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January 5, 2022

UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum

Zoom Remote Meeting Only

NOTE:  This is a draft agenda and is subject to change without notice.

I. Closed Session (9 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.)

II. Call to Order & Opening Remarks: Chair Katie Musgrove (9:15 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.)

  • Welcome to Guests & Members of the Press

III.  Roundtable with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz & Provost Bob Blouin (9:20 a.m. – 9:40 a.m.)

IV. Special Presentations (9:40 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.)

  • Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson, and Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor & Department of Psychiatry Chair Samantha Metzler-Brody on the Mental Health Summit
  • Director for Housing Justice Christine Abernethy on the Work of the Jackson Center

V.  Human Resources Update (10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.)

  • Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini and Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler

VI. Consent Agenda (10:45 a.m. – 11:05 a.m.)

VII. Old Business (11:05 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.)

VIII.  New Business (11:15 a.m. – 11:25 a.m.)

IX.  Announcements/Questions (11:25-11:30 p.m.)

  • Vice Chancellor Representatives Meeting – Rescheduled for January 6, 2021 at 11:00 AM

X. Adjournment

MINUTES

January 5, 2022, Employee Forum meeting minutes

Delegates Attending: L. E. Alexander, Vanessa Blake, Jessye Bongiovanni, Randall Borror, Sharron Bouquin, David Bragg, Rich Brandenburg, Alicia Brandt, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Timothy Carville, Michael Case, Emma Dehne, Jen DeNeal, Elizabeth DuBose, Phil Edwards, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Jaci Field, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Chrissie Greenberg, Jessi Hill, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Brigitte Ironside, Kira Jones, Mary King, Anthony Lindsey, Evan Marsh, Amber Meads, Arlene Medder, Manisha Mittal, Katie Musgrove, Joseph Nsonwu-Farley, Ayla Ocasio, Joseph Ormond, Sara Pettaway, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Theresa Silsby, Janice Singletary, Sarah Smith, Robert Smith III, Jake Stallard, Janet Steele, Matthew Teal, Sarah Wackerhagen, Karen Webster, Tracy Wetherby Williams, Alice Whiteside, Tracey Wiley, Michael Williams, Jacob Womack

Excused: Mary King

The Forum went into closed session at 9 a.m. The Forum approved a motion to emerge from closed session at 9:15 a.m. Forum Chair Katie Musgrove read resolution 22-01 honoring Provost Robert Blouin upon his retirement from that position. This resolution had been approved by the Forum in closed session.

The Chair called the full meeting to order at 9:18 a.m., welcoming Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to the Forum’s customary roundtable. Guskiewicz was glad to meet with the Forum after the holidays. He said the University’s leadership and infectious disease team have worked tirelessly over the past month. He said that the Omicron variant had necessitated near-constant meetings to deal with the pace of change. All decisions made have been to ensure the safest return for students. He noted the mental health challenges that Omicron continues to present for staff, faculty, and students. He noted a number of updates to campus mitigation strategies.

Guskiewicz recalled the decision process involved in reopening campus, with deans being given the option to temporarily modify modes of instruction to allow remote learning. This course will be reevaluated after two weeks, with extensions available if needed.

Guskiewicz said the University is considering specifying that being fully vaccinated includes receiving the booster shot as well. The booster is available at Campus Health and Student Stores Pharmacy. He noted that Orange County Health has advised the University that asymptomatic testing has limited utility with the Omicron variant, given its short incubation period and high transmission rate. He anticipated further updates about testing and isolation guidelines to clarify CDC messaging.

Guskiewicz said that the University is encouraging supervisors to be flexible and accommodating regarding isolation period requirements. He thanked all for doing what they can to make on-campus, in-person classes possible and safe.

Guskiewicz asked if Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini could speak further on resources in place for staff. Menghini reported that the UNC System Office does not anticipate additional benefits adjustments for staff, or adjustments for leave banks. Employees who are infected or have an asymptomatic positive are asked to stay home until completely asymptomatic or five days pass. She said that this standard is better than the ten-day guidance in terms of leave bank availability. Menghini noted the importance of ensuring that sick people or asymptomatic positives stay home, knowing that their leave balance will not be decimated. She reiterated that employees should be vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. These shots are available on campus.

The University will continue to study workforce capacity and the possible need for additional flexibility in terms of remote work. Menghini said that limited flexibility already exists under the current policy. However, the goal is to provide added protection for on-campus staff through masking, vaccinations, and booster shots.

Guskiewicz said that locally, Omicron has been more contagious but has not created a lot of hospitalizations thus far. He anticipated this would change, but models are predicting half the level of hospitalizations as compared to the peak of Delta. Most hospitalizations are unvaccinated patients. He noted that hospital workers will be more susceptible to infection with Omicron, leading to a greater workforce shortage that could compromise hospital operations. Much remains to be seen.

The Chair noted a chat question as to whether a negative testing requirement must be fulfilled before returning to work. Guskiewicz said that this requirement does not exist.

The Chair asked if the University would institute a requirement for booster shots for employees. Menghini recalled previous information regarding federal vaccine mandates. She said that those mandates are subject to court review and have recently been stayed. Thus, the University is not yet enforcing this mandate, which was scheduled to go into effect January 18th. She anticipated guidance from the courts on this matter soon.

A question arose as to the rate of testing on campus. Guskiewicz noted reports that many students have already returned and are receiving testing, perhaps 250-350 per day since Monday. He recalled questions as to when the University would start posting data to the campus dashboard. University officials are meeting with NC Department of Health and Human Services and UNC System Office officials to determine what exactly should be posted. Posting will be paused until the University receives further guidance from NCDHHS and the UNC System Office. Guskiewicz hoped that a plan to update the dashboard with booster shots would be in place by the middle of next week.

The Chair noted a chat question asking how employees, particularly Housekeeping Services employees, will be informed about positive cases isolating within residence halls. Menghini did not believe that employees would be informed about cases, but she would need to check on this question further. She noted that the University now has separate isolation dormitories. She would check on this matter further.

The Chair relayed a chat question regarding the increased transmissibility of Omicron possibly leading to requirement of mask use outdoors as well as indoors. Guskiewicz said that there is no such requirement in current COVID-19 standards.

The Chair noted a chat question asking if Long Covid is an issue with the Omicron variant or is it too early for the research to say. The answer was unknown. The Chair asked if the University plans to put limits on event gatherings. Guskiewicz said that the University is conducting discussions about this issue.

The Chair noted a chat update that the isolation dormitories Craig North and Horton are being cleaned by outside contractors. Housekeeping staff clean the public areas of these buildings.

The Chair invited Chancellor Guskiewicz to stay on the call as Vice Provost Amy Johnson and Professor Samantha Meltzer-Brody present on the November Mental Health Summit. Guskiewicz praised Johnson and Meltzer-Brody for their work during this crisis.

Meltzer-Brody recalled the large attendance at the summit, which featured an overwhelming majority of staff employees, 558 in all. She acknowledged staff employees were key contributors as panel members and critical participants in conversations throughout the day. She said that mental health issues are front and center for all of society and all of campus.

Johnson praised staff who turned out to lead the presentations and to participate in conversations on the day and afterward. She understood a real desire among staff to stay engaged in this conversation. She acknowledged that staff voices and needs are diverse, representing a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs.

Johnson said that presentations from the summit are available on-line for people to view at their leisure.  She wanted to ensure that people understand that they can continue to give feedback on the summit. Nonetheless, there was no way to cover the entirety of campus mental health concerns in one day of meetings. She noted the summit was designed as a jumpstart and kickoff, following a statement from the University and the Chancellor as to the importance of this issue.

Johnson shared a PowerPoint slide featuring a list of specific key themes from the summit. She noted that staff and faculty together deal with high levels of stress and burnout resultant from a blending of personal and professional lives. In addition, people continue to deal with the viral pandemic, which exacerbates stress levels.

Johnson recalled that people at the summit were very interested in conversations about salary levels and compensation and benefits, particularly details about prospective increases. She said that the University must monitor how the campus matches up with peer institutions on these questions. Johnson noted similar questions regarding mental health days and flexible worktime that remain challenging for staff. Current mental health days off are perceived to be only for faculty and students. She noted that faculty do not earn days off in the same way that staff do. Still, the University must find a way for supervisors to clear the day so that employees can feel comfortable taking leave if they wish.

Johnson noted the real commitment and interest around flexible work schedules, noting that pilot programs in this area have been extended to the end of March. She said that leadership is considering how to offer flexible work in a way that makes sense and is responsive to the University’s residential mission while reflecting the needs of faculty and staff. She said that some staff face the burden of supporting one and a half or even two other people’s jobs without additional compensation. In addition, staff face the constantly shifting medical guidance on dealing with the current pandemic.

Johnson said that she and Meltzer-Brody absolutely support staff colleagues advocating for needs through the Employee Forum leadership, an important role that staff play in university governance. She hoped this advocacy would help leadership keep up to date on what staff need. She added that people beyond Johnson and Meltzer-Brody are working to facilitate next steps and events following the summit.

Johnson recalled the initial reason for the creation of the mental health summit had been the series of tragic student deaths on campus. University leadership wanted to ensure that student mental health concerns and particularly a rising trend in suicidal ideation were addressed from a prevention and intervention perspective. She cited the work of the JED Foundation which does a lot of this work in cooperation with colleges and universities across the country. UNC-Chapel Hill is signing onto this group in February 2022 and will hold a series of seminars to study these questions in more detail. Johnson noted that the community wants to hear about the intersection between faith and mental health and sexual violence and mental health, among other things. Another area of interest is meeting the needs of at-risk populations. This series of seminars will wrap up in May with a focus on future work and other themes which have not yet been addressed.

Johnson said that the University has launched the Heels Care Network, a way for community members to look out for one another and build a culture of compassion and care. She said the website would match people with programs and resources. The University has also already extended the mental health first aid program. She concluded that everyone would have a role to play in this work.

The Chair praised the mental health hub website idea and asked if the Employee Forum could help to build a staff resources section on that page, listing ways to assist students and providing a comprehensive overview of resources available to staff. Johnson said that many different areas will be a key partner in this effort.

The Chair thanked Johnson and Meltzer-Brody for their fantastic work in putting on the mental health care summit. Chancellor Guskiewicz echoed this praise as laying the foundation for future work.

The Chair next welcomed Director of Housing Justice Christine Abernathy of the Marion Cheek Jackson Center. Abernathy introduced George Barrett, Executive Director of the Jackson Center, to the call as well. Barrett said that the mission of the Jackson Center is to honor, renew, and build community in the Northside, Pine Knolls, and Tin Top neighborhoods. Barrett noted that these neighborhoods are adjacent to the downtown of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, around a half mile northwest from campus.

Barrett said that these neighborhoods were the home of African-American ancestors who built the stone walls around the University and today compose a subsection of the workforce for the University. This community was the hub of civil rights organizing in the 1960s, work that continues in justice and activism work today. Center activities include youth education, local civil rights education on the history, values, and traditions of the community, and organizing and advocacy. Barrett noted the Center’s work around property taxes. He added that the Center also concentrates on community organizing for equitable housing and food access as well. The Center celebrates and connects the history, traditions, and values of the community between long-term residents and students who live in these neighborhoods. These intergenerational connections are built through festivals, forums, exhibits, and public witness.

Barrett noted the Northside neighborhood Initiative, which is a broad partnership effort to allow the community to determine its future. Barrett said that in the early 2000’s, Northside saw a drastic change in the housing demographic with outside investors buying properties for under market value and turning them to rental properties. This change created challenges around quality-of-life issues, increasing property taxes, and the fabrics and history of the neighborhood.

The Northside neighborhood Initiative was launched to attract and retain long-term residents and families, some of whom have been present for generations. The Initiative provides new housing opportunities for diverse families to live “close, connected, and proud” in one of the most diverse and family friendly neighborhoods in Chapel Hill. The Initiative creates amazing opportunities for UNC employees to live close, connected, and proud through Initiative incentives, close to downtown Carrboro and Chapel Hill and walkable to campus. Residents live near places like Northside Elementary, an institution of learning for over 100 years, and near the five historically black churches which are the hub of local civil rights organizing today.

Barrett noted connections with residents like Louise Felix, a lifelong resident of Northside who knows everyone and is one of the most popular people in town. People in Northside look after one another and are connected and living proud in their history and work.

Abernethy shared details about the specific housing options available now through the Northside Initiative. She said that properties are acquired with resident input and guidance, so that community members can truly build the neighborhood in a way to determine their future. The Initiative buys and sells properties, but sells them affordably, with a mix of affordable and market rate homeownership. Abernethy hoped that listeners could continue to learn more about the Northside community, either about the land bank, the oral histories of the neighborhood, or by physically joining the community. The Initiative hopes to attract University employees interested in the neighborhood who want to participate with the Northside community.

Abernethy showed pictures of a few houses for sale in Northside, noting renovations that the Initiative has recently completed. She made note of the porches on these houses which allow one to sit and stay connected with neighbors. Properties do have a deed restriction stating that the property must be the owner’s primary residence. Abernethy invited listeners to contact with her via contact@jacksoncenter.info for more information about the Center or home purchases.

The Chair thanked Barrett and Abernethy for their remarks, noting that she had promised to pass along information to the Forum listserv. At this point, the Chair welcomed Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Equal Opportunity, and Compliance Becci Menghini to present the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Menghini shared news about when employees will receive their retroactive lump sum payment for the two and a half percent legislative salary increase. This payment is for increases earned from July 1, 2021 through December 31st. The hourly rate will increase by that same two and a half percent as of December 31st moving forward. She noted that the State of North Carolina had made this increase possible. The lump sum payment will be made in January. The second part of the salary increase (a second 2.5% increase) will take place July 1, 2022. Both increases are taxed and added to retirement. The opportunity to “top up” these increases depends on what the campus and its units can provide. Menghini recalled rules which will govern these additional discretionary increases.

A chat question inquired when the freeze would formally lift. Menghini said that the Human Resources freeze formally lifted on December 19th. She said that interchangeable leave ended as of December 31st. She did not anticipate that the University will receive any further authority for changes from the State, although this is subject to change.

The Chair asked if there were any changes concerning adverse weather leave, to which Menghini said there were not. The Chair then asked if there were word on an eventual decision regarding the consequence of non-compliance with the vaccine requirement. Menghini said that the System Office continues to study the question. Much depends on federal and state guidance.

The Chair shared a question as to possible plans to address salary compression. Menghini said that units are trying to figure out how to allocate resources to address wage compression. She did not know the exact timeline for this work.

The Chair asked if upgrades and new positions will continue to require the essential actions form. Menghini said that refilling a vacant position, creating a new position, or upgrading a position with additional significant duties and dollars will require an essential actions form. Human Resources is working to update the form.

The Chair welcomed Senior Manager of Work-Life and Wellness Issues Jessica Pyjas to present the customary wellness update. More information is available at https://hr.unc.edu/events/month/. She listed upcoming events in January. She also noted that the Helping Heels registry will continue this year. The registry is a list of UNC employees, students, and affiliates who wish to help with childcare, pet care, or senior care issues for pay.

Brad Held asked if Pyjas could provide recorded sessions or slides of previous events. Pyjas said that she would supply recordings for whichever sessions Held needed.

The Chair asked for a motion to approve the November and December meeting minutes as part of the consent agenda. Arlene Medder had revisions for the November minutes. Medder made this motion, seconded by Elizabeth DuBose. There was no opposition to this motion, which was approved by voice vote.

The Chair noted that the Communications and Public Relations committee will send out a new edition of InTouch soon. There was no update from the Book Club.

Jacob Womack said that the UNC Children’s Hospital Toy Drive had been much more successful than he had dared to hope. Community Service committee members loaded four large boxes of donations to the Hospital. Donors also used the Amazon wish list option to donate toys. He directed listeners to the Forum’s Twitter feed for pictures of the donations. The committee plans to meet Tuesday to discuss ideas inspired by the Jackson Center presenters earlier in the meeting.

Jen DeNeal reported that the December 8th Blood Drive had been wildly successful, collecting over 300 needed units. This figure was obtained despite morning storms and COVID. The Carolina Blood Drive will hold its next event June 7th at the Dean Dome. Planning will kick off in a couple of months. DeNeal noted that the December Drive partnered with CBS Sports Classic, with UNC-Chapel Hill “winning” the blood drive competition with other tournament schools.

Arlene Medder reported that the Carolina Community Garden had received two volunteers because of recent reporting on the Garden. The Chair said that Claire Lorch of the Garden wanted to chat with the Forum regarding strategies to improve dissemination efforts to Housekeeping and Grounds employees. She offered to discuss how to assist in that and communicate with campus units to streamline distribution.

The Chair noted that Antonio Squire had recently left UNC-Chapel Hill for Mercer University Law School in Macon, Georgia. Thus, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee now lacks a chair.

L.E. Alexander reported that there were no updates from the Education & Career Development committee. The Chair thanked Alexander and Laura Pratt for their work in navigating new rules governing professional development grant reimbursements.

There was no update from the Membership & Assignments Committee.

Stephanie Forman reported that the Personnel Issues committee would meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. and will feature Clery Compliance Manager Jenn Scott and Director of Emergency Management Darrell Jeter to discuss Alert Carolina and recent alerts of sexual assaults on campus. The Chair hoped to meet with University leaders of faculty and student bodies to discuss housekeeping vacancies.

There was no report from the Recognition & Awards Committee or the Rules Committee.

Shayna Hill reported that the UNC System Staff Assembly had considered the 20% rule resolution from the Forum, altering it then approving it before the winter break. There is hope that this rule will be changed at the February Board of Governors meeting. Hill also noted that the Forum’s alternative holidays resolution was on the agenda for the next week’s Assembly Chairs’ meeting. However, she did note some pushback on this resolution despite current bylaws that state that anything could be subject for a vote. Members discussed the application of open meetings law in relation to the Staff Assembly.

There was a call for updates from university committee representatives. The transfer of membership on the Advisory Committee on Transportation from Laura Pratt to Shane Brogan was mentioned. In addition, James Stamey reported that the Buildings and Grounds committee is discussing Kenan Stadium expansion.

Joseph Nsonwu-Farley reported that the Carolina Peer Support Collaborative is working on improvements to its website, leading to Forum conversations about similar improvements to its own site. Phil Edwards said that he had shared a link that the Policy Review committee had discussed regarding changes for employees who also teach for an academic department or unit.

The Chair welcomed questions related to the University’s reopening decision. She said that the Forum will also need to hold its Town Hall at some point this spring. Membership & Assignments will work on planning the Forum’s 30th anniversary event in the fall.

In the absence of further discussion, Arlene Medder moved that the meeting adjourn, seconded by Elizabeth DuBose. The meeting was thus adjourned at 11:03 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

 

 

 

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