June 9, 2022 Vice Chancellors’ Representatives Meeting
Attending: Linc Butler, Michael Case, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Jaci Field, Lonnie Hawley, Leah Hefner, Keith Hines, Ta’Keyah Holder, Jim Jordan, Stacy Keast, Arlene Medder, Becci Menghini, David Michaud, Katie Musgrove, Joe Ormond, Laura Pratt, Charlissa Rice, Lori Shamblin, James Stamey, Annetta Streater, Janet Steele, Matthew Teal, Julie Theriault, Tracey Wiley, Anna Wu
Katie Musgrove thanked all for attending the Vice Chancellors’ representatives meeting. Arlene Medder had the day’s first question. She asked the process whereby one would report a Facilities issue that does not directly fall within the purview of her department, such as a problem with stairs in buildings other than her own. Anna Wu said that the chartfield string would be charged for work within a receipt-supported building. However, a maintenance item would simply use the chartfield string as a reference number, not for billing.
Medder asked if there were some means to state that the issue is just for reference purposes, without a charge to be incurred. Wu agreed that making this clear is important, as the department wants people to report things, even outside of their unit. Musgrove suggested possibly including a statement on the page suggesting what to do if you lack a chartfield string.
Musgrove shared a question from Kira Jones concerning the lack of conversation amongst university leaders concerning the impending Supreme Court ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Jones appreciated messages of support following gun violence or racially motivated violence but was increasingly concerned about what feels like deafening silence on the abortion issue. Jones thought that this issue restricts access to health care based on society’s binary conception of gender, creating serious privacy implications for women across the country and within the UNC community. She thought that with such a significant number of women to be affected, it feels neglectful that there has not been a campus-wide communication from an appropriate UNC office. She asked how campus partners working to ensure women in all their diversities are supported on campus.
Menghini said that campus leadership continues to discuss when and how to respond to issues, and how various perspectives play in navigating the First Amendment and free speech rights. She recalled a recent leadership retreat in which a similar question emerged. How does it impact various students, faculty, and staff members’ ability to manage their own free speech rights, and particularly academic freedom for faculty, if their viewpoint is different than that expressed on behalf of the university?
Menghini said that there are many conversations across campus regarding access to reproductive care, but she did not know of any plans or conversations to put out a broader statement at this time. Musgrove asked if this question is complicated by the lack of a permanent director of the Carolina Women’s Center to lead the way in this area. Menghini noted that, at this point, the ruling has only been leaked but does not yet comprise a final ruling from the court.
Musgrove raised a question from James Stamey concerning whether counseling letters should be used to exclude candidates from interviews. He hoped that these letters do not serve a punitive purpose. Linc Butler said that he had checked with teams in Human Resources and Facilities Services. He had found that officials there were not aware of a practice of using these letters. He hoped to speak with Stamey to ascertain more details about these incidents and offered to email him with these questions. Musgrove encouraged Butler to do so.
Matthew Teal asked how the University has made progress on Strategic Plan Objective 3.2 to provide University staff with systematic professional development options, enabling career opportunities. Since updated pay bands do not seem likely at this time, he thought that the University must find other ways to improve employee retention. One long-term area of concern is how the university trains and develops its employees to build skills to prepare them for roles with greater responsibilities.
Menghini thanked Teal for the question, noting that OHR is working through details of the annual report on the strategic plan addressing improvements related to the Future of Work design team that Musgrove recently worked on. Menghini said that this work provided needed flexibility to improve work-life balance issues for employees. She recalled virtual career fair recruiting and enhancements made in I-9 forms processing which is helping with recruitment timeliness. She also noted improvements in Carolina Talent related to completion of performance reviews, that in turn suggest training and LinkedIn learning opportunities. These advancements are aimed at helping people identify skills that they want to progress in their careers. OHR leadership continue to search for ways to make these opportunities available and significant for staff seeking to apply for higher-level positions.
Menghini noted internal improvements such as the prospective mentorship programs for staff specifically, as opposed to just faculty. She said that meetings will take place this week to discuss what exists and how to supplement their work.
In response to Teal’s second question as to what is being done to retain people now, Menghini noted the difficult challenges facing the university. She said that the university on its own does not have many tools in its toolbox, but she was pleased to have the attention of OSHR and the UNC System Office to work on these questions. She noted specific steps taken recently to assist law enforcement officers and clinical researchers. She said that the University is studying recruitment and retention bonuses as well, particularly whether additional opportunities exist for one-time adjustments going forward.
Menghini said that some of the competition for employees is separate from bonuses. She noted the case of an employee who left the University to take a job only five miles from their home in Apex. Many employees cannot afford to live in Chapel Hill and may be susceptible to offers from other employers closer to home. The university has held conversations with the Town of Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce on affordable housing issues. Still, implementing these longer-term solutions will not help with retention questions now.
Menghini said that the OHR leadership team looks forward to working with the Employee Forum Personnel Issues committee at its meeting in July. She said that OHR is looking to do local improvements while also advocating vigorously for increased capacity or adjustments as part of the ARP process. She hoped that the legislature would approve a new budget in the short session with something for State employees.
Menghini noted that the second general across-the-board two and a half percent raise will be retroactive to July 1, 2022, although when the raise will be implemented is still an open question. The university cannot implement this raise until it receives instructions from the General Assembly, then the System Office. All of this will depend on whether the State approves a budget in the short session. Katie Musgrove said that this uncertainty is unfortunate given general anticipation that the raise will be implemented automatically on July 1st. Menghini cautioned that the university cannot implement the raises yet because it does not have the authority to do so. Musgrove suggested that the university communicate this situation to dispel rumors among staff.
Teal asked the next question, beginning by thanking Menghini and her team for their leadership and lobbying of OSHR on this issue. Teal appreciated Menghini’s vigorous pursuit of this question, to the point of almost being thrown out of a meeting. He asked the percentage of employees in the TESERS retirement program versus the optional retirement program. Menghini said that it is an almost 50/50 break, with 6250 in the ORP and 6922 in TESERS. Removing faculty, 6036 are in TEASERS and 3203 are in ORP. Faculty are enrolled in ORP 3047 to 886 in TESERS. Some of this number depends on when employees joined the University.
Menghini cautioned about making judgments based on these numbers. She and her staff would be happy to dig into specific questions based on these numbers. Teal said the question arose in response to an employee asking about vesting requirements for the two programs. Menghini said that ORP vesting requirements have changed over time depending on when an employee is hired. Again, she offered the OHR Benefits team as a resource in this area.
Teal then asked a follow-up question from the April Vice Chancellors’ representatives’ meeting regarding the percentage of permanent employees making $40,000 or less annually receiving a raise via the recent discretionary based pay adjustment process. Menghini said that 1226 SHRA employees earn less than $40,000 a year.
OHR removed anyone not eligible for these increases based on State guidance, leaving the University with 910 people eligible for an adjustment, with 441, or 49% receiving an ARP increase. These were not merit, market, or equity-based increases.
Katie Musgrove asked if the reason why the 50% who did not receive these increases was limited access to funds in departments. Menghini said that some employees were not eligible because they were already above the market rate for their position. Others were not meeting performance expectations and some were related to time spent in service. Menghini said that the plan was never to guarantee an across the board increase via this tool, as the System Office never set up these increases for this purpose. Menghini clarified that performance reasons were not captured in the numbers provided earlier.
Teal asked for clarification as to the budgetary reasons affecting the university or the units involved. Menghini said that the increases were provided by the unit that must be able to provide needed dollars for these increases. Generally, most units set aside a pool of funds for EHRA non-faculty and SHRA employees to be distributed given prioritization in each unit. Menghini noted that the process differs slightly for EHRA non-faculty as their increases can be merit-based.
Katie Musgrove asked if there had ever been an appetite for an across-the-board increase for all these employees below a certain threshold. Menghini said that this year more bonus payments were made because the Chancellor and the Provost provided additional funds to units. This was the largest investment the university had ever made as a campus in trying to raise salaries for employees. Menghini added that many other campuses do not have the money to carry out these increases. She understood that there had never been an across-the-board discretionary fund for all System employees because other campuses simply do not have the money.
Menghini said that the university had been fortunate this year, and through careful budget work had managed to find resources to reallocate to staff. Linc Butler added that historically specific language has been associated with System Office guidance on the ARP, which until this year has been exclusively devoted to EHRA non-faculty employees. This specific language has stated that these increases may not be applied across the board to all employees.
Musgrove asked if there were any way to get lower paid employees a boost across the board given inaction on the pay banding structure. Menghini thought that the university was seeing the worst of the impact of recent events. Decisionmakers are studying options moving forward to assist these employees separate and apart from the existing ARP option.
Teal asked how many staff employees are supervised by faculty members. Menghini said that 1,250 staff employees are supervised by faculty. Teal was surprised by this low figure.
Katie Musgrove asked about the impending destruction of the 134 East Franklin Street building that contains the Employee Forum Office. This demolition will make room for the Porthole Alley projects which were recently approved by the university. She asked if there were any updates on when and where departments in this building will move elsewhere. Anna Wu said that Facilities is excited about this project and will work with current occupants either to find swing space or to move into a new location. She said that the Forum should anticipate hearing from Facilities Planning probably this fall to gather information about office needs and provide feedback about ideal destinations.
Musgrove noted that the Forum currently does not pay rent on its current space. Wu said that there would not be an expectation that the Forum would pay on its new space, either. Wu said that Facilities Planning will help with the space selection. Musgrove urged that the University find the Forum space with the same intentionality and purposefulness as it has exercised in developing the Porthole Alley space. She suggested a space combining the Faculty Council and Faculty Governance with the Forum in a space like the Student Union, but employee-focused, perhaps in the Jackson Hall space on Country Club Road.
Menghini joked that Musgrove was getting into space management, a nebulous territory. Musgrove added that trying to be intentional about this new space would work well with administration goals. Wu said that the idea makes great sense and she encouraged Musgrove to bring these ideas to the Facilities Planning meeting with Evan Yassky when that occurs, probably in late summer or in the fall. She said the design had just been approved so documentation of groups affected had yet to occur. Musgrove noted that some building occupants are already starting the moving process. She looked forward to the planning process.
Musgrove raised a question from an employee desiring to remain anonymous: had UNC administration considered reimbursing parking for those who have been working on campus all along given the rising price of gasoline and other inflationary pressures. Musgrove thought this idea deserved consideration, as remote workers seemingly receive more compensation in not having to buy as much gas or pay as much in parking fees.
Wu said that while the mix of employees, faculty, and staff, using parking resources changes as well as the use of these facilities has shifted, the underlying costs remain fixed. She noted that the parking and transportation system will undergo its five-year planning process this year. Wu said that this process has historically been very inclusive of all parties including staff and the Employee Forum. This process will feature a national consultant and will include campus stakeholders to develop a plan to generate revenue to cover the expenses of the system. She recalled the previous rounds of discussion of the eventual night parking plan, which was designed with lower-paid employees in mind.
Musgrove said that while costs are fixed and that the University must find this money given the new reality of the new workforce, the burden should not be overly placed on a smaller proportion of employees to bear this alone. She urged decisionmakers to refocus calculations to bear in mind this new workforce reality and the lower numbers bearing that cost.
David Michaud suggested considering some changes to temporary and part-time employees’ parking fees. He recalled his time working as a 20-hour a week employee being paid $14/hour being expected to pay the same amount as another person earning a full weekly wage for parking. He urged that temporary employees be included in this conversation.
Musgrove noted that the Forum does have representation on the Advisory Committee on Transportation and should compose part of this conversation. She said that the Forum does not technically represent temporary employees in its original mission. Wu said that a hybrid employee coming to campus two or three days a week present a new reality for decisionmakers in this area. Musgrove recalled that the one-day option to park on campus will no longer be available, forcing those who come to campus only once a month or so to pay an hourly or full-time rate. She thought that this change could free up day permits for others in different parts of campus. Musgrove looked forward to continued discussions with campus administration about this subject.
Stacy Keast raised a question regarding using leave programs to subsidize employees in the originally described situation. Linc Butler said that any leave programs granted the University must be authorized by the State. The University does not hold local authority to create new versions of leave, or even to grant compensatory time outside of defined regulations. Keast said that she hoped to find some way to compensate employees who might feel lacking in some way due to current conditions.
Musgrove recalled that the University does employ shift differential pay to pay second and third-shift employees a slightly larger amount than first-shift employees given the less desirable work schedule. She asked if this policy would be an option for employees who do not have the opportunity to use flexible work arrangements. Menghini said that any proposal of this nature could not rely on position titles given the differences among positions by department. Menghini noted that there was a reimbursement program of some sort during another higher gas price era. She wondered if this program could be reinvigorated.
Still, at the end someone must pay for all these ideas. Differential pay for worksite location cannot work because the job is the job, meaning an employee should be paid based on the worth of the work not based on where the work is located. Menghini said that OHR is working to manage this gap in costs that was not present even months ago. She also noted that carpool and transit options are available that were not in prior years. She granted that this solution may not work for all, but she wished to offer every idea possible to help those in this situation.
Musgrove thought that on-site workers have proven their increased worth due to the inherent value of their presence on campus. Menghini said that the University does not make this evaluation on its own, but rather must work with evaluations provided by the State for these positions.
Matthew Teal emphasized that all these conversations directly affect the ability of the university to retain its employees. He did not want this burden placed strictly on Human Resources or Facilities or Parking and Transportation, as these questions require more holistic treatment than previous approaches.
Jaci Field added that increased sensitivity over issues mainly affecting lower-income employees was welcome. She bemoaned a cycle whereby lower-income employees cannot afford to live close to campus, and then must bear the burden of increased gas prices and parking fees. She said that employees who once paid $100/month for gas now pay $100/week. She urged increased attention to these facts when having these discussions. How could the university be more sensitively creative in this space?
Menghini said that these are real issues, with every dollar buying less than it did previously. She noted the cycle that Field described and said that decisionmakers continue to look for every option to help employees in this cycle. Menghini noted new State relations personnel at the university and System levels working for these improvements. She noted specific changes that are being done to improve work life in specific departments. She granted that a demonstrated solution would be best, but she was encouraged those in leadership beyond the campus seem to understand the significance of the problem.
Field asked how the university can help make employees feel valued and appreciated. Menghini thought this was an excellent point and noted Jessica Pyjas’ work on award approval processes. She said that divisional or departmental awards are an option that need not cost an enormous amount. Linc Butler noted the many robust award programs in various departments across campus. OHR must ensure that these programs do not function as bonus programs, however.
Musgrove noted the process by which the alternative holiday pay and leave originated here in Chapel Hill and then found approval throughout the State. She praised the work of advocates using the Forum and the Staff Assembly as resources in this advocacy process. She praised Menghini and Butler for giving guidance about available tools in the toolbox. She hoped that decisionmakers would come to see the Forum as a resource to advocate for needed changes for employees.
An employee asked about the personal leave that had been announced the evening before. Menghini noted the different elements concerning this leave related to Human Resources, TIM, and Payroll. Menghini and Butler asked the Forum to do what it can to amplify news about this positive, new benefit. Musgrove suggested that OHR do a communication to campus announcing these changes and how they will work.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 11 a.m.
Respectfully submitted, Matt Banks, Recording Secretary