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May 5, 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 & Recitation of Forum Charge—Chair Shayna Hill (9:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.)

 

II.  Round Table with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin (9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.)

III.  Announcement of Kay Wijnberg Hovious Outstanding Delegates for 2020-21 (10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.)

IV. Special Presentations (10:10 a.m. – 10:50 a.m.)

  • Michael Piehler, Director, UNC Institute for the Environment, on Sustainable Carolina
  • Samantha Metzler-Brody, Director, UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, on Employee Mental Health Concerns

V. Human Resources Update (10:50 a.m. – 11:05 a.m.)

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

 

VI. Consent Agenda (11:05 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.)

 

VII.  Old Business (11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.)

VIII.  New Business (11:20 a.m.-11:25 a.m.)

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

X. Adjournment

MINUTES

May 5, 2021 Employee Forum minutes

Delegates Attending: Darren Abrecht, L.E. Alexander, Lauren Anderson, Dzenita Blackwell, Jo-Ann Blake, Jessye Bongiovanni, Randall Borror, Sharron Bouquin, Rich Brandenburg, Alicia Brandt, Andrew Brennick, Shane Brogan, Stephanie Brown, Sarah Carrier, Tiffany Carver, Timothy Carville, Michael Case, Valerie Cartagena, Valerie Concha, Allison Constance, Adrienne Cromwell, Jen DeNeal, Morgan Douglas, Elizabeth Dubose, Phil Edwards, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Joseph Nwonso-Farley, Jaci Field, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Chrissie Greenberg, Natasha Hanks, Leah Hefner, Jessi Hill, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Brigitte Ironside, Quintara Jernigan, Kira Jones, Mary King, Anthony Lindsey, Haydée Marchese, Evan Marsh, Amber Meads, Mandy Melton, Arlene Medder, Manisha Mittal, Katie Musgrove, Natiaya Neal, Ayla Ocasio, Joe Ormond, Le’Quisha Person, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, Theresa Silsby, Janice Singletary, Robert Smith III, Sarah Smith, Antonio Squire, Jake Stallard, James Stamey, Janet Steele, Charles Streeter (ex-officio), Rose Thorp, Matthew Teal, Sarah Wackerhagen, Michael Williams, Tracy Wetherby Williams, Alice Whiteside, Tracey Wiley, Jacob Womack

Excused Absences Todd Hux, Karen Webster, Danielle Wingler

Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 9:18 a.m. She led delegates, incoming, outgoing, and continuing, in a recitation of the Forum charge. She welcomed the Forum’s new delegates, adding that she hoped the next year would have fewer challenges than this one. She then welcomed Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin for the Forum’s customary roundtable.

Guskiewicz was proud of the progress the University had made against the virus, conducting close to 200,000 COVID tests so far through the Carolina Together Testing program. The University has remained below 1% on asymptomatic testing for the entire semester with a general observation of COVID-19 community standards. The vaccination clinic has vaccinated close to 3,500 students since its start five weeks ago. This clinic has since been opened to employees. Guskiewicz was proud of the community’s efforts to keep the campus safe.

Guskiewicz noted that all staff will be brought back to campus July 19th, to promote planning for the upcoming semester. He hoped that the University would emerge as a reimagined institution following the pandemic. He asked how administrators can support staff in working through this transition.

Guskiewicz took a moment to recognize Provost Bob Blouin who has announced his departure from that role toward the end of the year. Guskiewicz said that Blouin has been an incredible partner in his many roles during some of the most difficult times the campus has ever seen. He thanked Blouin for his work.

Blouin noted that the University’s positivity rate this past week was 0.03%, a number which was a testament to everyone’s work to keep the campus safe. He said that summer school will open the campus partially, along with a few overnight camps for people over 18. He spoke about the work involved in meeting expectations for the fall semester to bring students back to campus, renewing the campus’ commitment to residential education. Opening plans will be subject to new science or information from the CDC, the FDA, and others, including campus health experts. He hoped for an 80+% vaccination compliance rate for students, faculty, and staff.

Stephanie Forman asked Guskiewicz where the campus stands regarding House Bill 243 and Senate Bill 355. She hoped that the University could commit to forego the more controversial aspects of these bills. Guskiewicz said that UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC System are following these bills. Regarding House Bill 243, Guskiewicz said that no one has suggested planning to furlough employees from their units.

Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini characterized the bill as borne from the Legislature’s priorities, written months ago as campuses outlined tools to navigate a difficult time like the pandemic. She understood the bill is now in conference committee.

Menghini said that furloughs do not help administrators with long-term recurring matters now facing the University. Rather, furloughs provide a one-time surge of funds to address short-term one-time challenges. Furloughs are not currently necessary but were written into the bill early in the pandemic. She said it was unclear whether furloughs will remain in the final bill. She pointed to the administration’s frank and candid discussions with the Forum about current budget issues. She said that this candor would continue whether these budgetary tools became needed.

Phil Edwards noted a perception among observers that House Bill 243 is being put forward to advance UNC-Chapel Hill’s interests. He wondered how to resolve this divergence in perception. Menghini said that UNC-Chapel Hill had supported the bill early on because administrators wanted the tools in the toolbox to deal with grave budgetary situations. She did not see a need in this moment to use the tool of broad-based furloughs, as there is not temporary short-term recurring problem facing the campus now. UNC-Chapel Hill would need to delineate a reason for the need to resort to furloughs to the UNC System President before implementing furloughs. Such authority would not be local to  campus.

Blouin granted that the University needs to think about relieving anxiety in this area for employees. He noted that the University has endured one of the worst-case scenarios from a financial standpoint without a significant loss of talent. Furloughs have been implemented only in narrowly defined service center areas or revenue-dependent areas like Athletics.

Haydée Marchese voiced employee exhaustion related to COVID and budget reductions. She asked if the administration could guarantee no budget cuts before December 31st, 2021. Guskiewicz said that the possibility of revenue reductions means that workforce adjustments are always a possibility. The University has been strongly committed to protecting its mission and its people. Guskiewicz said that the University has no intention to implement a massive reduction of its workforce. Menghini noted that a furlough of a couple of days could be a useful tool, but administrators would prefer not to use it. Marchese asked if a public statement could be issued, to reassure employees in a transparent business environment. Guskiewicz asked the Chair to meet with Menghini to discuss how to package a message based on Marchese’s remarks.

The Chair praised the Chancellor’s and Provost’s unprecedented commitment to speaking at Forum meetings since the roundtable discussions were organized in December. Blouin thanked the Forum for serving as the eyes and ears for the administration. He offered to stay in contact to discuss issues of mutual importance. He was very appreciative of the Forum’s role in this crisis.

Terri Phoenix noted difficulties with Senate Bill 514 for individuals who are transgendered and are receiving care while under age 21, a population that includes college students. Phoenix said the bill would impact Campus Health Services’ ability to provide gender-affirming care to these students. Phoenix asked for any insight as to the status of this bill. James Holman, Chair of SEANC District 25, said that he would obtain information about this bill from the SEANC central office.

The Chair then announced the three winners of the Kay Wijnberg Hovious Outstanding Delegate awards. These awards are named after the first Forum Chair in recognition of her outstanding contributions as well as those of the winning delegates. This year’s winners are L. E. Alexander, Jen DeNeal, and Keith Hines. She congratulated the winners.

The Chair welcomed Dr. Michael Piehler of the Institute for the Environment to talk about sustainability at Carolina, particularly the shift beyond the Three Zeroes Initiative. Piehler said that the University will retain the Three Zeroes Initiative (zero waste to landfills, zero water consumption, zero greenhouse gases) as part of its aspirational goals, while connecting more intentionally with the research, education, and service missions of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Piehler described the first climate action plan presented to the University in 2009, which set as a core goal to have zero carbon emissions by 2050. Recently, the Sustainability office announced that it had pushed this goal forward by ten years, to 2040. Piehler encouraged listeners to consult the office’s website for more information. He noted that recently the University has grown by 27% yet still has sustained a 24% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since the 2009 plan.

Piehler noted popular conversation about the cogeneration plant on Cameron Avenue and its use of coal. He reported that the plan has reduced its coal usage by 44.3%. The University continues to move away from coal as described in the sustainability plan. Piehler characterized the current plan as much more ambitious in its goals to reduce waste and water usage along with greenhouse gases. The sustainability office has also benefited from a one-million-dollar gift from Hanes Brands to create the Champion Sustainability fund to allow investments in efficiencies. Money saved will be put back into the fund. Piehler recalled that similar investments at other institutions have grown to tens of millions of dollars, and he hoped for similar progress here.

An employee asked the percentage of activities to offset carbon usage taking place in Chapel Hill versus other campus locations. Piehler said that the Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City is not a large place, and the total mass of carbon to be sequestered there will not be a large part of the overall picture. He said that the coastal area can play a big part in drawing down carbon. Most offsets will be directly related to campus activities, hopefully getting rid of 79% of carbon emissions with around 21% remaining as 2040 approaches. Of that 21%, travel and study abroad activities make up a substantial portion and will not be eliminated. He said that the University could use the lessons of the pandemic to reduce travelling through use of Zoom and other means.

Piehler added that the University is looking for ways to offset emissions in ways that are directly relevant to how emissions are generated. An employee asked via the chat feature if the cogeneration plant has a plan to wrap up its work. It was added that former Chancellor Holden Thorp had set 2020 as the goal to move the University completely away from coal.

Piehler responded that the cogeneration plant is critical to the University’s operation through its production of steam. Laboratory and hospital facilities require steam. All concerned are committed to moving away from coal as quickly and effectively as possible within the logistical and financial constraints that the University faces as a State agency.

Piehler added that personal behavior will be critical to meeting these goals. He urged listeners to study the sustainability website and to contact him with questions or comments.

Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody made a presentation on employee mental health concerns.

Brad Held of the Digital Accessibility Office spoke on issues associated with that office. He noted that an upcoming conference will address getting started with digital accessibility, hosted by the NC Higher Education Digital Accessibility Collaborative. Faculty and staff can register for this free conference at https://sites.google.com/ncsu.edu/2021a11yconference/home. Secondly, Held said that disability is a part of diversity, announcing that Global Accessibility Awareness Day is May 20th. The Digital Accessibility Office will work to create a social media campaign around this day. Also, the Office has designed a Zoom Accessibility workshop for May and June, with registrations occurring through Carolina Talent. (https://hr.unc.edu/carolinatalent/using-my-learning/) Finally, the Office has paired with the Office of Human Resources to create a step-by-step guide to add digital accessibility to employee developmental plans. https://digitalaccessibility.unc.edu/digital-accessibility-development-plan-template/ Arlene Medder commented that she had really enjoyed and learned a lot from the Office’s workshops.

The Chair moved to introduce Becci Menghini to present the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Menghini noted that May 8th is State Employee Appreciation Day, and she planned to thank all for the work done every day, whether working on campus or remotely.

Menghini reiterated that July 19th is the all-campus return day for staff, with a message from OHR that went out 90 days prior to give people a chance to think through the manner of their return. Employees needing ADA accommodations should begin the relevant application process.

Menghini said that masks will be required, and a testing program of some sort will be continued. The University is asking people to acknowledge whether they have been vaccinated. The University cannot compel vaccinations in violation of any release of health care information.

Questions about flexible work arrangements continue to arise. UNC-Chapel Hill is following the approach at NC State in that the campus is planning for a full return of staff, to create a more traditional residential experience for students. The University will bring people back then to think through its business needs as well as the well-being needs for students and staff. Following this consideration, the University will start looking at flexible work arrangements or remote work plans across campus. This plan follows that which is in place for several campuses across the UNC System.

More specifics await anticipated changes to the spatial distancing rules. Maintaining the current rule of six feet spatial distance will not be possible in some areas. Deans and vice chancellors have been asked to work with supervisors to figure out alternative work schedules or some other arrangements for their employees until these rules change or go away.

Menghini recalled that the School of Medicine and UNC Health have put forward their work plan entitled “Working Forward.” This plan would have 20% of workforce onsite and 80% in flexible work arrangements or remote. This plan is part of a longer-term plan by which the main campus will learn from but not immediately follow given differences between the two institutions. UNC Health has done planning for its move to remote work that the University has not yet undertaken. Menghini said that OHR will work to find and celebrate the exciting things about staff returning in July.

Menghini said that the Legislature has not yet approved a State budget. She recalled that the Governor put forward a budget proposal this year which contained a 5% increase for University employees in the first year and a 2.5% increase in the second. In addition, the Governor’s budget contains a separate $2,000 bonus to go to all University employees. However, the legislative process allows the Senate then the House to make their own budget proposals which are then resolved in conference committee for the Governor’s signature or veto. Menghini pointed out that the raise mentioned in the Governor’s budget applies only to University employees as these people did not receive a salary increase last year or the year before.

Now, the Legislature may choose for its budget a combination of permanent-based budget salaries, salary adjustments, and bonuses. The University continues to advocate for salary adjustments given the need to keep competitive in local labor markets. However, bonuses will never be refused. All the University’s legislative contacts anticipate good news out of Raleigh this year. Currently, observers expect the budgetary process to conclude by the end of June, hopefully with increases retroactive to July 1st.

Arlene Medder asked why the System Office has said that it will not require vaccinations for students or employees. She noted that several schools will require vaccines including Duke, Boston College, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Michigan, Maryland, Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Washington. She hoped the System Office would reconsider its stance.

Menghini noted that the authority to provide vaccines legally is now under the emergency use authorization (EUA) which according to interpretations of NC State statute hold that North Carolina cannot require vaccinations of its employees under an EUA. The EUA may change to basic approval soon. Menghini said that of the schools mentioned, several are being sued because they are requiring vaccination while the vaccine is only authorized under the EUA. She did not anticipate that the Board of Governors would reconsider this rule while the EUA is in effect.

Another question addressed Equal Opportunity and Compliance (EOC) office accommodations and what types of exceptions will be granted. Menghini said that the American Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations process which runs out of the EOC office will apply because vaccines are available, but there are many reasons people may have a medical accommodation and not yet have a vaccine. The University is requiring a bit more data from the employee’s physician to provide an accommodation after consultations between the physician and the supervising unit.

An employee asked about those with accommodations that expire prior to July 19th. Would these employees receive an extension to that date? Menghini said that conversations should occur between the employee and supervisor with the possibility of referring discussion to the EOC once again. She added that the interchangeability of leave will continue through December 31st. The leave bank will probably continue. Menghini had asked the System Office about the extension of other benefits.

A listener asked if there was an update about the overall percentage of employee vaccinations. It was noted that 6,400 people on campus had self-reported as vaccinated as of yesterday morning. Menghini anticipated that students will self-report although there is no requirement that they do so. The link to self-report can be found through the ConnectCarolina website. Tracy Wetherby Williams thanked Menghini and her team for being so transparent and taking the time to be patient with Forum members as they navigate this difficult time. Menghini reiterated her gratitude for the work that delegates are doing on behalf of the University, working together.

Worklife Manager Jessica Pyjas made several announcements regarding Mental Health Awareness month and resources available to staff. These are available through the Human Resources website at hr.unc.edu. She also reminded listeners of the Employee Assistance Program.

Pyjas announced that Katie Young from Global Relations and Steven T. King from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media received University nominations for the Governor’s Award for Excellence. Melissa Miller of the School of Medicine, Pathology and Lab Medicine, received a nomination for a Public Service Award. Laura Resky from the Friday Center received a nomination for Outstanding State Government Service. She congratulated all on their accomplishments.

The Chair called for a motion to approve the consent agenda, excepting the meeting minutes which were not provided in time. Arlene Medder made this motion, which was seconded by Katie Musgrove. The consent agenda was approved excepting the minutes which will be made available in June.

The Chair encouraged all incoming and continuing delegates to consider running for a Forum officer position. Elections for these positions will take place at the June 9th general meeting. She asked delegates to declare their interest in running for Forum Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, or Treasurer. Katie Musgrove declared her candidacy for Forum Chair, and Natasha Hanks and Evan Marsh declared their candidacy for Vice Chair. [Since this meeting, Tracy Wetherby Williams has declared her candidacy for Secretary.] Matt Banks would send a reminder to delegates asking them to nominate candidates as well.

Haydée Marchese asked that an attachment related to new vaccine trials be shared with the Forum listserv.

In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned by acclamation at 11:30 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

 

 

 

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