September 7, 2022 Employee Forum General Meeting Minutes
Delegates Attending: Randall Borror, Sharron Bouquin, David Bragg, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Timothy Carville, Michael Case, Emma Dehne, Elizabeth DuBose, Jay Eubank, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Jaci Field, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Lonnie Hawley, Leah Hefner, Jessi Hill, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, Ta’Keyah Holder, James Holman, Brigitte Ironside, Kira Jones, Stacy Keast, Mary King, Evan Marsh, Amber Meads, Arlene Medder, Mandy Melton, David Michaud, Katie Musgrove, Joseph Ormond, Sara Pettaway, Charlissa Rice, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, Lori Shamblin, Theresa Silsby, Janice Singletary, Sarah Smith, Jake Stallard, James Stamey, Janet Steele, Kurt Stolka, Annetta Streater, Matthew Teal, Julie Theriault, Tracy Wetherby-Williams, Tracey Wiley, Tyrone Williams, Jacob Womack
Excused: L.E. Alexander, Vanessa Blake, Chrissie Greenberg, Jane O’Hara, Alice Whiteside
Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. She was pleased to welcome Vice Provost for University Libraries Maria Estorino to make the day’s first special presentation. Estorino has been Vice Provost and University Librarian since May of this year, and before that served as the Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the Wilson Library since 2017.
She said that the University Libraries work to ensure student success and advance the research enterprise. The Libraries are also uniquely committed to preservation, in an active way that goes hand in hand with access to materials. The Libraries span ten different locations, with anchor libraries at Davis, Undergraduate, and Wilson on central campus. She noted ongoing relationships with the Health Sciences and Law Libraries as well. The other five libraries are termed “branches” and are very subject-specific and associated with specific departments or schools.
Estorino noted that the Libraries are active in providing direct access to resources online. The collection spans ten million books in print and electronic versions, as well as many journals and archival materials. Estorino said that since her time as head of special collections, the University has amassed probably the largest and most significant special collection at a public research institution in the southeast. This collection places a strong emphasis on the American South and the history of the book, seen through materials dating back to cuneiform tablets.
Maps, government documents, data sets, and more are available from the University Libraries. The Libraries are powered by around 275 full-time employees, 180 EHRA non-faculty and 117 SHRA employees. The Libraries currently have around 50 vacant positions. The Libraries are a significant employer of students, with around 160 student employees working across campus.
Estorino made clear that the Libraries are everyone’s library, as they are open to the public. As UNC employees, your One Card is your library card and your ONYEN is your key to all of the Library’s online resources. Estorino noted that people can borrow eBooks and audiobooks from the library and can also stream movies. One can also research one’s family history, particularly given the significant materials related to North Carolina history. The Library offers a guide related to conducting genealogical research, especially related to North Carolina. Library users also enjoy free access to news services through subscriptions to the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Patrons can take in a visit at the North Carolina collection gallery, as well as a great number of digital exhibitions online. The current exhibition focuses on the 40th anniversary of what is considered the birth of the environmental justice movement in Warren County, North Carolina. UNC Libraries will host one of a series of commemorative events marking the anniversary. Most events are now largely virtual, but the Warren County event will take place September 15th in person.
Health sciences librarians curate a website through which patrons can find reliable health information for working with health care providers. Estorino hoped that listeners would avail themselves of these opportunities related to workshops and training outside the curriculum, open to anyone. Technology skills trainings from podcasting to programming to ARM are also open to everyone in the campus community. UNC Libraries online materials can help one learn a new language.
Many opportunities also exist for interacting with campus history resources. UNC Libraries are committed to ensuring that all voices are remembered as part of the University’s history. Official means of collection are joined by student and staff contributions to this history, from building names to campus firsts, to athletics, to student and academic history, and much more.
Estorino was excited to speak about their new initiative, the Story Archive, which is a way to provide brief interviews about different topics related to experiences on campus. This project is in the early stages of development, but Estorino hoped to partner with the Employee Forum to focus on the staff experience.
Estorino emphasized the strength of the children’s collections at the Information and Library Science Library. She noted that the Libraries have launched a seed library at the Kenan Science Library, originated by a graduate student who now serves on staff. She noted the maker space that is open at this library as well. Students have used this maker space to produce costumes and masks for theater productions, among other creations.
Estorino urged listeners to use the Libraries, either in person or online. Responding to a question, she said that users do not require a virtual private network (VPN) to access materials. She said that the ONYEN will serve to access materials. A handful of sites do require an additional login for licensing requirements.
Responding to a question, Estorino shared a link to newspaper information that contains instructions, with a few more setup steps like creation of a separate account with the New York Times or Washington Post. This link provides a step-by-step way to accomplish this task.
The Chair thanked Estorino for her presentation and offered to share the accompanying slideshow with the Forum delegation. Estorino noted that the NC Digital Heritage Center, which partners with the State Library, has a website digitalnc.org. This site contains historic and current newspapers as well as thousands of titles from across the State.
Next, the Chair asked the University’s new Chief of Police, Brian James, to speak to the Forum. James wished the Forum well and noted his appreciation for his opportunity to work in this position. James comes from Greensboro and has been UNC Chief of Police for a little over two months.
James said that campus safety is a partnership that takes everyone to contribute. To this end, he sought relationships throughout the campus community, including students, faculty, and staff. He urged listeners to reach out to him any time his office can be of assistance. He particularly would appreciate any ideas regarding community engagement, stating that campus police do not have all the answers to questions. He thanked the group and wished all a great experience here on campus.
The Chair noted that campus police are staff employees at the University, the same as others. She noted that the Forum is here to represent these employees and is willing to partner with police on items of interest. A chat question recommended that James undertake the Black and Blue tour on campus. James said that he would look into that tour, particularly as it includes a virtual version.
Annetta Streater asked if James plans to meet with leaders at the various units and professional schools. She asked this question in light of certain specific safety issues that the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have had to address. James said that he has met with some areas but found that the campus is very decentralized, meaning that many units and schools have yet to be reached. He urged listeners to let him know if there are items on which to focus.
James has tried to get some consistency regarding building access around campus, as some infrastructure is older than other areas. There are different ways of gaining access to buildings, some of which hold items of high-risk concern. Streater said that Adams School of Dentistry leadership probably has some unique circumstances regarding the School’s patients. In a meeting with the Chief, she hoped to depict the School’s baseline, then look at strategies and ensure the appropriate channels of communication are in place. She invited James’s team to work with the School’s community outreach team to do a security survey of buildings to determine opportunities to enhance security.
The Chair echoed Streater’s request for consultation, recalling a police officer had consulted with the clinic at the School of Law to make security improvements. She thanked James for his remarks to the Forum.
The Chair welcomed Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Equal Opportunity, and Compliance Becci Menghini to present the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Menghini welcomed all back to another school year. She noted that OHR will host Employee Appreciation Day on Friday, October 21st, and she hoped that Chief James could participate in festivities with Forum delegates that day. She welcomed Chief James and interim Vice Provost Estorino to their new positions of leadership.
Menghini said that all employees should have received their three and a half percent increase in salary in their most recent paycheck. She said that the first of these paychecks was a bit larger than those following as the increase was retroactive to July. Menghini noted that there was an additional allocation made statutorily called the Labor Market Adjustment Reserve. This allocation is one percent of payroll, but whether it represents 1% of total payroll or a portion of overall budget has yet to be clarified. The University is still waiting for guidance on this question.
There are a number of rules around the labor market adjustment reserve. It is limited to be spent on just twenty-five percent of population, primarily as a staff tool. Unfortunately, the University is likely stuck with existing market salary rates. The University will attempt to pursue the largest efficiencies in the most efficient and equitable way. OHR will provide more information as it becomes available from the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR), with allocation likely occurring by December.
Menghini noted sentiment in favor of barbeque for the October 21st appreciation event. She hoped that employees would participate in performances on the big stage, singling out Forum delegates to sign up for a quintet to perform. Menghini said that she would be absent that day on the Tar Heel Bus Tour.
Menghini welcomed Estorino and James to campus, along with a number of other leaders arriving on campus in the next few weeks. The new Vice Chancellor for Communications, Kamrhen Farwell, will join the University September 26th. Menghini thanked Tanya Moore and others for heading the communications shop over the last year. She was thrilled to welcome Farwell to campus from the University of Missouri.
The Chair asked about resuming presentation of the gift plaques denoting State service as a way to show appreciation in a time of employee shortages. She hoped that the University would bring back the banquet and awards ceremonies for staff reaching employment milestones as well. Menghini said that with the pandemic there has not been a lot of interest in getting together for a large-scale dinner. However, that feeling may be changing. She said that OHR is managing its budget as well as possible and opted to do away with that event. She added that OHR must navigate within the realities of its budget and accompanying decisions. She noted that previous partnership arrangements that helped underwrite this event no longer hold. OHR must work through several avenues to find a gift option. However, OHR has worked to resume provision of plaques marking the twenty-year service anniversary for employees.
Another questioner asked if the University anticipates having the new COVID booster shots available with flu shots. Menghini expected that these boosters will be available. Employees must have completed their regular shot series to be eligible for a booster. She expected final word on this subject out within a week or so.
A questioner asked how UNC is thinking about employee burnout. Menghini noted a number of conversations in leadership regarding this question. Hiring is picking up which should provide some good news to the overworked. In addition, recent salary increases may also work to fight this feeling, although she commented that this raise is not enough. Menghini said that the University is talking with Vice Chancellors and Deans about how to continue to support and uphold staff who are here while working to hire new employees. This point requires thinking about employee schedules and what cannot be done, at least for a while.
Menghini noted employee comments bemoaning continuous introduction of new systems, products, and structures. OHR leadership recently agreed to work on improving the infrastructure of operations rather than the introduction of new software. OHR intends to automate many forms to make staff lives easier but will not roll out a new system this year.
She noted questions about the Concur software, recalling that this program was rolled out by Finance and Operations. She said that the University has adopted this system in order to improve compliance with accounting requirements. She added that many employees have registered their concerns about Concur. She felt reluctant to speak more extensively on this question, but she noted that several teams are working to address concerns.
Menghini did not have a simple answer to the employee burnout question. She noted conversations related to recruitment and retention, as well as limitations on positions that make it difficult to hire for reasons that do not apply to the actual job. Other conversations have dealt with ensuring flexibility granted is equally distributed or distributed in a way that ensures that people receive the support they need.
She also noted that the University is trying to institute more staff mentoring options. Employees will receive a survey soon asking about interest in mentoring others. OHR will study this survey to see what options are needed and are available. She said that the Forum will have a chance to participate in this work as well.
A question was posed on whether there has been any consideration to bring back retirement benefits that were eliminated for a portion of employees in 2021, particularly no health insurance after retirement. Menghini asked Senior Director of Benefits and Leave Administration Joe Williams to address this question. Williams said that the State Health Plan currently has an eleven-billion-dollar liability on retiree health care. In response to this deficit, legislators in 2019 began phasing out retiree health insurance for new hires.
Williams recalled that historically, five years of State service with participation in the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement Plan (TSERS) or the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) would earn that employee the free retiree health benefit. This provision changed after October 2006 and in years following. Now, only employees with twenty years or more of service can obtain the free retiree health benefit. In January 2021, the Legislature eliminated this benefit for new hires into the UNC System. Employees who worked for the State years ago who have kept their TSERS or ORP funds intact can be grandfathered into the program. However, new hires have lost this benefit, and it will likely not return, Williams said.
He added that retiree health insurance competes with Medicare and Medicaid plans, and Medicare advantage plans. These plans are relatively inexpensive, perhaps ten or twenty dollars a month. Williams said that the State retirement system also requires a Medicare Part B., which costs most Americans around $177/month. Every person who retires from the State over age sixty-five must be enrolled in Medicare Parts A. and B. The State retirement system through the State Health Plan offers that Medicare Advantage plan, a whole wrap-around plan that covers everything through copays. The plan is more valuable for those taking an early retirement.
Williams spoke about open enrollment for the State Health Plan and other benefits, a period in which enrollees can make changes to coverage without penalty for the next year. Enrollees also must do a tobacco attestation to avoid a surcharge of $60/month. All subscribers are defaulted to the 70/30 plan, requiring a special election to enroll in the 80/20 plan.
This year, the UNC System is taking on some of the plans which are currently held at the State level. NC Flex programs like dental and vision care, flexible spending accounts, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment will become UNC System plans in 2023.
Thus, employees will have essentially two enrollment platforms to navigate this year, which is a bit more work. OHR will work with its communications team to notify employees about this change, through ConnectCarolina and other means. Williams encouraged employees to remember to hit the ‘save’ button in both systems and print or scan the confirmation screen.
The life insurance plan moved this year from MetLife to Securion, the fifth-largest life insurer in America. The NC Flex life insurance plan will move into the System range of plans this year. He described how combinations of policies will occur in the new enrollment year. Employees are encouraged to update their beneficiaries’ names on their plans.
The Chair asked if premiums on plans would rise this year. Joe Williams said that most health insurance premiums will stay constant, with the only plan to see a small increase will be the NC Flex dental plan.
Arlene Medder asked the benefits to employees of this change in life insurance. Williams responded that policy premiums will be lower under these umbrella policies. In addition, the change in coverage provides a free benefit in the UNC plan as opposed to the State plan. He described the case of an employee dying due to a car accident. Finally, there are additional services such as legal advisory benefits and travel benefits tied to the new plan. Again, he encouraged listeners to read up on the plan.
Jacob Womack noted the possibility that employees may mistakenly only enroll in one portal. Williams said that people enrolled in most plans will remain enrolled, as benefits migrate from year to year. The exception to this rule is the flexible spending accounts, which remain under the State enrollment portal and require re-enrollment. Employees must also elect whether to enroll in the 70/30 or 80/20 plan each year and must make a separate tobacco attestation each year.
Laura Pratt asked about Benefits teams meeting individually with departments as requested. Williams said that his office is open to these invitations, although this is a busy enrollment month. He asked that departments set up large scale meetings for these consultations, either virtually or in-person.
Someone asked how one would find the final copy of the life insurance policy once enrolled. Williams said that this group policy is being updated on the UNC website for open enrollment.
The Chair welcomed Senior Work/Life Manager Jessica Pyjas to present on September wellness updates. These events are available on the OHR website at https://hr.unc.edu/benefits/work-life/. Pyjas noted that September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, with resources designed to help those needing them at www.guidanceresources.com. The web ID to log in for the first time is “TARHEELS”, all as one word in capitals. Those with concerns about others contemplating suicide can obtain help from a national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Pyjas spoke on the different trainings on offer in September related to mental health, relaxation, and emotional intelligence, among other topics. Registrations are open every Tuesday until noon, with sessions beginning Wednesday at noon.
Pyjas noted the wide variety of topics offered in partnership with local wellness centers, including exploring optimism, nutrition, hydration, and marathon training. The Miles for Wellness program will start September 26th, which this year will partner with the NFL’s stadiums. Team registrations are currently open.
Pyjas welcomed the eight new wellness champions this fall from around campus. The program is open to employee feedback, with a survey to open Friday and close September 30th. The Helping Heels list will be updated on the OHR website soon. Pyjas alerted listeners to deals available to employees, including a discount at the Asheville Sheraton starting October 1 to November 14th, Sunday through Thursday, a rate of $119/night. This deal will continue through December 31st with even larger room discounts.
Finally, the Kerr Lake season will close at the end of the month. More details on this opportunity are available through the OHR website under leisure and recreation. In the absence of questions, the Chair thanked Pyjas, Williams, and Menghini for their remarks.
The Chair asked for motions regarding the consent agenda. Laura Pratt proposed edits to the August minutes and asked for time to discuss the Education and Career Development committee’s work this month. The Chair noted that the Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor and the Chancellor’s Cup golf tournament also required time on the agenda. Tiffany Carver requested time to discuss the 30th anniversary event.
Arlene Medder moved that the consent agenda be approved, seconded by Tiffany Carver. The motion was approved by acclamation. Pratt submitted her corrections to the previous month’s minutes. Carver moved to approve the August minutes with corrections, seconded by Laura Pratt. The motion was approved.
Laura Pratt noted Education and Career Development committee plans to schedule its first meeting of the new year that month. Delegates interested in joining the committee should email Pratt directly.
Shayna Hill spoke on the Chancellors’ Cup golf tournament, to take place Tuesday September 27th at Finley Golf Course in Chapel Hill. She thanked the volunteers who have signed up for the event. She noted that Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Athletic Director Robert Cunningham will be on the UNC team.
The Chair noted revisions to the Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor (STACC) working structure that may place it under the umbrella of the Employee Forum, which would require a Bylaws change. Under the new structure, the Forum’s nine divisional representatives would assume positions on the new STACC, along with nine other people appointed by the Chancellor. The Chair and Vice Chair Keith Hines would co-chair the committee along with Chancellor Guskiewicz. She would provide more information on this change to divisional representatives soon. Shayna Hill noted that the new STACC structure would mirror that of the faculty.
Jacob Womack asked if divisional representatives were prepared for this amount of responsibility and face time with the Chancellor. The Chair said that the Chancellor had approached her regarding the proposed revisions over the summer and that the proposed changes were briefly mentioned at the retreat as a possibility. She trusted the idea of putting the group under the umbrella of the Forum. Womack thought that this step would increase opportunities for delegate recruitment.
The Forum moved to old business, namely the consideration of Proclamation 22-01, regarding the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Chair noted that the authoring committee had made several revisions to the proclamation based on feedback received from the last meeting.
The Chair read the newly revised proclamation to the body. Members had several suggestions for language changes, which were debated and voted on. Parliamentarian Jacob Womack advised the Chair regarding particular motions to amend the document.
The Forum heard comments from Arlene Medder in favor of the proclamation, who thought that it was incredibly well-written. Elizabeth Dubose moved that the Forum adopt this proclamation, seconded by Rebecca Howell. The motion was unanimously approved with no votes opposing or abstaining. The Chair thanked all who helped draft the proclamation through the many different drafts. She asked Matt Banks to help document and distribute the proclamation to the Chancellor’s Office.
Moving to new business, Matthew Teal spoke about the Zombie Preparedness Festival to be put on by Campus Safety on Thursday, September 22nd. The goal of this festival is to bring faculty, students, and staff together in an event to learn about emergency preparedness, to allow parties to be informed, be prepared, and take action, whether on or off campus. Teal looked forward to the fun of dressing as a Zombie towards this end. Others can still volunteer if interested. It was later noted that participation in the festival can qualify for volunteer service leave with the approval of one’s supervisor.
The Chair noted plans related to the Forum’s 30th anniversary event, which would take place on Tuesday, October 11th for breakfast in the Carolina Club. Speakers will feature Chancellor Guskiewicz, inaugural Forum Chair Kay Wijnberg Hovious, and former Forum chairs Shayna Hill and Charles Streeter. The Chair thanked Tiffany Carver and Keith Hines, among many others, for their work putting this event together.
She also noted that the Forum will conduct a cookie giveaway outside the Old Well just prior to the University Day festivities on Wednesday, October 12th. Staff will be invited to join delegates in celebrating the University and the Forum together. The Chair shared the proposal that Keith Hines had written to the Chancellor’s Office requesting funds for this event. Members then discussed particular details related to the anniversary event and the cookie giveaway.
The Chair noted that the Forum Scavenger Hunt would take place in conjunction with the Employee Appreciation Event on October 21st. She thanked Communications and Public Relations committee chairs Shane Brogan and Joe Ormond, among others, for their work in planning the scavenger hunt. Members discussed other details related to the appreciation event. Matt Banks will conduct a call for volunteers for the Forum’s departmental fair table.
The Chair encouraged delegates to thank their local housekeeper as part of International Housekeepers’ Appreciation week. She also noted that she would represent the Forum at University Day October 12th, and that the Vice Chancellors’ representatives’ meeting will take place Thursday, October 13th. The Chair will attend the western leg of the Tar Heel Bus tour October 19th-22nd and will be in Elizabeth City for the Staff Assembly meeting October 24th-25th. She pledged to bring forward staff perspectives at each event.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 11:20 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary