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January 6, 2021

UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum

Zoom Remote Meeting:  Connection Details Below

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

I. Call to Order & Opening Remarks: Chair Shayna Hill (9:15 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.)

  • Welcome to Guests & Members of the Press

II. Special Presentations (9:20 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.)

  • Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz
  • Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, Chief of Staff Amy Hertel, Gretchen Bellamy, Senior Director and Co-Chair of the UNC DEI Council and Cloe Liparini, Director of Education, Engagement and Belonging on the Build Our Community Together Initiative of the University’s Strategic Plan

III. Roundtable with Provost Bob Blouin (10:00 – 10:20 a.m.)

IV. Human Resources Update (10:20 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.)

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

V. Consent Agenda (10:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.)

 

VI. Old Business (11:00 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.)

VII. New Business (11:10 a.m.-11:25 a.m.)

  • Joint Employee Forum/Faculty Council Meeting — Friday, January 15th, 2020 at 3:00 PM
  • Vice Chancellor Representatives Meeting — Thursday, February 11th, 2020 at 10 AM

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

IX. Adjournment

MINUTES

January 6, 2021 UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum Minutes

Attending:  D. Abrecht, L.E. Alexander, L. Anderson, D. Blackwell, J. Blake, J. Bongiovanni, R. Borror, R. Brandenburg, A. Brennick, S. Brogan, S. Carrier, T. Carver, A. Constance, A. Cromwell, J. DeNeal, M. Douglas, E. Dubose, P. Edwards, S. Evans-Hollingsworth, S. Forman, A. Gibilisco, C. Greenberg, L. Hefner, S. Hill, K. Hines, J. Holman, Q. Jernigan, M. King, H. Marchese, A. Medder, M. Melton, K. Murray, K Musgrove, A. Ocasio, J. Ormond, L. Person, L. Pratt, K. Robinson, K. Scurlock-Cross, T. Silsby, G. Smith, R. Smith, III, S. Smith, A. Squire, J. Stallard, J. Stamey, M. Teal, R. Thorp, S. Wackerhagen, T. Wetherby Williams, M. Williams, J. Womack

Excused Absences:  None

Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 9:16 a.m. She welcomed all to the first meeting of 2021. She noted that vaccine distribution has begun. She read a brief statement on behalf of some UNC Housekeepers, asking that they receive priority status within the campus community for receiving the COVID vaccination.

The Chair then welcomed Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to speak with the Forum. Guskiewicz wished all well. He recalled conversations with the Orange County Health director and others to make the vaccine available as soon as possible for as many employees as possible. Guskiewicz praised the Forum for making it possible for the University to continue its mission. He noted that many employees are separated from family members, care for children who are doing remote work, and observe the impact of this terrible disease. He thanked all for continuing to do their jobs every day.

Guskiewicz read a quote from an interview with Arianna Huffington regarding creation of an atmosphere in which employees feel empowered to speak and let managers know of challenges of any kind. He wanted this kind of “compassionate directness” for the University and he thought that the Forum exemplifies its importance. He was thus grateful for the Forum’s honest feedback on the struggles of the past year.

Guskiewicz noted that that any revision in plans to open campus for the spring would be announced no later than January 9th. He was concerned about virus numbers across North Carolina, but he felt confident in the work and knowledge gained from the fall semester. He noted the robust asymptomatic testing program in place as of January 11th. He cited the three W’s of virus prevention (wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance) and the practice of isolating people who are sick once identified through testing. He said that the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel, but much remains to be done. He praised the University’s standing in infectious disease research worldwide and thanked the many experts who have advised decisionmakers in recent conversations.

Guskiewicz also praised Provost Bob Blouin and his leadership of the roadmap implementation team, and Shayna Hill’s leadership, among others, of the Campus Community Advisory Committee. He was excited about hearing more voices through the Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor. He viewed this latter committee as being one to supplement feedback from the Forum and to provide additional perspectives from campus staff.

Guskiewicz welcomed Chief of Staff Amy Hertel and Dr. Sibby Anderson-Thompkins to provide an update on the University’s Strategic Plan, Initiative Number One, “Build Our Community Together.” He noted the relatively new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council’s work determining additional ways to change the campus climate as well as the History, Race, and a Way Forward Commission. Guskiewicz said that the University cannot be successful as a leading global public research university without a strong community in which all feel and know that they belong here.

Amy Hertel thanked the Forum for the invitation to speak and said that the Forum is critical to the Carolina community and will help in the strategic plan effort. Sibby Anderson-Thompkins introduced herself as special advisory to the Chancellor and Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Interim Chief Diversity Officer. She noted her faculty appointment and long history at UNC in three campus divisions.

Hertel reminded the Forum of the three objectives of Strategic Initiative One: Investment in policies, systems and infrastructure that promote belonging community and transparency across the Carolina community, work to enhance educational benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion through student retention, recruitment and enrollment efforts, and finally, prioritization of DEI efforts in teaching, research, and service as well as in hiring, evaluation and retention, and promotion of faculty and staff.

Hertel reviewed the progress of the leadership team since Carolina Next was launched in January 2020. The group received a July Board of Trustees endorsement to found the DEI Council which works now to stand against structural racism. Hertel noted the September creation of the first-ever systemwide racial equity survey, with accompanying town halls. She offered to share data from this survey with the Forum.

Hertel welcomed Cloe Liparini, the new Director of Education, Engagement and Belonging. Liparini noted her excitement to be part of the University team and community. Hertel noted that Liparini brings experience in coaching, leading, and developing international and multicultural teams.

Hertel hoped to return to the Forum to share details about initiatives in place across campus. She said that each initiative in Carolina Next has community leads. Hertel noted the structure of leaders on the DEI Council helping to implement Strategic Initiative One. She praised faculty and staff who have signed up to do this work.

Sibby Anderson-Thompkins said that this is one of the first times that the University has really tried to make DEI efforts the core of what is done at UNC. This effort means to define DEI work as fundamental and critical to the work of the University. Anderson-Thompkins introduced DEI Council co-chair Gretchen Bellamy, the Senior Director of the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion for the past three years. Anderson-Thompkins noted the DEI Council’s importance to transform the institutional culture in schools, divisions, and departments, as well as in training and education programs.

Anderson-Thompkins was excited to see the development of dean-level, vice-provost-level DEI positions in all areas of campus. She noted work to create an integrated structure with connections between the initiative and senior leadership. She noted a growing partnership with the Forum’s DEI committee. She said subgroups of the Council are studying campus culture and climate and overall policies and practices. Over the next three to five years, the University DEI Council aims to bring about deep structural and systemic change in the University.

Anderson-Thompkins noted work to identify short-term strategic plans focusing on structural racism and equity. She asked the Forum to help build a culture of inclusive leadership, commitment, and accountability. She said that establishing a process of regularly reviewing reports, looking at and reexamining goals, and looking at metrics and data will lead to positive change.

The Chair extended a standing invitation to Hertel and Anderson-Thompkins to update the Forum on these efforts. She thought that the DEI Council’s mission to create a community together parallels her own work with the Forum. She hoped the Forum could provide a perspective of “boots on the ground” that other areas could use.

In response to a question from the chat, Hertel said that the DEI Council meets once a month, now looking primarily at work subgroups and data related to faculty, staff, and students. These subcommittees will schedule meetings in which community members can participate. Another chat question noted the role of liaisons in sharing metrics and data. Employees can share data anonymously via the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office, the Ombuds Office and Employee Relations. Hertel noted the importance of creating a shared set of metrics for this year’s work. She offered to share her presentation slides with Forum delegates. She said that the reach of the DEI work will move beyond race to gender, LGBTQ identity, disability, and other areas in time. Upon his departure, Chancellor Guskiewicz reiterated his support of the DEI Council.

The Chair was pleased to present Provost Bob Blouin in the Forum’s second “Roundtable with the Provost.” Blouin thanked the Forum for its standing invitation and looked forward to meeting with the Forum regularly. He was pleased by the general progress with vaccine development.

Blouin took a moment to praise Anderson-Thompkins and Hertel for their model of strategic planning for Initiative One, a model for all other initiatives in the strategic plan. He was very proud of the work they have done attacking structural racism at the University. He also reminded listeners that the University will update its “evergreen” strategic plan on an ongoing way, based on annual assessments outlined in the plan.

Blouin noted that while national and State disease positivity numbers have risen recently, the campus positivity rate has not. Campus testing will be available to faculty and staff as of January 14th. In the meantime, the Ambulatory Care Center and other sites identified by Campus Health or Occupational Health are available for non-student testing. The three main sites—the Student Union, Rams Head Recreation, and the CURRENT ArtSpace in Carolina Square on Franklin Street—will be available to all faculty, staff, and students as of January 14th. These will be PCR-based midterminus sample tests, with a Q-tip type probe placed in the middle of the nostril. The test is painless and self-administered. Results should be available in around 24-48 hours.

Blouin noted a lack of clarity around definitions of “essential personnel” related to vaccine eligibility. He said that these definitions are under review in Raleigh. He noted a gap in that currently, “educators” includes only K-12 instructors and teachers, not University faculty, Resident Assistants, or Teaching Assistants. Also, the University has advocated that front line workers receive similar classification as UNC Health frontline workers. He did not yet know if these proposals have been accepted.

Practical issues still exist in terms of vaccine delivery, mainly a lack in the quantity of vaccines available. Nonetheless, Blouin wanted the Forum to know that the University shares its concern about vaccine distribution and has communicated that concern to the State. He noted the challenges of rolling out the vaccine to enough sites, establishing prioritization and delivering the vaccine in a faster and more efficient way. He favored a more aggressive, liberal distribution method of vaccine delivery, saying that current methods are too hierarchical and slow.

Blouin said that the spring semester will begin January 19th with some schools having begun earlier. He noted differences in testing rollouts among different schools and programs. The University cannot establish a single rule for testing due to the scheduling of different professional programs.

In response to a question, Blouin said that the Chancellor, the Provost, and other high-level administrators will not receive vaccines until the Health Department deems it their turn. He noted that campus testing appointments will occur through the web-based application HallPass.  Blouin said that errors will likely occur in testing but that he and others would work to resolve issues and concerns. HallPass will be available to campus January 11th.

An employee asked how the vaccine program will ensure a recipient is in their correct cohort. Blouin said that the honor system must govern as of now, with age being the predominant criterium as age is easy to verify without a medical record.

A question from the chat asked about staff members without cars wanting to be tested at sites that require cars. Blouin said he would check about this situation and get back to the Forum. Another question dealt with COVID-19 wellness check site for employees who use Karen, Burmese, and/or Spanish as their primary language. Blouin said that this situation has been a concern at the State level as well. He would check back with the Forum once he could find an answer to this question.

Katie Musgrove asked about the placing videos of Staff and Faculty Advisory Committee meetings online for those who could not attend these live meetings. Blouin said that he would raise this question with the Chancellor. Musgrove hoped that the University could make these recordings available for posting on the Forum website.

An employee confirmed that employees cannot walk up for testing at the Ambulatory Care Center. Test recipients must present themselves in a car at this site. Another employee asked if the R7 testing lot will remain open following opening of the three campus sites. Blouin said that R7 lot testing is hosted by the Orange County Health Department. He noted the University’s ongoing cooperation with Orange County and pledged to check further on this question.

The Chair thanked Blouin for his remarks. She welcomed Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler to provide the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Butler updated the Forum about ongoing leave provisions. He noted that the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired December 31st. However, there are other options available to employees who need leave for COVID-related reasons. The University’s COVID leave bank is still available with donations currently outpacing need.

In addition, the ability to use accrued leave interchangeably was extended through March. Thus, employees with sick leave balances can use vacation leave for COVID-related absences like child or elder care. Butler hoped that this leave will be extended by the State through the end of 2021.

Also, COVID paid administrative leave up to 160 hours is available through March 2021, subject to conditions of quarantine or isolation orders by health care providers or public officials. This leave is also available to employees who have had exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and is awaiting diagnosis. Employees can receive up to 80 hours leave before using their own leave. Should they exhaust their own leave, employees would then have access to another 80 hours of paid administrative leave.

Other items have yet to be resolved from December. There is not yet any word regarding an early retirement option, although the UNC System Office is optimistic something will be passed by the Legislature. An employee asked what will occur with donated leave bank post-pandemic. Butler said that hours would be returned on a pro-rated basis depending on number of people donating and hours donated overall.

Butler welcomed Work/Life and Wellness Program Manager Jessica Pyjas to provide wellness updates. Pyjas noted weekly mindfulness self-compassion sessions administered by the School of Medicine on Mondays at 12:15 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays and 4 p.m. Monthly Mindful Mondays will also begin February 1st at 8 a.m. Mindful UNC is looking for volunteers to lead a mediation or a stretch session once during the spring semester. Wellness Wednesday sessions are Mindfulness in Work and Life on January 27th and Reduce Stress with Humor also on the 27th.

Pyjas encouraged listeners to access the Carolina Talent System through ConnectCarolina to view all upcoming wellness and professional development classes. Campus Recreation will offer pre-recorded YouTube videos at campusrec.unc.edu. The Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less program will be offered to State Health Plan members at no cost through June 30, 2021 with code “GNC2021.” Participation incentives are available. Finally, Pyjas encouraged employees to fill out the annual wellness surveys to help plan for the year. She noted the number of healthy meal packages available with discounts to UNC employees.

An employee confirmed that the Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less program is priced according to one’s insurance. Butler said he would draft responses to other questions submitted via the chat box.

The Chair called for a motion to approve the consent agenda. Arlene Medder made this motion, seconded by Jen DeNeal. The motion was approved by acclamation.

The Chair noted that the Forum had no old business. She said that new business includes the joint Forum/Faculty Council meeting to take place Friday, January 15th at 3 p.m. via Zoom. Staff can attend the meeting via a YouTube link.

The second item of business is the Vice Chancellor representatives’ meeting tentatively scheduled for Thursday, February 11th.

Katie Musgrove asked that the Executive Committee meet before the 15th to plan for the joint meeting. Arlene Medder made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Elizabeth Dubose seconded, but added that the vaccine trials are still open. Those interested in the study can contact 919-360-2247 or 1-800-804-9140. The motion was approved by acclamation and the meeting adjourned at 11:10 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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