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October 15, 2019 Executive Committee minutes

Attending (those who signed in):  Ashley Belcher, Jen DeNeal, Phil Edwards, Stephanie Forman, Shayna Hill, Clinton Miller, Arlene Medder, Kadejah Murray, Katie Musgrove, Natiaya Neal, Ayla Ocasio, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Greg Smith, Rose Thorp, Tracy Williams

Excused Absences:  None

Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 11:30 a.m.  She requested a motion to approve the June and August minutes of the committee.  Arlene Medder made this motion, seconded by Laura Pratt.  The motion was approved.

Phil Edwards noted that the Forum had agreed to work on obtaining staff stories about health care difficulties towards presenting them at the UNC System Staff Assembly meeting.  He granted that this goal might be a bit ambitious and instead proposed a revised goal of the March 2020 Assembly meeting.  Laura Pratt asked about the possibility of holding another community meeting on health care issues.  Edwards said that he planned to solicit feedback from employees at the upcoming Employee Appreciation Fair.

Matt Banks said that the electoral system reform committee had not met but he planned to convene the group in October.

Greg Smith requested help distributing prize vouchers for the Forum’s customary scavenger hunt on the 18th.  He said that the Communications & Public Relations committee had gathered around twenty-five prizes that need vouchers.  Kevin Robinson offered to help with this task, among others.

Ashley Belcher asked for help staffing the Community Service committee table at the departmental fair of the Employee Appreciation Fair.  Matt Banks recalled that the Office of Human Resources seemed to have set a new 2-hour maximum participation rule for the Fair this year.  Members discussed the plight of some employees not allowed to attend the Fair due to office staffing issues.  The Chair proposed that the interim Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement could issue a statement asking departments to let their employees participate in the Fair.  Angenette McAdoo said that she would mention this request to Becci Menghini.

The Chair introduced Provost Bob Blouin to discuss the rollout of Carolina Next:  Innovations for the Public Good, the University’s new strategic plan.  Blouin and committee members introduced themselves.  Blouin noted his two years as Provost were preceded by fourteen and a half years as Dean of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.  He noted his background in kinetics and pharmacology.

Blouin recalled the extraordinary and tumultuous times that the University has experienced this past year and a half.  He noted that the University’s high status was not a product of modern facilities, as the University has a deferred maintenance deficit of $850 million.

Blouin was pleased to head the effort to establish a strategic plan for the University, following his experience in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.  He granted that the experience of working on a strategic plan can resemble a root canal.  The energy involved in creating these plans is often lost as these plans become entombed in filing cabinets never to be seen again.

Blouin said that a social contract at the School of Pharmacy established a clear compass and channel for priorities.  He emphasized the importance of responding to implied objectives.

With the University’s $3.5 billion budget, Blouin hopes to create a fulcrum for change, referred to as a “Delta.”  (“Delta” is the Greek word that means difference or change.)  He hoped that the plan would establish a strong foundation from which to identify and strategize less visible opportunities.  Blouin said that a strategic plan is easier to accomplish at the school or department level than the University level.

Blouin thought that UNC-Chapel Hill has never had a strategic plan but rather has approved several academic plans.  He characterized academic plans as lists of how money flows to different schools and departments.

A strategic plan requires timing and alignment with events at the University and in the state and nation.  Blouin recalled the State Legislature’s establishment of the University Cancer Research fund, which led to a $50 million annual allocation to the University.  This outside legislation moved the University planning environment towards cancer research programs.

Blouin said that the University cannot meet all needs at once.  There are too many needs for money, people and facilities among actors.  Strategic planners must work within an overall philosophy to distribute resources in ways to maximize opportunities on campus.  Blouin reiterated the University’s longstanding mission to respond to the needs of the public.

Blouin said that the title Carolina Next:  Innovations for the Public Good followed Chancellor Emeritus Carol Folt’s start in creating a strategic framework.  Blouin noted that the Blueprint for Next fit on one sheet of paper, essentially an aspirational document.  Blouin said that in 2017, he was asked to implement the Blueprint but quickly concluded that plan was not implementable.  He said that the plan’s pillars were so broad that they did not provide discernment among different initiatives.

Blouin instead raised the question:  how can the University choose among various goals?  Using the Blueprint for Next as a starting point, Blouin worked with others to find selection methods that are fair and consistent with University priorities.  Carolina Next:  Innovations for the Public Good has a list of eight initiatives.  Blouin stressed that this list of initiatives has not yet been endorsed by the University Board of Trustees.  He said that the plan will be presented to the Board before the year’s end.

Blouin said that the strategic plan hoped to conduct assessments outside the typical cycle of investment, using Total Quality Management concepts to evaluate objectives on an ongoing basis.

Carolina Next’s eight strategic initiatives are to:  1) build community together 2) facilitate student success 3) promote career development 4) discover 5) renew democracy 6) benefit society 7) globalize and 8) optimize operations.  Blouin said that these initiatives are not listed in priority order, but for the first one, to build community together.

Each initiative will have three objectives.  Blouin recalled consultant Ben Edwards’ admonition to be faithful to the Rule of Three.  Objectives will list relevant opportunities underneath, where various investments will occur.

Blouin explained the reason to rank “build community” first on the list.  He said that the campus is currently “in pain” given recent events and the history of the University and the State.  He said that the University has never come to terms with this pain.  Blouin noted leaders’ desire to bring the University to a better place, through hard conversations.

Blouin said that he and Chancellor Guskiewicz will continue their listening tour of campus.  He recalled that the three past sessions have been well-attended.  The Chancellor’s Office will work to summarize points made during these meetings.  Blouin added that some points will find their way into the University’s strategic plan.

Blouin said that “facilitate student success” means not to just recruit talented students but also to make sure they are nurtured and able to navigate campus life.  “Promote career development” has been thoroughly enabled for University faculty, but less so for staff.  Blouin said that viable pathways are needed for staff to reach their full potential.  He said that more attention should be paid to the breadth of human capital on campus.  Blouin observed that currently, staff employees may feel that they must leave their current job or the University to receive fair market value for their work.

Blouin said the “discover” initiative replaced the word “research,” which has fallen into disfavor in some academic circles.  He noted that all aspects of the arts and humanities would be studied and measured, including grant money and academic papers.  All faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and staff are all actively involved in the process of discovery on campus.

The initiative “renew democracy” holds significance for a public university.  Blouin said that few institutions are set to prepare the next generation to live in this state and nation.  The University must prepare students for an active and respectful discourse as citizens.  Blouin was anxious to see how this initiative would evolve.

The initiative “benefit society” draws on the success of Vice Chancellor of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Judith Cone in creating a platform for success for those creating new ideas and the jobs that follow.  He compared the Research Triangle Park with Boston and California as meccas for new job creation.  He said that RTP hosts $1.2 billion worth of research and enterprise capabilities in the form of various public and private institutions.  To remain competitive, North Carolina needs to reinforce its strong university infrastructure.

Regarding the “globalize” initiative, Blouin noted the difficulty in convincing the State Legislature that being global is in the State’s best interest.  However, global factors drive change and universities help decisionmakers understand these factors.  Blouin cited a conversation with the Ambassador to India who revealed that country has 1.2 billion cell phones, but only 200 landlines.  Efficiently, India had skipped the middle process and never built landlines.  Similarly, India has moved to a completely digital system of monetary exchange, skipping the middle era of credit cards.  Understanding these trends is important.

Regarding “optimize operations,” Blouin noted the ongoing Operational Excellence Initiative which is working to ensure the University operates more efficiently.

Arlene Medder asked how deferred maintenance for buildings is placed within the Carolina Next strategic framework.  Blouin said that item falls under “optimize.”  He said that the University needs funds for this purpose, but it has also not used its assets effectively and must change its approach.  Currently, the UNC System has a $3.5 billion deferred building maintenance need, but the State has budgeted only $60 million this year for this expense, with $12 million dedicated to UNC-Chapel Hill.  This amount will not fulfill the need of even one large campus project, but new bond initiatives could help find assets to borrow against for this purpose.

Jen DeNeal asked about the sexual assault report as an opportunity for improvement.  Blouin said that this horrific major problem affects student success and the campus climate adversely.  He said that administrators have many ideas to address this problem and the University will roll out an initiative soon.  He recalled that Chancellor Guskiewicz had discussed infrastructure responses that the University could undertake to address this problem, such as increasing lighting and security.  Blouin said that generally sexual harassment is defined as inappropriately aggressive sexual behavior.  Sixty percent of all complaints deal with instances that occur behind closed doors, and involve prior relations, drugs and alcohol, and/or a reluctance to press charges.

DeNeal recalled statistics that showed 60% of interactions are typified by ineffective police interventions.  Blouin said that fraternities off campus have been a major origination point of this problem.  Town of Chapel Hill apartments around the University have been another source of difficulties.

Stephanie Forman asked about steps to improve staff development opportunities.  She bemoaned the common conception that leaving is the best option to obtain advancement at the University.  Blouin said that UNC faculty have many reasons to stay or leave.  Many faculty members choose to stay in Chapel Hill due to the collaborative environment, the quality of people here, and the Town’s charms.  He said that the University must provide staff and faculty more than these intangible factors to compete in the Research Triangle Park area against comparable institutions.  He said that UNC-Chapel Hill has suffered in the competitive market.  In response, Carolina has committed itself to digital lifelong learning for its employees combined with the opportunity to take classes.  He noted that employees want the chance to earn credentials for these classes, something that administrators hope to create in time.

As employees become more valuable to UNC-Chapel Hill, they reevaluate their own career paths.  Blouin noted that during his time as Dean of the School of Pharmacy, there were difficulties with staff being hired over to the School of Medicine, due to increases in salary and opportunities to advance.  He noted frustration about the lack of State support for regular and appropriate salary increases.  He commented that the University must reevaluate its career banding system and use its resources to compensate those eligible.  He said that the University must work harder to increase opportunities for staff to flourish and increase satisfaction among staff and faculty employees.

The Chair noted that Provost Blouin will join the Forum for its general meeting on November 4th.  She thanked him for his time and remarks.

Members discussed possible questions to raise at the November Forum meeting regarding the structure of Carolina Next.  There was a worry about staff being asked to do more with less in pursuit of these reforms.  There was also concern that employees who do manual work are not adequately addressed in these plans.

The Chair asked why the University could not devote some of its huge endowment to spin off funds for staff salary increases.  She noted the number of donations to the University that are made without specifications for use.  She hoped that the University could think more creatively about this longstanding problem.

The Chair also noted how difficult the last couple of years have been for the Forum.  She particularly bemoaned the need to work around certain administrators to accomplish its mission and goals.  She was pleased that the Provost had taken an hour to discuss the University’s strategic plans, as she was pleased with the roster of personages who spoke at the Forum’s health care community meeting in August.  She said that the Forum needed to continue to state its truth.

Members voiced concern about possible cuts to Human Resources budgets and limited opportunities for feedback regarding the Carolina Next reforms.  The Chair recalled the idea to advocate for parking as an employee benefit, as a creative way to address staff salary issues.

Rose Thorp asked how many people have been negatively impacted by the advent of night parking restrictions on campus.  She further asked how the Forum should respond in this area.  Phil Edwards noted that individuals are responsible for daytime paid parking.  He wondered why units could not absorb the cost for nighttime parking.  The Chair recalled that Director for Transportation & Parking Cheryl Stout has usually met to strategize with local units facing difficulties with night parking restrictions.

Ayla Ocasio recalled revelations at the health care community meeting that some faculty employees do not pay anything for parking.  The Chair said that SHRA employees can receive parking as a benefit if paid from non-State funds.  Greg Smith commented that this benefit is more likely paid to faculty who may conversely be less likely to value this benefit due to other perks related to their position.

The Chair asked that the Forum establish a general procedure for responding to resolutions forwarded from Student Government or the Graduate and Professional Student Federation.  She resolved to work on these details at a later meeting.

Ashley Belcher reported that the Community Service committee is seeking employees to serve as roofers at a Habitat for Humanity build on October 25th.  She asked for assistance in finding volunteers from the University community.

Arlene Medder noted that the Carolina Community Garden (CCG) was constructing fencing due to the damage caused by burrowing groundhogs.  The Chair asked that the Forum expedite its $2500 grant payment to the Garden.

The Chair said she would meet with Cheryl Stout the day following to discuss issues of concern.  She asked that the list of proposed Vice Chancellor topics include an update on plans for skilled trade mentorships.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary


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