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Employee Forum Agenda — October 1, 2008

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

I.            Call to Order

II.           Welcome Guests & Members of the Press

III.          Opening Remarks

IV.         Special Presentations

  • Trustee of the University John Ellison & Student Body President and Trustee J.J. Raynor
  • Michele Nelson, Program Evaluation Division, NC General Assembly
  • Executive Associate Provost Ron Strauss (scheduled to appear at approximately 11 a.m.)


V.          Human Resources Update—Brenda Malone

VI.         Employee Presentations or Questions

VII.        Minutes

VIII.       Old Business


IX.         New Business

  • ACLU & University Gazette Insert Question


X.           Stretch Time

XI.         Forum Committee Reports

  • Communications and Public Relations: Brenda Denzler
    • Forum Newsletter
  • Community Affairs, Recognition, Awards and Outreach: Beth Bridger
  • Compensation & Benefits:  Alan Moran
  • Education and Career Development:  Liz Cahoon/Cate Cunningham
  • Legislative Action:  Mike Hawkins
  • Membership & Assignments:  Aluoch Ooro
  • Staff Relations, Policies & Practices:  Mike McQuown


XII.        Chair’s Report (Executive Committee):  Tommy Griffin

XIII.       Task Force/University Committee Reports

XIV.       Announcements/Questions

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

XV.        Adjournment


October 1, 2008 Employee Forum Minutes


Chair Tommy Griffin called the meeting to order at 9:20 a.m.  He welcomed members of the Board of Trustees John Ellison and J.J. Raynor.  Ellison said that the pair were active in Chancellor Thorp’s effort to find out what UNC needs to become a better place over the next five to ten years.  He noted the strength of current UNC students, of whom the average SAT score exceeds 1300 and 43% finished in the top ten students of their high schools.  He also noted the strong support of the State Legislature for the University, particularly with regard to construction of the new Cancer Hospital, among other things.

Ellison said that by 2017 the University System will be asked to absorb an additional 80,000 students.  UNC-Chapel Hill would take 4-5,000 of these students, of whom 2400 would be undergraduate students.  He said that UNC-Chapel Hill will need to increase its graduate student awards.  The addition of 2400 undergraduate students likely means that student quality will fall as a result overall.

With regard to faculty, 500 of the 1700 tenure track faculty are expected to retire in the next ten years, meaning the University would need to replace these and add another 333 positions to support the increase in enrollment.  These enrollment needs will place huge demands upon the State Legislature to fund adequate salary increases for faculty and staff alike.

President Bowles had advised listeners to pick only a few problems to solve rather than a wide range of issues, in order to increase chances of success.  He asked the Forum for its ideas on where the University should focus its attention.  Brenda Denzler suggested the University look to add needed staff to support the new buildings that the University has recently constructed.  She also suggested that the University provide free tuition for faculty and staff permanent employees at any System institution.  Marshall Dietz questioned the emphasis on SAT scores.  Mike Hawkins suggested increasing ties with community colleges.  Mary Campbell said that some issues were a matter of simple respect, such as the unfortunate requirement that retired State employees must wait six months before again working for a State agency.  Denzler suggested that each campus in the University system create its own ombudsoffice.  Ryan Greenway raised the issue of affordable housing in Chapel Hill for staff.  Alan Moran suggested reducing tuition for UNC-Chapel Hill students who agree to work for the University following graduation.  Faith Thompson thought that UNC should frame its conception of a quality student not simply by SAT scores.  Mark Duncan advocated collective bargaining for employees.  Dietz suggested shifting employees around the University System to share knowledge before retirement.  Marc ter Horst emphasized the quality of UNC students when they graduate from the institution.  Ellinger said that recent classes have been most diverse, with over 30% nontraditional students (other than white males or females).

Ellinger reported that the best predictor of student achievement is the class rank of students at the end of eighth grade.  J.J. Raynor noted that it is difficult to determine who will end up becoming the late blooming students.  Moran noted the importance of increasing training and development opportunities for staff such as the clerical skills program.  The Chair noted the work of the campus literacy program and the recent success of Chancellor Moeser’s Taskforce for a Better Workplace.  Mike McQuown suggested funding mandatory training for campus supervisors.  Debbie Dehart noted the need to make it easier for staff to attend classes in the middle of the day.  She also urged the University to find a better way to pass on surplus items to needy schools and communities.  Todd Hux said that the State should fund and support the comprehensive compensation system.  Aluoch Ooro noted the high profile that Duke University has in Durham county public schools and urged UNC-Chapel Hill to raise its profile in all 100 North Carolina county school systems.  Ellinger noted that a strong indicator of possible involvement in the federal prison system is whether a child can read at grade level in second grade.  He said that one could teach a second grader to read at grade level if she is taught a half hour a day, five days a week.  Bringing a junior high or high school student up to grade level requires three and five hours a day, respectively.  Mary Campbell reported that UNC had hosted a group of 35 students in a lab recently with great success.

J.J. Raynor invited listeners to send in further ideas.  The Forum then took a five minute break.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Brenda Malone gave the Forum’s customary Human Resources update.  She said that Training and Development had originated the Excellence in Mentoring award to encourage a culture of mentoring on campus.  Winners will receive 24 hours paid leave, a plaque, and a nomination for the chancellor’s Award.  Nominations are due the first week of December.

Secondly, Malone said that the literacy training programs were now underway, with five classes of ten people each due to be completed by the end of the year.  So far, interest has largely been limited to computer literacy classes, rather than reading literacy.  Discussion turned to recruitment of staff to attend classes.  Claire Miller said that Training and Development staff were ready to attend staff meetings to invite housekeepers and other line employees to sign up for classes.

Mike McQuown reported some resistance to transferring computers or training housekeepers in the use of computers.  Malone said that the basic literacy program had limited its concern to literacy issues.  She said that Facilities Services had worked above and beyond the call to make sure that employees had access to computers and the basic computer skills program.  Kitty Allen reported that a staff member had attended Grounds staff meetings to invite attendance, and that staff member had promised to return to follow up on the invitation.  Malone said that she had been pleased with the enrollment  and planning of classes to meet these employees’ work schedules.

Malone said that NC Flex enrollment would take place between September 29 and November 3.  Those with questions can call 962-3071.  The University will host Employee Appreciation Day October 16 in the Great Hall of the Student Union.

Malone reported that the new IRS regulations requiring the University System to review its 403(b) program had led to an announcement from General Administration on these plans.  After rigorous review by a Systemwide steering committee as well as President Bowles, General Administration approved Fidelity Investments and TIAA-Cref to provide a broad array of 403(b) choices.  Employees may leave money in accounts managed by other companies, but new contributions must be administered through Fidelity or TIAA-Cref as of January 1, 2009.  Brian Usischon noted that the federal government had written the initial regulations for 403(b) accounts in the 1960s and had only finalized the regulations in the last few years.  These new final regulations place more responsibility on the employer for the 403(b) process, a change which had led to the new limitation on eligible vendors.  Employees can move their accounts but should be aware of possible consequences such as surrender charges.  Malone said the key was to make an informed decision.

Alan Moran noted that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  He said that a domestic violence hotline is available at 929-7122.  He noted that one-third of all women have been either raped or physically abused.  He noted that a number of women face language barriers and fear deportation, adding to their sense of powerlessness.

Brenda Denzler recounted for delegates the controversy involving the Forum’s InTouch newsletter and the University Gazette.  She noted that the printed version of InTouch was annually published by the Gazette under the InTouch masthead.  In 2007, the Gazette edited some changes to the InTouch newsletter and refused to print one article.  She said that the Communications committee, which publishes InTouch, had sought an opportunity to sit down for discussion with administration members but had been refused.  She said that Forum members and others had discussed this turn of events and thought that their First Amendment rights had been violated.  They had in turn contacted attorneys, among them the North Carolina Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to determine their options.  The ACLU had written the University to talk about the situation but had been refused.  Since then, the ACLU had offered to take up the case as one of only 15-20 that it litigates each year.

Denzler asked the Forum to convey an emergency meeting to discuss the ACLU offer to litigate on behalf of the Forum.  Debbie Dehart said that it would be only fair to hear the University Counsel’s side as well.  Mike McQuown thought that the Forum should hear opinion letters from both the ACLU and University Counsel during its discussion.  The Forum agreed to hear from the ACLU that following Tuesday at noon.  The Chair asked that all Forum delegates attend this meeting to decide on whether to pursue the case to insure that it had a quorum.

Beth Bridger asked delegates to sign up for the Employee Appreciation booth on October 16.  She said that the Community Affairs, Recognition and Awards committee would work to adopt a family during the Christmas holidays.

There were no employee presentations or questions.  The Chair asked the Forum to put off consideration of the September minutes until the next meeting.

Mike Hawkins moved that the Forum approve the proposed Guidelines change having to do with the UNC System Staff Assembly on second reading.  Mike McQuown seconded this motion.  Twenty-four delegates voted in favor of the proposed revisions, three voted against and one delegate abstained.

Mike McQuown introduced a proposed letter to go to the Chancellor from the Chair concerning housekeepers issues.  He noted that some housekeepers had been told not to speak with the Forum or other press about the discussions in that department.  This act prompted the Staff Relations, Policies and Practices committee to write the letter.  The Chair said that he, James Holman and others had met with the Chancellor the previous Monday to discuss concerns.  Holman said that he had attended a meeting with all housekeepers which found many there not pleased with the offered solutions.  Marshall Dietz cited deficiencies with the records of the housekeeper discussion meetings.  He said that those meetings represented an important chance for attendees to express their views on the proposed weekend work plan.  He also said that he did not know how the decision to institute weekend work was made.

Mark Duncan asked who had told housekeepers not to talk with the press.  James Holman said that the new director of Facilities Services had told him and others not to speak with the Forum, the press, the union, or the Student Action with Workers (SAW).  He wondered why these discussions had to be so secretive.  Kitty Allen said that Van Dobson likes to keep these kinds of discussions in-house.  She had met with him and found that he wants to be involved, but that employees should speak with their supervisors first before going to the Chancellor.  Mark Duncan found it disgusting that anyone should be told that they can’t speak out on these questions.  Mike Hawkins encouraged employees who speak with management to document what they have done.  He said that as taxpayers and voters employees should not yield their First Amendment rights.  He thought that under the previous chancellor the University had begun to become more like corporate America.  He said that the Forum represents one of the few voices who fight for those who want to speak.

Aluoch Ooro wanted more detail in the proposed letter, including dates and times.  Hawkins said that the Forum could approve the letter then add facts later.  The Chair said that October 15 was the deadline for one of the sets of issues.  He said that the Chancellor had been willing to keep dialogue open on other issues, asking for a 60 day pause in negotiations.  He had pledged to protect the housekeepers from wrongful conduct.  Lucy Lewis urged that the Forum act in this matter now.  Mike McQuown moved that the Forum accept the letter to Chancellor Thorp from/about housekeepers as proposed by the Staff Relations committee and presented to the Forum today.  Mike Hawkins seconded the motion.  The motion was approved of 16 in favor, 7 opposed and 2 abstaining.

Brenda Denzler moved that the Employee Forum request through a formal resolution that Chancellor Thorp and Vice Chancellor Kupec include staff oriented goals in its upcoming fundraising campaign.  Mike Hawkins seconded this motion.  Faith Thompson asked if the goals were to be related to the development plan of particular UNC-Chapel Hill schools.  She said that such staff-oriented goals were already included in some school plans.  Denzler said that the idea was to present the suggestions to Kupec himself.  The ideas could deal with any of a number of concerns, including staff tuition remission and day care.  She said that the time had arisen to ask the University to develop institution-wide staff goals.  Twenty-one delegates voted in favor of this motion with none opposed and none abstaining.

In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned by acclamation at 11:51 a.m.


Respectfully submitted,



Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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