November 17, 2015 Executive Committee minutes
Attending (those who signed in): Sharon Brinson, Gena Carter, Clare Counihan, Phillip Edwards, James Fuller, Shayna Hill, Arlene Medder, Kathy Ramsey, Charles Streeter, Ben Triplett, Katie Turner, John Williams
Excused Absence: Nakenge Robertson
Chair Charles Streeter called the meeting to order at 11:30 a.m. He noted that the crucial conversations program will continue that week. Ben Triplett noted that his ULEAD program had been very time-consuming but a great experience. Clare Counihan noted that Chris Chiron was headed to General Administration. Gena Carter said that an interim for his position would be found soon. Counihan asked about the possibilities of discussing the University’s exit interview process. Carter said that this discussion was possible, but the exit interview process is being revised as part of the Wainstein report recommendations.
The Chair confirmed that the meeting had a quorum. He noted that Anna Wu had asked for Forum input in the hiring of three executive director positions in the Facilities Services area, in Operations, Engineering and Design, and Construction Services. He thought that town halls related to the hiring of the Operations executive director would take place in January.
The Chair noted that members had not read the minutes from September and October. He said that members would need to prepare to approve these minutes as well as the November minutes at the December meeting.
Shayna Hill provided the Forum budget review. The question arose as to whether the Forum should pay a facilities fee for the December potluck at the Stone Center or to pay for table moves at the Wilson Library. Katie Turner asked if delegates could use Forum funds for the November 30th rally. In response to a question from the Chair, Matt Banks confirmed that Forum funds had been used in protests about the dental technicians issue years ago. The Chair ruled that a precedent had thus been set. Kirk Montgomery proposed that the Forum wait on using its funds as SEANC District 25 would meet that afternoon to discuss possibly funding the event.
The Chair noted that notes from the November Forum meeting regarding the Student Stores question have been gathered from the different groups. He said that the Administration had not defined the problem in question, leaving others to surmise that the University needs more money for Carolina Covenant and other scholarships. He said that the Follett proposal lacked the detail sufficient for consideration by the University. He noted reports that Follett has not treated staff at other UNC System campuses well. He thought that the process as it has taken place lacked transparency and failed to live up to the core values of the University. He also noted comments from some observers that saw a perceived conflict of interest among decision-makers. Kirk Montgomery said that the comparisons mentioned have not been appropriate measures.
Shayna Hill thought that the privatization process would result in the creation of administrative chaos that could lead to the initiation of other privatization efforts. Sharon Brinson noted reports that Follett charges more for books and materials at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) than at primarily white institutions. Clare Counihan said that the University should not contract with corporations that pursue racist policies or practices.
Katie Turner voiced concern about the $45,000 consultant bill billed to Student Stores’ revenue stream. The Chair commented that the University should bring in a third party to govern the process. Kirk Montgomery noted reports that Student Stores would soon fall out of compliance for credit card purchases due to administrative misfeasance. The Chair said that the cost of non-compliance with credit card protocols could be millions to the University.
Kirk Montgomery noted reports that the University had accrued millions in scholarships through its recent capital campaign. He asked if these funds would offset some of those lost from Student Stores’ recent budgets. The Chair wanted a review of the current store operations to find ways to improve efficiencies and increase revenue. Kirk Montgomery confirmed that the Student Stores Pharmacy is not a part of the Student Stores revenue model.
Phillip Edwards noted that John Gorsuch, director of Student Stores, will retire from the University on November 30, 2015. He asked how changes in leadership will affect the RFP process. Clare Counihan said that it was seen as poor practice to evaluate an organization at the end of leadership tenure. She noted that UNC-Chapel Hill has no explicit statement of core values. Instead, the Forum must infer these core values from other documents.
Katie Turner asked about perceived bullying tactics by the Administration regarding the Student Stores situation. The Chair said that the Forum needs to ask the Chancellor to drop the process as it now stands and instead commission a task force to investigate the problem and solution. He proposed to write a letter from the Executive Committee. Arlene Medder recalled a characterization of the Carolina Way as avoiding a ruckus. The Chair noted that the Administration had cancelled a meeting to be held within a day or two of word coming out about the Follett proposal. He thought that the Administration was not doing a good job in this issue.
Sharon Brinson asked about the propriety of public institutions accepting unsolicited proposals. She noted that the State does not usually accept unsolicited job applications. Clare Counihan said that the request for proposals process should open up this question. The Chair thought that the University should reach out to businesses, rather than having them provide unsolicited proposals to privatize units.
Katie Turner noted the lack of an independent party in meetings between Administration officials and Student Stores staff. She said that employees feel bullied and not part of the process. She added that the Forum does not have an invitation to attend these Student Stores-Administration meetings. John Williams asked what percentage of low-income positions are held by work-study students. Turner noted that the Follett proposal may plan to increase work-study student employment at the expense of full-time staff.
The Chair returned to the idea to write a letter to the Chancellor outlining these and other problems with the Student Stores situation. He said that the letter should articulate a shared understanding among Executive Committee members about the question. He said the letter should state what the Forum would like to have occur. Clare Counihan said that the committee should consider what to do if the Chancellor disregards the letter. The Chair said that making the letter part of the public record was an important part of the Forum’s mission.
Katie Turner thought that the RFP consultation with the Forum will take place only a couple of days prior to the culmination of the process. She said that the Forum will not likely have any concrete standing to make edits or suggestions as part of a study committee. Kirk Montgomery said that the University’s receipt of an unsolicited bid was perhaps illegal, leading the University to issue a request for information (RFI) instead of an RFP. He said that this process needs to follow State statutes. The Chair said that the Forum should not venture into legal issues in its letter.
Katie Turner noted reports that the Administration has already commissioned multiple walk-throughs through Student Stores by other companies including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Follett.
The Chair said that the Forum has a duty to advise the Chancellor on issues of concern, including when a process will likely lead to difficulties for the University and its staff. Members discussed the issue of why the leaked Follett proposal was printed on University letterhead. The Chair proposed to draft the letter with the assistance of Shayna Hill, Phillip Edwards, and Kirk Montgomery.
Katie Turner noted that the unofficial Save Student Stores committee is composed of representatives from SEANC, Student Action with Workers, and Faculty Forward. She proposed that she and Kirk Montgomery stand as ad hoc members of the Forum’s representation on that committee. The Chair was pleased to agree with this suggestion.
Katie Turner noted that only 37% of all UNC-Chapel Hill faculty are tenured. She said that adjunct and fixed-term faculty have been undercounted previously.
The Chair said that he would have the letter out in the next two weeks or so. Sharon Brinson noted a perceived hostile environment for some on campus. Gena Carter proposed to discuss this question with Brinson following the meeting.
The Chair proposed that the University should do its own due diligence with regard to the Student Stores. He said that the current process reflected poorly on University administration. Kirk Montgomery asked the Forum’s official stance on outsourcing. Ben Triplett agreed that the Forum should put forward its stance on the issue itself. Montgomery asked if the Forum’s proclamations and resolutions on the question would really give an “out” to allow the process to go forward with the Forum’s endorsement. The Chair noted that the 1996 resolution was written during a time in which the General Assembly and the Board of Governors mandated that all campuses study their operations for outsourcing possibilities. He thought it would be in poor taste to invalidate a previously approved resolution of the Forum. Clare Counihan said that there are good reasons to change policy positions as conditions change over time. She noted that outsourcing has come to have a terrible effect on staff employees who work side-by-side with regular University staff. The Chair proposed that Counihan and Triplett work on a resolution stating the Forum’s position on outsourcing in the 21st century, later in the New Year.
Gena Carter drew the winner of the Forum’s Scavenger Hunt grand prize, a Kindle. Desiree Rickenberg was selected as the grand prize winner.
Katie Turner reported that the Communications and Public Relations committee met to discuss social media for the spring. The committee discussed upcoming issues of InTouch and the Student Stores question.
Jim Fuller reported that the Carolina Blood Drive committee had met that morning. The Forum will send out a mass email asking for donors. The final blood drive of the year will take place December 8th from 7:30-1 p.m. in the Fetzer Gym.
Arlene Medder had no news regarding the Carolina Campus Community Garden. The committee will meet again December 9th.
There was no report from the Education and Career Development committee. The Chair noted that the professional development grants process will resume in the spring.
The Personnel Issues committee will discuss the Student Stores situation at its November 19th meeting.
The Chair reported that the Royster Scholarship winners will be announced soon. In addition, there was no update on the status of the Chancellors’ Cup golf tournament.
The Chair noted that the Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs Joel Curran and Director of Social Media Natalie Vizuete will speak at the Forum’s December meeting.
The Chair asked for topics for the December 10th Vice Chancellor representatives’ meeting. Arlene Medder suggested the edible campus idea along with the Student Stores discussion. Ben Triplett voiced interest in a Shared Services update. Kathy Ramsey asked for information regarding race relations and the Chancellor’s newly hired special assistant in this area, Dr. Rumay Alexander. The Chair proposed that Dr. Alexander possibly address the Forum in January.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 1:11 p.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary