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UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum Agenda

9:00 a.m.–Forum Photograph on Steps of Wilson Library:  Please Don’t be Late!

9:15 a.m.

Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library

NOTE:  This is a draft agenda and is subject to change without advance notice.

I. Call to Order, Opening Remarks & Recitation of Forum Charge—Chair Charles Streeter  (9:15 a.m. – 9:25 a.m.)

  • Open call for announcements and questions for the end of the meeting
  • Delegate Charge

II. Welcome to Guests & Members of the Press

III. Approval of April Minutes (Delegate-Only Access)  (9:25 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.)

IV. Special Presentation

  • Wayne Blair & Laurie Mesibov, University Ombuds Officers (9:30 a.m. – 9:50 a.m.)

IV. Human Resources Update—Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement Felicia Washington (9:50 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.)

V.    Old Business  (10:10 a.m. – 10:20a.m.)

VI.   New Business  (10:20 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.)

  • Remarks from 2015 Forum Officer Candidates
    • Chair:  Charles Streeter
    • Vice Chair:  Matt McKirahan
    • Secretary:
    • Treasurer:
    • Parliamentarian

VII. Forum Committees  (10:40 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.)

  • Carolina Blood Drive: Todd Hux
  • Carolina Community Garden Advisory: Arlene Medder
  • Communications and Public Relations: Katie Turner
  • Education and Career Development: Shane Hale
    • Recognition & Awards
  • Membership & Assignments:  Karen Jenkins
  • Personnel Issues:  Yvonne Dunlap
    • Compensation & Benefits:  Chrissie Greenberg/Kelli Raker
    • Legislative Action:  Kirk Montgomery
    • Staff Relations, Policies & Practices:  Rocky Riviella
  • UNC System Staff Assembly: Shane Hale/James Holman/Charles Streeter
  • Executive Committee: Charles Streeter (March minutes)

VIII.  Announcements/Questions  (11:10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.)

IX. Adjournment


May 14, 2015 Employee Forum meeting

Delegates attending (those who signed in):  Jo-Ann Blake, Sharon Brinson, Bonita Brown, Ronald Campbell, Jackie Copeland, Clare Counihan, Lois Douglass-Alston, Philip Edwards, David Fraley, Emily Gomez, Paula Goodman, Christine Greenberg, Shane Hale, Michael Highland, Shayna Hill, James Holman, Todd Hux, Kathy James, Karen Jenkins, Arlene Medder, Jackie Overton, Krista Prince, Kelli Raker, Kathy Ramsey, Nakenge Robertson, Anna Schwab, Charles Streeter, Nihlei Tial, Ben Triplett, Barbara Williams, John Williams

Excused Absences:  Deborah Bush, Susan Lucas, Ronda Manuel, Matt McKirahan, Christopher Powe

Chair Charles Streeter called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m.  He led the room in a round of introductions, welcoming the new delegates to the Forum.

The Chair welcomed Ombuds officers Wayne Blair, Laurie Mesibov, and Victoria Dowd to make a presentation on the work of their office.  Blair noted that the Ombuds office had recently celebrated its ten year anniversary.  He noted that UNC-Chapel Hill’s ombuds program is generally considered among the top programs in the world, attracting attention from the World Bank, the military, the federal government, and various other universities.  He thanked the Forum for its support through the years.

Blair said that the work of the Ombuds office has four major principles:  confidentiality, impartiality, informality, and independence.  Firstly, the office will not do anything without the visitor’s permission.  The office reserves the right to refuse a request.  The office keeps no records and no names are given.  The office will not disclose it has met with someone if asked.  The University is not put on notice by communications with the office, but the office can help someone with the notice process if desired.  The office will breach confidentiality only if there is the risk of imminent harm to someone or if there is an imminent violation of State law leading to harm of children or the elderly, for example.  The office tracks issues and patterns of concern, but does not take sides.  The office will help people advocate for themselves.

Additionally, the Ombuds office is informal, meaning that Ombuds officers can help clients access formal processes but will not participate in these actions.  The office can help clients manage complex processes and facilitate difficult conversations.  The office will help people help themselves and strategize their next steps in difficult situations.  Finally, the office is independent, answering only to the Chancellor.  The office will discuss broad, macro-level issues with groups.  Blair said that listeners are welcome to visit the office’s new location at the CVS Plaza.

Michael Highland noted that the Ombuds office was recently opened to students.  Blair noted that this jurisdiction was extended in July of 2012, although officers have worked with this population previously on an informal basis.  He said that Ombuds officers are willing to meet with clients on or off campus at all hours of the day or night, if necessary.

Blair noted an increase in the level of anxiety among employees as they are being asked to do more with less.  Issues of job security and lagging pay also contribute to employee stress.  Blair noted in particular that many employees have concerns about elderly care.  These concerns lead to worries over financial issues and possibly lead to disputes with siblings.  In this setting, discussions can become arguments and furthermore, fights, as people feel pushed into stressful states of mind.

Blair said that the last time this occurred the University was in the midst of a great recession which saw a number of layoffs.  He characterized a part of the “Carolina Way” a tendency to avoid difficult decisions and conversations.  Discussions will dance around problems until people become stressed about unknown factors.  People will not talk with their colleagues or supervisors about a problem, but will put their concerns on Facebook, exposing themselves to a myriad of greater problems.  He said that employees must “manage up” with their supervisors by thinking through their words and actions beforehand.  He said that people must really think first before acting as their actions may cost them their jobs.

Interestingly, Blair said that these are not all supervisor/employee issues but are also colleague/colleague issues.  Supervisors must manage these disputes and must often address issues of harassment.  There are sometimes disagreements between departments.  Employees must learn how to manage themselves and their co-workers and supervisors.  Blair said that there will be an uptick in controversies about work performance evaluations.  Often, there have not been conversations prior to these evaluations.  Blair said that supervisors must be open and honest to provide successful feedback to their employees.  He noted that sometimes supervisors are afraid to supervise their employees, which sometimes involves providing negative feedback.  He reported that sometimes employees gang up on their supervisors.

Laurie Mesibov said that the office has seen many more graduate students than undergraduates.  She said that alcohol has fueled many problems with this population, as well as Honor Court questions.  Michael Highland said that he works with around 2,000 students and had never before thought to use the Ombuds office as a resource.  Blair said that the office helps students confront one another in a constructive way.

Todd Hux asked if there have been questions about raises tied to WPPR performance ratings.  Senior Director Chris Chiron clarified that the University does not do pay for performance ratings, except that an employee who does not receive at least a good rating will not usually receive an increase.  Hux said that he had a question about supervisors impacting raises.  Chiron offered to discuss this after the meeting.

Blair noted that the new 24-month probationary period has left new hires loathe to confront their supervisors in any way until their probation has finished.  Hux said that he had experience with a probationary employee fired without cause for no justifiable reason.  Blair said that this situation has led to increased stress levels.  Sharon Brinson asked how long the 24-month probationary period has been in place.  Vice Chancellor Felicia Washington noted that there is a bill in the Legislature to reduce the probationary period to one year, but it has not passed yet.

Chrissie Greenberg asked about a new management program to help handle difficult conversations.  Senior Director Kathy Bryant said that Training and Talent Development has classes to prepare supervisors for these conversations.  Ombuds officer Victoria Dowd said that her office offers coaching and role-playing to all employees in these situations.

Vice Chancellor for Workplace Strategy, Equity, and Engagement Felicia Washington noted that discussions about State employee pay have begun on the House floor.  She noted that the Office of Human Resources has celebrated its 25th anniversary this month.  She also noted that the banquet for the 20 Year Society for UNC-Chapel Hill will take place later this month.  Washington noted that she serves as a liaison to the Chancellor’s Office and that she or her representatives are present at Forum general and Executive Committee meetings.  She also noted the Forum’s bimonthly meetings with Vice Chancellors and representatives of the Provost’s Office.  She hoped that new delegates would take the opportunity to provide input on issues of concern.  Anna Schwab noted that Human Resources used to be known as the Personnel Office and was housed at 440 West Franklin Street.

Kelli Raker asked about initiatives to change the University culture to avoid difficult discussions, perhaps by putting out messages to managers to work on these questions.  Washington said that this effort might be better done through a larger-scale approach.  She said that the University has instituted mandatory training for front-line managers and has urged supervisory training for other managers.  Unfortunately, those who most need encouragement to use training usually will not attend.  She said that there is no University training mandate for higher-level supervisors.  She also noted the University’s creation of Carolina Conversations which are meant to address difficult topics.  She said that discussions with the University’s Human Resources Council and Deans’ Council could lead to more candid discussions campus-wide.

John Williams followed up on efforts to close the gap between department heads and managers.  Washington hoped that Human Resources Council conversations would lead to more conversations on the managerial level.  Todd Hux asked about general awareness of the problems of the 24-month probationary period among higher-level University administrators.  The Chair noted that the Legislature has been made aware of this problem through many other means, including during a visit from Forum delegates which detailed this situation to State Legislators.  Chris Chiron noted that the cross-over date for legislation was April 30th.  He said that Human Resources is reluctant to send out information on bills affecting State employees before they are formally passed, to reduce miscommunication.  He said that University officials have held discussions with the Office of State Human Resources and University General Administration about the negative impact of the 24-month probationary period on recruiting and retention.  The Chair noted that the Forum can propose resolutions on this question if it deems necessary.

Washington noted that the current State budget is said to hold a $400 million surplus.  Human Resources and Finance and Administration are anticipating State employee salary increases, but again these have not been approved yet.

The Chair called for a motion to approve the April minutes of the Forum.  Arlene Medder made this motion, seconded by Todd Hux.  The motion was approved with two abstentions.

Moving to New Business, the Chair noted that the Forum still needs candidates for its various offices.  He described the work of each office.  He then said that he would seek candidates to run for the different offices at the Forum’s June 10 retreat.  The Chair also noted the need to elect representatives to the UNC System Staff Assembly to take office in October.

Todd Hux reported that the Carolina Blood Drive committee is working to obtain 940 pints at its June 2 drive at the Dean Smith Center.  He noted the preparations that have been made for donors and invited delegates to schedule their donations.  Kathy Ramsey confirmed that donors will receive t-shirts.

Arlene Medder noted that approximately 800 staff and 200 faculty have completed the Carolina Campus Community Garden survey.  She noted that more than 450 people have signed up for the Garden’s newsletter.  She said that the Garden hoped to begin construction of its solar greenhouse soon.

Katie Turner asked new delegates to consider service on the Communications and Public Relations committee.  She noted that the Forum has 785 followers on Twitter and has an active Facebook and on-line presence through InTouch, the monthly newsletter.

Samara Reynolds noted that the Peer Recognition Awards ceremony would take place on May 15th in the Pleasants Family Assembly room.  She noted that Ronda Manuel has agreed to head up the Education and Career Development subcommittee on the Carolina Family Scholarship.  Reynolds noted that the previous scholarship application has moved to the new site.  Scholarship applications are due June 1st from children of University employees and can support attendance at any UNC System institution.  The Chair asked members to consider working on the fundraising needs of the Scholarship Fund in the coming year.

Karen Jenkins said that the Membership and Assignments committee is working on preparations for the Forum’s Annual Retreat on June 10th.  She noted that the Stone Center will host the event, which will feature a catered lunch.  Attire will be casual for the full day.  Ron Campbell confirmed that the retreat will end at 4:30 p.m.  He also noted that the Forum’s June 3rd meeting has been cancelled in favor of the June 10th retreat.  The Chair noted that the Vice Chancellor representatives meeting will still take place at 10 a.m. on June 4th.

Chrissie Greenberg noted that the Personnel Issues committee is still in discussion about the selection of a new chair.  The committee recently agreed to pull back on plans to introduce a resolution concerning the 9.9% limitation on staff salary increases.

The Chair noted that the UNC System Staff Assembly will meet in August.  He noted that the Assembly has its own set of professional development grants.  He noted that on May 18th, the NC State Staff Senate will hold its 20th anniversary event.  He planned to attend along with other Forum delegates.

The Chair noted that the Executive Committee would meet May 19th to discuss transition and succession issues.

Samara Reynolds said that the Carolina Higher Education Panel is now available on YouTube.  There are plans to create a webinar entitled “Grow and Thrive at UNC.”

The Chair outlined plans for the June retreat and organizational goalsetting.  He noted that Dr. Belinda Locke will lead discussions.  The Chair said that the retreat should help plan activities, document and track organization and progress, and provide a roadmap for the future.  He said that the Forum should function like any professional organization to represent employees.

Todd Hux moved that the meeting adjourn, seconded by Kathy Ramsey.  The meeting adjourned at 11:10 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary


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