of certain positions related to higher education. A business officer at the University manages grants, contracts, and State dollars in a way that a business officer in the Department of Transportation would not. UNC-Chapel Hill has moved a bunch of positions over from SHRA to EHRA non-faculty to obtain more compensation for these people while providing administrators more flexibility. These transitions are handled differently by employee, with the understanding that these positions overall will become more EHRA non-faculty based. The University has needed to obtain layers of approval to pursue this action, but the proposal will provide more flexibility at the campus level to administer these programs within the confines of the approved Human Resources structure.
Greenberg asked if departments implementing such a switch would wait for cues from HR and for the State freeze in hiring to expire. Menghini said that OHR would reach out with details and a timeline as to what would occur. As of now, the University awaits guidance from the System Office.
Greenberg reported that factors in departmental discussions are team management and reporting relationships that govern management. Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler noted that the System Office must create job classifications, specifications, and salary ranges for these positions in the finance and accounting areas. This process will take at least a year. Over a three-year period, employees can choose whether to move into the EHRA non-faculty designation. Vacant positions will be converted to EHRA non-faculty before being posted for recruitment.
Jessica Pyjas, University Program Specialist for Work/Life and Wellness reminded employees about the return to campus website, featuring a corresponding wellness section. She said that the group reached 170 employees in eight seminars in July. This month, there will be Wednesday topics on transitioning back to work, dealing with stress and managing worry, preparing for financial emergencies, resiliency, and strengthening one’s immune defenses with food.
Pyjas reminded listeners that the School of Public Health will continue to offer virtual yoga sessions once a week every Monday during lunch hour, at no cost. Twenty-minute meditation sessions are also offered Monday through Thursday by various campus departments. Pyjas encouraged all to participate in the wellness champion information sessions starting August 17th. The Helping Heels registry is now open for new recruitment for students, specifically promotion of childcare, pet care, or elder companionship care. The fall registry will remain open until August 15th.
Pyjas announced the University’s two Governor’s awards winners: Katie Bowler Young from Global Relations, for outstanding government service, and Dr. Melissa Miller for public service work. Young was recognized for her development of the University’s first ever collection of international online learning courses, of which 450 students joined. Dr. Miller was recognized for her leadership of a rapid and accurate coded testing project which led to over 300,000 tests performed for campus staff. Dr. Miller also served on several national advisory committees to share her experiences and recommendations.
Pyjas also identified discounts for childcare resources and technical purchases.
The Chair asked for a motion to approve the consent agenda, including minutes from the May and June general meetings. Shayna Hill made this motion, seconded by Jacob Womack. The motion was approved by unanimous consent.
The Chair entertained a motion to go into closed session to discuss a confidential matter. Arlene Medder made this motion, seconded by Laura Pratt. The motion was approved by unanimous consent. [At this point, the Forum heard a reading of Resolution 21-02 Honoring Shayna Hill. Laura Pratt moved for passage of the resolution, seconded by Jen DeNeal. This resolution was passed on second reading via unanimous consent. Arlene Medder moved that the meeting leave closed session, seconded by Kevin Robinson. The motion was approved by unanimous consent.]
The Chair read again resolution 21-02 honoring Shayna Hill, which conferred lifelong delegate status upon Hill. Shayna Hill thanked the resolution writers for graciously writing a first draft of her chair’s report. She said she would always remember being with her friends on the Employee Forum during the COVID outbreak. She thanked all for what she called “this honor of lifetime, advocating for staff at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” The Chair thanked Hill for her leadership, her mentorship, and her friendship.
The Chair then opened discussion on proposed resolution 21-03, up for first reading. Matthew Teal read this resolution, which concerns the 20% rule for internal hiring. He noted the resolution calls for transparency about the current rules for pay increases for employees, particularly for internal hires. There was no discussion of the resolution.
The Chair then opened discussion on proposed resolution 21-04, also up for first reading. Matthew Teal described the resolution, which called for the elimination of the 20% rule to align us with Executive Order 93. Stephanie Forman read the resolution. The Chair then opened the floor for discussion.
Charles Streeter asked about the eventual discontinuation of the career banding system at the University. Shayna Hill was pleased by Menghini’s earlier remarks on this subject but worried about the possibility that the State would not pass a budget this year. Streeter asked if the resolution should mention career banding given the system’s eventual demise. Hill said that a new compensation and classification process could take three years to implement. She said that it was discovered that State market rates are around 15% below actual market rates. The plan was to provide 5% a year increase to the bands to provide room for salaries to grow. However, this never occurred but for the first 5% increase added to the band. She emphasized that the State must find correct market rates now before beginning with a new system.
Streeter suggested that the costs of updating market rates be included in the resolution text. The Chair asked if the Forum wished to consider passing these resolutions by suspending the rules and voting to approve on first reading. Stephanie Forman indicated that she did not want to rush passage, and Matthew Teal agreed with her. Arlene Medder asked the last time career bands were reviewed. There was no specific memory of this date. Kevin Robinson asked if there had been discussion of EHRA non-faculty compensation as well. Shayna Hill said that there is no 20% limit rule at the System level for EHRA non-faculty.
Shayna Hill suggested that the resolution include language from Executive Order 93 regarding the abolition of current salary use for consideration of promotional salaries because this rule disproportionately affects women and people of color.
James Holman confirmed that the career banding system would move to a different classification and compensation platform through a process that will likely take around three years. At this point, the Forum ended discussion on these resolutions and agreed to take them up again on second reading in September.
The Chair did a brief overview of Forum committee descriptions then sent the delegates to breakout rooms to determine their choices. Following the return of delegates to the main room and in the absence of further discussion, the Chair entertained a motion to adjourn. Laura Pratt made this motion, seconded by Kevin Robinson. The motion was approved by unanimous consent at 11:41 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary