December 8, 2022 Vice Chancellors’ Representatives’ Meeting
Attending: Linc Butler, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Stephanie Forman, Leah Hefner, Keith Hines, James Holman, Rebecca Howell, Brigitte Ironside, Kira Jones, Stacy Keast, Nate Knuffman, Arlene Medder, Becci Menghini, David Michaud, Katie Musgrove, Joe Ormond, Laura Pratt, Lori Shamblin, James Stamey, Jake Stallard, Matthew Teal, Julie Theriault, Tracey Wiley, Anna Wu
Keith Hines called the meeting to order at 10:02 a.m., asking questioners to be mindful and respectful of others at the meeting. He hoped that follow-up questions would not take long to phrase or answer, given the large number of questions already on the agenda.
Leah Hefner raised the first question from the agenda:
(Hefner) To clarify information shared at the November 11, 2022 STACC meeting: Has it officially been decided that the UNC System will not convert to the compensation system used by other State institutions? Or, is this discussion still ongoing? Is the 18-month timeline for reviewing and adjusting salary ranges in our current banding system the amount of time it would take to make changes to all positions/classifications or just a few targeted classifications? How soon would staff be able to benefit from adjustments to these salary ranges?
Rebecca Menghini said that the short answer to this question is ‘no,’ that there is no certainty whether the conversion will take place. She observed that a larger question is whether the university can adjust its salary pay ranges even if it is not deemed ready to move into the state system. Up until now, that answer has also been ‘no,’ but more recent conversations between the System Office and the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) seem to have opened the door to this change, with the suggestion that the System Office will be given the authority to look at campus-based ranges on its own.
This plan is currently in process and has not yet been fully approved. As soon as the authority is granted, the System Office would begin to engage with its consultant to develop its own ranges for every university position, in around 18 months, or 18 months fewer than the state has pledged.
Menghini said that the university has asked the System Office if the university could prioritize some ranges which feel particular pressure, obtaining that information sooner. Or would the university need to wait the full 18 months to get the full complement of positions in their ranges? This question has not been resolved, meaning that the university and System Office hope to obtain the authority to change these ranges.
Regarding Hefner’s other question, Menghini gathered that the university does not yet know if obtaining the authority to change its ranges will allow the university to continue its work separate and apart from the state’s banding system. Is this course the first phase to rolling the university system back into the state’s banding system? Menghini said that there are different complexities to this question. Nonetheless, she was more optimistic than she was even six months ago about the possibility of increased local control in this area. She praised the work of the System Office in this discussion, as the Office understands the business of higher education far more than OSHR.
Katie Musgrove raised a follow-up question, asking if the goal to obtain local authority to update ranges refers only to EHRA employees or both EHRA and SHRA employees. Menghini said the reference to local authority refers to location of authority in the System Office instead of in Raleigh at OSHR. The university does not have authority any longer as a campus to do ranges for EHRA or SHRA employees, but the System Office is negotiating for that authority for both groups moving forward. The System Office currently has this authority for EHRA employees.
As Katie Musgrove was occupied driving that morning, Keith Hines read the second question of the agenda:
We received the below concern from an anonymous faculty member. We wanted to work with you all to provide an accurate response as to the landscape of the SHRA bonus program that is on the horizon. Beyond that, they also shared some equity concerns about the process, so it would be great to provide some referrals for appropriate contacts in OHR they could reach out to on that front.
“I learned recently that EHRA employees *only* will be receiving bonuses this year. I’m wondering if there has been any discussion of this at the Employee Forum? It just seems quite inequitable (for example, on my research team only the men will be getting bonuses). If y’all have discussed this, have you thought of any ways to navigate it? I was just told to tell my employees who are getting bonuses not to tell anyone.”
Becci Menghini said that advice to just tell employees not to discuss a policy is not the best advice. She noted that only EHRA employees are eligible this year for a performance bonus, but it is not true that there are no bonus options for SHRA employees.
In fact, the University System just received approval to provide retention and sign-on bonuses for SHRA employees. EHRA employees have retention, sign-on, and performance-based bonuses. This difference is not subject to local control. Menghini added that no employee is automatically being given a bonus, as these discretionary bonuses are subject to supervisor and department management to decide if and how to roll out their application in their area. Departments must use their own money to fund these bonuses but also should consider equity concerns and the impact of these bonuses across their units.
Menghini said that several units have chosen not to give out these bonuses or to provide smaller amounts than allowed. She said that in spite of possible discrimination or equity issues, OHR does not want to eliminate a tool for increased staff compensation. She hoped that supervisors will use their discretion to implement these bonuses correctly. If the faculty member in question has concerns about the bonuses going to men and no one else, they should not use the bonus or they should look at using a retention bonus for their SHRA employees.
Stephanie Forman clarified that the retention bonus is only for hard-to-fill positions as described in the policy. Menghini agreed that this bonus is not a performance bonus, but it is a tool to help in areas in which supervisors may worry about maintaining employees. Linc Butler said that this group of employees will possess critical skills. The policy also raises the point of retaining a group of employees during a period in which sign-on bonuses are offered as a recruitment incentive for quality candidates in critical positions suffering labor shortages.
Butler said that the policy contains the component of current market needs holding precedence over business needs of the unit, i.e., the ability to get work done. OHR does not want to offer solely sign-on bonuses as it also needs to be able to offer retention for the same group of employees or positions. The university would want to avoid a situation in which it provides sign-on bonuses for all new hires in a position but cannot offer current employees in that same position retention bonuses. This situation would hurt morale and retention of current employees.
Matthew Teal thought that there is some confusion among frontline supervisors on this topic. He asked if there are plans to roll out trainings in Carolina Talent or elsewhere for supervisors to build awareness about this new policy. Menghini said that OHR is conducting Q&A sessions with the HR Council group. She said that supervisors’ first line of defense in responding to employee questions should be obtaining clarification in consultation with unit HR officers. If these officers do not feel equipped to answer these questions, OHR can address this need through Carolina Talent, other trainings, or office hours.
Teal said that as a new first-line supervisor, he would not have heard of this policy change if he did not work in the university’s policy office. He has not heard anything from OHR or his local HR officer regarding guidance or training. He granted that he may need to reach out more on a monthly basis to keep up with upcoming changes.
Menghini challenged delegates to replicate the practice of HR officers in departments whose duty is to go back and discuss policy changes with their units and departments, and to bring back relevant questions. She thought that the same duty applies to Forum delegates, to take back discussion of current issues and relay employee concerns back to the full Forum.
Stephanie Forman said that she had shared information about this policy in her department, and staff there reported that their managers at the school level had no idea about this policy. She thought that conversation often dies at this point as the employee feels uncomfortable going directly to HR after not receiving acknowledgment of a policy from their manager.
Menghini thought that Forman’s point was a fair one that will require more thinking about how to improve this interchange in units needing improvement. OHR communicates with deans, HR officers, and others. However, she said that OHR needs to find ways to improve communications to this “middle layer” of management structure in the new year.
Keith Hines read the third item on the agenda:
(Hux/Musgrove) Why are certain shops/departments imposing an attendance policy (limiting the number of hours you can take per quarter) when other departments aren’t doing so? These employees are being penalized for comp time, bonus time, vacation time, and sick time on their work evaluations. There are equity concerns with this policy given it is not implemented equally in departments across the university. There is already a process in place for management to consider business needs when evaluating leave requests, so this extra policy of limiting the number of hours you can take, or else have it reflected against you on your work evaluation, is unfair and inequitable.
Anna Wu responded that the policy was first piloted in Housekeeping between 2012-14, with implementation in 2015. The rationale behind the policy was to balance employee vacation time against the business needs of the unit, which are consistent and ongoing in Housekeeping. She referred to a PowerPoint presentation developed to explain the policy’s rationale and implementation which received approval from OHR to use in presentations to employees.
Wu said that hours were calculated with the goal of maintaining 85% attendance, with the additional provision of a transparent way for supervisors to discuss leave issues with their staff. Management always has the ability to approve vacation time based on business needs, Wu said. For example, the first person to request time off should not always receive permission to take leave, based on business needs.
Wu said that the policy provides the supervisor a better way to demonstrate to an individual employee why their leave might not be approved at a particular juncture, either for repeated absences in a given period or other business needs.
Regarding this policy’s role in performance reviews, Wu said that this policy is but one factor in an employee’s evaluation. Employees can receive a “below expectations” for a variety of reasons and can average more than 85% attendance with a “below expectation” while still receiving a “meets expectations” for their overall annual performance rating. She said that the policy is meant to incentivize people and to let people know where they stand. In sum, coming to work is a fundamental part of work responsibilities for an employee.
Wu added that it is of concern that one department in another Facilities Operations group decided to implement this attendance policy, as Facilities leadership underwent significant training before the original Housekeeping roll-out. She thought it was a fair concern that this particular group in Building Services is using this policy when no other Building Services group is doing the same.
Wu said that the position of Facilities is that implementation must be “all or none” and she said that Facilities will make this correction while assessing how the policy is used. She thought that in a time of really short staffing, it becomes more critical to be transparent with management and front-line employees about how leave is approved and how attendance records become either a guideline or a metric in performance reviews. She thought that the policy provides supervisors a good tool to discuss absences, particularly chronic absences. The policy applies to crew leaders, zone managers and so on up the management chain.
Teal thanked Wu for these helpful remarks. He said that the Personnel Issues committee has referred an employee raising this issue with OHR personnel to investigate implementation. This employee has since said that they feel the policy has been discriminatory in some way for taking leave granted them as a condition of employment. Teal was uncertain how to respond to this contention.
Menghini reminded the “responsible employees” on the call that if they hear from an employee that believes that they have been discriminated against, their job is not to solve the concern or to find others to solve the concern. Instead, the job of “responsible employees” is to refer discrimination and harassment claims to the Equal Opportunity and Compliance office to do an assessment and investigation, if necessary, according to practices and policies approved through the university’s policy system.
Menghini emphasized the difference between the referral of a question and a claim of discrimination or harassment. She urged listeners to ensure they are sending these concerns to the right place. Additionally, one can also raise questions of employees involved, such as whether they have talked with their supervisor and supervisor’s supervisor. She worried that sometimes the university might move things to an investigation or an inquiry when a complaint might be otherwise directed to a more appropriate resource. She stressed that all involved are not working at cross-purposes. Instead, she sought to ensure that everyone involved is trying to answer these same questions.
Matthew Teal raised the fourth question for discussion:
(Teal) A recent Daily Tar Heel article highlighted the University’s ongoing $988 million maintenance backlog. According to the article, “UNC Media Relations said addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance remains a priority for the University, but cited supply chain issues and staff vacancies as factors impacting repairs.”
What progress has the University made in overcoming the supply chain issues and staff vacancies specific to the maintenance backlog?
Anna Wu said that the university feels the pain regarding supply chain and staffing concerns. Facilities Services is working closely with its Service Center to implement the sign-on and retention bonuses targeting hard-to-recruit positions. Currently, the department has between 20-30% vacancies, depending on the unit. Appropriate staffing levels are absolutely connected to the ability of Facilities Services to carry out its work, Wu said. The department is using all tools available to try to attract more qualified candidates.
Regarding supply chain problems, Wu said that this question is not limited to UNC-Chapel Hill. Instead, supply chain concerns are an international problem, particularly related to parts and equipment in every area of work. She said that the supply chain is impacting the university’s ability to bid and execute projects. She did not have an answer to this problem as the department cannot pre-purchase much of its equipment. Wu observed that supply chain matters are not limited to high-tech items. The university is facing difficulties in supply chain and labor shortage areas which are pervasive across industry now. Availability is just not there.
Wu thought that these problems would eventually desist but she noted that Facilities will need more time to fix things given these limitations. Matthew Teal appreciated Wu’s transparency, recalling similar headlines about global shortages of products. He noted a follow-up question from the chat: at what point do concerns about labor interfere with ADA accessibility, particularly regarding elevator maintenance issues?
Wu said that Facilities must prioritize its projects given the concerns mentioned earlier. She said that in Hamilton Hall, funding to fix elevators there is available but will require an 18-month off-line repair time. Facilities must secure design and construction approvals. Wu said that accommodations on the faculty and student sides must occur to deal with unexpected shutdowns, in cooperation with the Registrar’s Office and the Office of Accessibility Resources.
Wu observed that Facilities must see through the pipeline a number of elevator projects which require long delays for work, many of which are within academic buildings.
Matthew Teal read the fifth question for discussion:
(Teal) The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that in September 2022, Princeton University became the first American university to publicly “disassociate” from large segments of the oil and gas industry. An open letter from the advocacy group “Fossil Free Research” calling for universities to reject funding from the fossil fuel industry has support from scholars at over 130 institutions in the United States and United Kingdom. The letter notes in part: “Universities across the United Kingdom and the United States currently accept substantial funding from fossil fuel companies for research aimed at solving the very problems this industry causes and continues to exacerbate. We believe this funding represents an inherent conflict of interest, is antithetical to universities’ core academic and social values, and supports industry greenwashing. Thus, it compromises universities’ basic institutional integrity, academic freedom, and their ability to address the climate emergency.”
How much money does UNC-Chapel Hill accept from the fossil fuel industry?
Will UNC-Chapel Hill commit to rejecting all funding from the fossil-fuel industry?
Nate Knuffman clarified that Princeton University stopped accepting gifts from some of the largest fossil fuels companies and the ones considered to be the biggest offenders, such as Exxon-Mobile. He said in general that these questions would probably be better directed to the Vice Chancellor of Development. Knuffman added that the UNC-Chapel Hill endowment has made significant investments in alternative energy and private equity in those areas. The university really does believe that having a clean energy alternative is a key component of ending reliance on fossil fuels moving forward, Knuffman said. In spite of a lack of attention, the university has made a big investment in these types of companies.
Teal appreciated Knuffman’s response but expressed frustration that he could not receive a response directly from the Vice Chancellor of Development. Knuffman said that Vice Chancellor could be invited to future meetings about this topic. Keith Hines noted that the current Vice Chancellor for Development will leave office at the end of December, with the new one not set to start until sometime in the new year. Knuffman said the group would work on inviting the new Vice Chancellor at a future meeting date. Teal agreed with that plan.
Teal read the meeting’s sixth question:
(Teal) The Knight Foundation recently surveyed the top 50 wealthiest higher education institutions in America. The goal of the survey was to measure the diversity of the asset management firms responsible for managing those institutions’ endowments. (For the purposes of the study, “diversity” was defined as “asset management firms owned by women and racial or ethnic minorities.”) UNC-Chapel Hill was surveyed but, according to the Knight Foundation and press reporting, did not respond to the survey. (To be clear: some institutions responded to the survey by declining to participate. UNC-Chapel Hill was one of nine institutions that never responded.) According to the UNC Investment Fund, LLC’s website, one of the Fund’s three “Investment Principles” is to “partner with best-in-class investment managers.” The website goes on to say that “The Fund invests its assets with third-party investment managers. We are steadfast in our pursuit of exceptional investment managers with our research process taking us across the globe as we seek to partner with managers that possess highly specialized skills, an ability to think independently, and have a demonstrated track record of adding value.”
Why did UNC-Chapel Hill not respond to the survey?
Using the Knight Foundation’s definition of “diversity,” how diverse are UNC-Chapel Hill’s/UNC Investment Fund, LLC’s asset management firms?
Nate Knuffman said that generally, the university does not respond to surveys that ask for information regarding its specific manager relationships, because much of this information is covered by confidentiality agreements.
Knuffman noted that of the fifty schools who were sent that questionnaire, only sixteen completed the survey. UNC was hardly alone in not responding. Knuffman thought that other institutions which did not respond shared these same management confidentiality issues. Teal replied that of the sixteen who responded to the survey, others responded with alternate definitions and provided responses according to their own metrics of diversity. However, some institutions just responded to say that they would not participate in the survey.
Teal noted that UNC did not bother to say anything to anyone regarding the survey, which then generated negative headlines in the press for the university for something that seemed an easily avoidable problem. He said that it was frustrating that the university seemed to shoot itself in the foot with a lack of transparency in areas which are governed by confidentiality concerns. The issue could have been addressed through a simple statement giving the reason for non-response, Teal said.
Rebecca Howell read the meeting’s seventh question:
(Howell) I would like to hear why the employee forum meeting coverage in The Well was missing reference to the Resolution that was passed. There was no mention that the resolution was proposed, discussed, or passed, nor was there a link to the resolution itself. This lack of full coverage is concerning as it veers into censorship territory, something that is completely unacceptable. More directly, it contradicts the recent emphasis on the rights to free speech. While I understand free speech applies differently to staff than it does to students, failing to accurately report the potentially politically unpopular (as related to the BOT/BOG) content of an open meeting is disturbing and risks increasing the sense of distrust and disempowerment felt by the very same staff the resolution seeks to embrace.
Howell read an addition to this question in hopes that someone could address the concern at this meeting. If not, Howell said that the issue could be addressed in the future. She understood that university administration may feel it inappropriate to comment on political issues, but she was extremely concerned about this recent omission in the Well.
The Well’s previous coverage of the Forum has been reliably thorough, ensuring that employees know what was covered in meetings, Howell said. She said that the Well has provided this level of coverage for the Forum since 2020, with stories featuring a summary of approved resolutions with a hyperlink to the full text of each.
Howell found it a bit shocking that the Well failed to observe the same practice when providing a summary of the Forum’s September meeting. She found it hard to believe that this was an accidental oversight, given the amount of discussion the Dobbs proclamation aroused. There was not even a reference to the Forum’s approved proclamation with the customary hyperlink.
Howell noted that this topic came up in discussions at yesterday’s general meeting. However, she thought that the conversation was disappointing, with no true answers to concerns raised. She recalled that the Forum was told that lots of organizations pass resolutions and that the Well cannot possibly cover every single one. She also recalled that the Forum was told that it should consider use of its own methods to get word out to employees on a particular topic, including its own website.
Howell responded that the Forum is not asking the Well to cover its proclamation as a separate topic but is instead merely asking for an accurate reporting of its meeting, as occurred in the past and is expected in the future. She said that the situation represents a violation of trust in the Forum’s relationship with the university administration. She would appreciate the administration having the courage to own whether an executive decision had been made to strike this aspect of coverage.
Secondly, Howell did not think it is the responsibility of the Employee Forum to use other channels to inform employees about the passage of proclamations, particularly when the Forum has relied on Well coverage previously. She thought that the Forum should not be required to share information via other channels.
Howell was hopeful that someone today could provide a clear and direct explanation as to the omission of the proclamation from the Well’s meeting summary. Becci Menghini thought that these questions were answered yesterday. She recognized that the answers were not satisfactory to all but from her vantage point she did not have more to add, as she was not part of these decisions.
Keith Hines added that the meeting would forego the eighth question, as it had been answered previously in the meeting.
Jake Stallard raised the final question of the meeting:
(Stallard) On data systems, Connect Carolina makes pulling data quite difficult. As an example, I wanted to analyze enrollment trends across our department elective portfolio. The only way I could find to do that was to pull data on each course manually from Connect Carolina, by term. So as an example, I would pull enrollment data for Fall 2021 HPM 123, then I’d have to pull the enrollment data for the Spring 2022 iteration of HPM 123, and so on. And I had to do this for every elective for 5 years of data. And that was just to get the data, no analysis had even been done yet! Incredibly cumbersome and it creates a huge disincentive to make data-driven decisions when the data takes so much manual work to access.
On data accessibility, trying to get access to data systems on this campus is a struggle. It’s taken 6 months of asking around to figure out what Slate access I need, who in my school is allowed to request it, and who on campus that request needs to go to. I understand that data security is the priority, but I would love to see some process change to make this access more seamless. If any movement could be made on data systems and accessibility, I think it could unlock HUGE improvements in decision-making.
Becci Menghini replied that she does not work on the student side of ConnectCarolina and does not hold a management role governing responsibility for access to that space. Thus, she felt comfortable only offering a more general response to Stallard’s question.
Menghini said that there have been many efforts to figure out how to give more data access at the unit level to more people, while also protecting data from the data security perspective. These latter concerns deal with HIPPA or other personally identifying metrics.
Data managers will work carefully to ensure that a researcher will not receive subsets of data that alone or in combination could lead to personal identification of subjects. She noted that Lynn Williford of Institutional Research has worked on dashboards for some of the material Stallard mentioned.
Menghini noted the question of dashboards and who holds access to these. Part of this question involves customary managed data security which the Office of Institutional Research can access fully. The Office can figure out what staff researchers might want from the university’s databases and can also ensure that it is de-identified sufficiently so that it can meet unit needs.
However, the University is not actually sending out this data in unprotected form as that creates risk. Menghini encouraged Stallard to follow up with Williford as well as Lauren DiGrazia and her team, who are stewards for some of the student data on the class enrollment side.
Menghini said that OHR is working with Williford to create more dashboards for use according to one’s role with the university. There is also the possibility that some of these things would be available more publicly. She could not comment on specifics related to class detail but said that having data access at appropriate levels can give people information needed to make sound evidence-based decisions.
Thus, there has been a lot of conversation about how to put data appropriately into people’s hands, right down to taking every data element and giving it a rank based on security needs. She added that the intersection of data elements creates additional challenges.
Menghini said that data should not sit in the hands of a select few at the top of every organization. Necessity requires that the university must find a way to provide this information to parties with a need to know. She recalled ongoing conversations in this area. She hoped that Williford and others could offer Stallard a way to pull information without doing a manual pull for every class.
Keith Hines thanked all for the insightful questions and the information provided in response. He noted the oncoming holiday season and wished all well.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned by acclamation at 10:56 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary