October 14, 2021 Employee Forum Vice Chancellors’ Representatives’ Meeting
Attending: Emma Dehne, Adrianne Gibilisco, Keith Hines, Kira Jones, Joseph Jordan, Arlene Medder, Katie Musgrove, Becci Menghini, Janice Singletary, Sarah Smith, Tracey Wiley, Danielle Wingler, Anna Wu
In the absence of Katie Musgrove, Keith Hines called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m. He thanked all for their presence at the meeting this morning. The first question of the meeting was from Adrianne Gibilisco, who noted that Playmakers and Carolina Performing Arts are placing protocols requiring vaccinations, masking, and social distancing at their events. She asked why UNC Athletics is not imposing the same regulations for community safety. Becci Menghini said that the University has conducted lengthy discussions on this question, particularly as it relates to football games. The University used data from major league baseball games and how these events were managed.
Menghini recalled that decisionmakers wished to make masks available for purchase or general use beside restrooms, for example. At the same time, there was a general wish not to place staff or campus police in the role of enforcing mask protocols upon the public. The University found that data from major league baseball did not indicate that their games are super-spreader events. Finally, it was noted that people going to football are doing so of their own volition. Attendees at games determine their own comfort level with the rules established.
James Stamey asked if the 20% cap on salaries will remain if the Legislature does not approve a State budget this year. Menghini said that the Legislature does not have to approve the 20% cap adjustment as this is a Board of Governors provision. However, the Board does not intend to take up the matter until after the budget is passed.
Stephanie Forman asked about the University’s process for handling individuals who are not compliant with mandatory vaccine requirements. She noted questions from Human Resources consultants about the structure of disciplinary steps. Forman also asked about the University’s method of tracking compliance.
Menghini said employees who are not vaccinated are urged to get tested. If these employees fail to be tested, they will receive an email prompt. If they do not reply to repeated prompts, they will be asked their reason for not responding along with a request for documentation of that reason. Otherwise, they will be prompted by HallPass, which will create a log that will go to the Employee and Management Relations group which after a certain point will trigger disciplinary action in accordance with University policy. Human Resources employees would begin with a conversation and then would follow up. There will not be a report going to supervisors or Human Resources managers.
Arlene Medder asked if there were any progress on the attempt to create a trade apprentice program with local high school or community colleges. She noted the rate of employee retirements has increased recently. Anna Wu replied via the chat feature that the committee working on this effort took a recent pause but resumed their efforts this summer. The committee is preparing a report with findings and recommendations. The committee is also exploring opportunities to collaborate with a workforce training effort led by the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce.
Kira Jones asked how the University could reduce uncertainty given work pilot programs are scheduled to expire in the New Year. She asked what the plan will be for communicating any changes. Menghini said that the Equal Employment Opportunity Office will take requests for accommodations in the next couple of weeks. Part of the reason for the wait is the desire to obtain more federal guidance on these accommodations. Now, under American Disability Act (ACA) rules, there are certain instances coded differently under COVID than they are under typical, non-COVID related accommodations. Physical limitations, such as repositioning doorknobs in offices, receive different treatment, usually immediate treatment.
Menghini said that the broader assessment of pilot programs is underway but could not be immediately done once staff returned in July. A team of employees almost entire comprised of Human Resources folks with others such as the Forum Chair will look at the staff survey and data collected by departments regarding the success of their pilot. The team will then make some general assessments to say what is working and what is recommended. She said that there are around 3200 people participating in pilot programs from around 30 units, with more than half of those working in Finance and Sponsored Research.
Menghini said that while the employee perspective on these pilots is a very important stakeholder voice, it is not the only stakeholder voice in these discussions. The Chancellor and leadership will consider other voices also, balancing the report with guidance on expectations from other stakeholders. She emphasized that remote work should not be a substitute for childcare, and she cautioned employees not to plan to be home for these needs. Childcare should be ascertained whether workplace flexibility is approved for a position.
Kira Jones urged officials to release these updates before the holidays given the current levels of stress on campus. She also noted uncertainty about the identity of those in the pilot program and how this information has been communicated. Menghini said that the University has determined that central HR does not have the responsibility to report where employees are working. Unit leadership determined who was eligible for the pilot. Leaders in some units have sent out schedules providing as to when and how employees are available. She noted that these are primarily back-office functions as student- and customer-facing functions were discouraged from participation in the pilot. She added that very few people participating in the pilot are fully remote, in tandem with System-wide guidance.
Jones asked for more detail about who participates in the pilot program. Menghini said that every unit on campus was asked to participate. Decisions were left to unit leaders as to whether they could manage their mission by offering additional flexibility given their roles and stakeholders. She said that central HR is trying to track this information but does not have control over who can work remotely. She thought that a listing out of departments and employee numbers would not be informative.
Stephanie Forman followed up by stating her interest in the process of decisions the review team made around the pilot. She hoped that Menghini would work to present the context of these decisions to the Forum.
Forman asked what the University is doing to resettle refugees from Afghanistan. Menghini said she had not heard discussion of this issue. She was happy to raise the question in discussions with System Office HR personnel. Forman hoped that the University would work to use its available volunteer and food resources, if possible. Menghini suggested that Kristin Smith of Community Relations might have more detail on campus activity in this area.
Keith Hines relayed a question about the parking situation making it difficult to find volunteers for second shift work. He outlined the process by which these employees face problems with parking during this shift. Menghini said that she had asked her team to provide an answer on this question.
Adrianne Gibilisco followed up on the earlier question regarding vaccine standards at Playmakers events versus those at campus athletics games. Menghini recalled that, along with previous reasons cited, UNC Football did offer a vaccination station at the first game. UNC Football does require masks, handing these out to attendees and requiring them when a fan goes to the concourse or restroom. Additionally, there were many public service announcements encouraging mask use. Menghini noted a disinclination to place primary responsibility upon staff to carry out mask enforcement. She noted that after establishing its plan and considering current data, the University decided to go ahead with the first football game. There was no increase in infection rates found in testing conducted by the University, the State Dept. of Health and Human Services, or the Orange County Health Department following these games.
Menghini recalled Anna Wu’s chat comment that the Playmakers and Arts requirements for vaccination may have been about getting performers into local venues given Actors’ Guild requirements. Gibilisco understood that Playmakers’ Theater will hire security personnel to ensure patrons do not act poorly in this area. It was thought that vaccinations at football games will not continue.
Tyrone Williams asked a question in the chat regarding the fifty open housekeeping positions along with zone manager vacancies. He asked Human Resources’ progress in filling these positions. Keith Hines read Anna Wu’s response that the University is making good progress in housekeeping recruitment, including vacancies for zone managers.
James Stamey provided additional detail regarding the parking situation for second shift housekeepers. He said that hopes are that additional temporary parking passes could be provided for this purpose until the end of December. Menghini confirmed that this question would need to be coordinated between Housekeeping and Transportation and Parking.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 10:51 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary