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September 1, 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 Katie Musgrove (9:15 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.)

  • Welcome to Guests & Members of the Press

II.  Roundtable with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin (9:20 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.)

III. Special Presentations (9:45 a.m. – 10:25 a.m.)

  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Privacy and CISO Dennis Schmidt
  • Executive Director, State Employees’ Association of North Carolina, Ardis Watkins

IV. Human Resources Update (10:25 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. – 11:20 a.m.)

VII.  New Business (11:20 a.m. – 11:25 a.m.)

  • Election of UNC System Staff Assembly Delegates
    • Three Year Term: Keith Hines
    • Two Year Term: Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth/James Holman
    • Alternate: Laura Pratt
    • Candidates May Be Nominated from the Floor on the Day of the Meeting

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

VIII.  Adjournment

MINUTES

September 1, 2021 Employee Forum minutes

Delegates Attending: L. E. Alexander, Jessy Bongiovanni, Randall Borror, Sharron Bouquin, Rich Brandenburg, Alicia Brandt, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Emma Dehne, Jen DeNeal, Elizabeth DuBose, Phil Edwards, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Chrissie Greenberg, Leah Hefner, Jessi Hill, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Brigitte Ironside, Quintara Jernigan, Kira Jones, Mary King, Arlene Medder, Mandy Melton, Manisha Mittal, Katie Musgrove, Natiaya Neal, Joseph Nsonwu-Farley, Joseph Ormond, Sara Pettaway, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, Theresa Silsby, Janice Singletary, Sarah Smith, Robert Smith III, Antonio Squire, James Stamey, Janet Steele, Matthew Teal, Sarah Wackerhagen, Tracy Wetherby Williams, Alice Whiteside, Tracey Wiley, Michael Williams, Danielle Wingler

Excused Absences: Vanessa Blake, Ayla Ocasio, Jacob Womack

Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. She called for nominations for the UNC System Staff Assembly positions beyond those which have already been submitted. She then welcomed Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin to provide the Forum’s monthly roundtable discussion. Guskiewicz noted that this is the third week of the fall semester. He thanked all employees for their hard work in implementing the return to campus. He singled out Housekeeping, Human Resources, and Forum leadership as particular bright spots over the past summer. He noted missing the feeling of being in the classroom and described the demographics of the incoming class.

Guskiewicz emphasized the importance of vaccines in avoiding contagion and reducing infection. He sought ideas to increase vaccination among staff employees. He noted that staff receive time off to get vaccinated and that the vaccines themselves are free. Guskiewicz noted with pride the good job that Orange County has done vaccinating its population. He said that the campus had announced a few clusters yesterday. The University’s goal is to catch these cases earlier and limit their spread. Finally, he said that the University’s community standards are working, from testing protocols, to mask wearing, to changes associated with athletic events. He said that the University has not seen transmission in the classroom or in dining halls. Still, the University will install three or four large canopies for student dining over the next few days to reduce density in dining halls.

Provost Blouin started by thanking staff employees for all that they’ve done these past 18 months. He thanked all for getting vaccinated and encouraging others to do the same. He recalled that unvaccinated individuals make up the large majority of COVID sufferers in the intensive care unit. One hundred percent of deaths at UNC Hospitals from COVID were unvaccinated individuals.

Blouin noted that UNC Health will create a facility in Meadowmont for administration of monoclonal antibodies, for the general aid of high-risk individuals. He noted upcoming meetings regarding data science and its future at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Executive Director for Environment, Health, and Safety Catherine Brennan said that Carolina continues to refine its numbers of student and staff vaccinations. She said that some dining staff are contract workers that need to be incorporated into the University’s numbers at some point.

The Chair shared questions from the chat discussion. Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Equal Opportunity and Compliance Rebecca Menghini clarified the reason for a change in the numbers of faculty cited in recent reports which did not include adjunct faculty hired later in the summer or on nine-month contracts. She said that staff numbers seem to change slightly every day. She thanked all who worked on this problem. Menghini urged delegates to do anything possible to communicate the importance of vaccination to coworkers and constituents. She said that currently, SHRA vaccination rates stand at 50% or so, compared with just over 90% for EHRA non-faculty.

The Chair relayed a question as to why the University does not make mask wearing mandatory at outdoor events. Chancellor Guskiewicz said that the University takes its guidance in this area from the State Health and Human Services as well as local authorities. That said, there are discussions occurring about modifying this guidance. He did note that data surrounding major league baseball events crowds have not shown trends of spread, even though most attendees at these games did not wear masks.

Keith Hines asked the disciplinary action for those unwilling to abide by community standards regarding wearing a mask indoors. He said that students have become adept at finding gray areas in mask mandates around his office. For example, a student might purchase a soda then sit in the hallway leading to offices for hours without wearing a mask. When approached, this student will begin to drink merely to skirt the mask rules. Blouin said that this problem has emerged in dining halls. The University has placed new signage asking students to be responsible and take only a limited amount of time to complete their lunch. Students are even asked to replace their masks after each bite or drink.

Blouin said that faculty are currently enforcing the mask mandate without violations of standards in classrooms. He granted that enforcement is more difficult out of classrooms. He advised Hines to either approach this person individually or contact someone in authority to speak with that student. All disciplinary actions involving students go to the Dean of Student Affairs for adjudication.

Hines suggested that the Union could place signs designating eating areas and, in turn, place signs designating non-eating areas where a mask must be always worn. Blouin praised this suggestion and offered to follow up with Hines via email.

Stephanie Forman asked if the Forum could obtain a seat on the Hybrid Work 2022 committee. Additionally, Forman suggested that the University create a webpage describing the hybrid pilot flexible work arrangements, with depictions of participation, metrics of success and other measures. She thought this suggestion would boost transparency around the pilots and their evolution. Guskiewicz said that he would discuss this idea and evaluating the pilots with Menghini and others.

Kira Jones noted the changing numbers regarding vaccination rates for students on the University dashboard. She noted distrust of the dashboard and the data appearing there. Guskiewicz saw these changing numbers as a sign of fidelity to the accuracy of incoming data. Blouin said that there has always been a bit of uncertainty regarding counts of students. He said that the University has chosen to be as transparent as possible regarding these questions. He said that 1800-2000 students are now in play to possibly be counted in the ongoing figures. He appreciated the attention to sensitivity of the data.  He added that the campus has audited its data each week as to uploading vaccination cards or opting out through Health & Human Services. Jones asked that this explanation be pushed out to the campus community to strengthen people’s understanding and trust of the data.

James Holman asked about the accuracy of vaccination numbers for Facilities Services employees. Catherine Brennan said that the University looks at percentages at an aggregate data level, not by department or unit. She offered to consult with areas that need help advocating increased vaccinations. The Chair thought it would be helpful to know vaccination levels at the departmental level given the need to boost vaccinations overall. Holman said that outreach is necessary to help Housekeeping and other employees with uploading vaccination records, to raise reported rates. Many are uncertain about using computers for this purpose.

Blouin asked if the University could push out a telephone number to employees for this purpose while protecting the medical records of employees. He asked if a mechanism exists whereby employees could provide this information anonymously for the campus registry without a computer. Brennan said that this process was possible if somewhat difficult to do with image verification of vaccination cards. She said that EHS personnel could reach out to Facilities Services to help these employees in person upload their cards. The Chair suggested that perhaps the Office of Human Resources (OHR) could help with this effort as they already do a good amount of in-person work with employees during open enrollment for insurance and benefits.

Theresa Silsby noted the comment of an employee who said that they are vaccinated but refused to report this information to the University because they feel the question is a HIPPA violation.

The Chair then introduced Dennis Schmidt, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Privacy and Chief Information Security Officer for the University. Schmidt outlined the problems associated with phishing and random-ware upon public institutions. He said that around 40% of campus faculty and staff provided ID and password in response to a fake phish query, a disturbingly high number. After training, this number decreased to 8% of respondents.

Schmidt noted that phishing has evolved to target individuals very specifically. He said that some phishing characteristics remain the same, known by poor grammar and suspect return addresses. Increasingly, phish attempts will feature a sense of urgency in the message or subject line, to sow panic and obtain a response. He urged listeners to concentrate on the front line of return addresses to weed out suspect communication.

Impersonation of University officials has grown as a phishing tool, as employees are asked to respond by supervisors in their organizational structure. People often fall for this ruse, losing their own personal money through unintentionally improper use of purchasing gift cards. He emphasized situational awareness in dealing with email questions. He particularly advised against signing into emails that direct to a page requiring an automatic login.

Schmidt announced that the method of reporting phishing methods will be streamlined. The notification protocol will now go directly to Microsoft, which will work to ban the message worldwide. Employees who believe that they have been phished should change their password immediately, then contact the ITS service desk.

Joseph Nsonwu-Farley asked how the University is addressing threats on the horizon. Schmidt pointed to continuous improvement processes within the University to increase security capabilities. He outlined upcoming improvements related to Microsoft and other capabilities.

Theresa Silsby said that in response to a question about log-in times that ITS can work through a help ticket. She said that administrative employees must log-on via the University VPN or Edge Zero. Schmidt offered to make presentations on this subject to other campus groups.

Randall Borror asked if UNC makes employees aware if they have clicked the wrong link and have been phished. Schmidt said that ITS will contact this person if they become aware of the attempt, flush the account, and end ongoing connections if deemed necessary. Much depends on how much secure data that employee handles.

The Chair introduced Executive Director of the State Employees’ Association of North Carolina (SEANC) Ardis Watkins. Watkins wished she had final news from the General Assembly, but delays have plagued the budget process. She noted that EHRA non-faculty have been inequitably treated in the most current budget discussions. SEANC has worked to get an amendment on the House floor to fix this problem. She said that SEANC will emphasize that it makes little sense to place a cap on EHRA non-faculty employee salaries when these employees have not received raises for two-plus years.

Watkins noted ongoing discussions and differences in philosophy between the House, Senate, and Governor’s Office. She said that lobbying conference committee members would be helpful and encouraged. Watkins cited James Holman for special thanks in getting the message out regarding this salary inequity. She noted that SEANC fought previously against cutting state employee salaries to administer budgets. Thankfully, this legislative effort was stopped in the House.

Watkins noted that legislation granting public access to state employee records had been defeated after some “egregious” lobbying from the side favoring this change. She noted the need to balance issues of employee privacy rights versus public interest in smaller incidental matters. Inappropriate use of state money or behavior affecting civil liberties would of course be more subject to transparency concerns.

Watkins noted that SEANC will sponsor the UNC System Staff Assembly’s Chancellors’ Cup golf tournament September 29th. She offered to take questions from the group. Phil Edwards asked the reason for the animus among certain legislators against EHRA non-faculty employees. Watkins was not certain but thought that historic tensions with UNC faculty might have contributed. She also noted the need to refund State Health Plan coffers for money spent during the pandemic. Reminders of this need may have caused some rancor against EHRA non-faculty for some reason.

The Chair welcomed Vice Chancellor for Human Relations, Equal Opportunity, and Compliance Rebecca Menghini to provide the Forum’s customary Human Resources update. Menghini noted that testing for employees will begin September 15th [deadline since extended to October 1st]. Supervisors will not supervise or authorize testing and will have no role in testing administration. Menghini said that her office is asking the Forum to assist in convincing employees who might not heed the advice of central Administration about the need or effectiveness of vaccination. She asked delegates to speak with employees that they know at the local level. She urged delegates to notify others about the University’s plans for testing non-compliant employees following the deadline.

Menghini described Human Resources’ different methods of communication and implementation of vaccine protocols. She asked for additional ideas which might originate at the local level and asked for a collective effort in this area.

The Chair recalled a question from an employee about possibly reporting a co-worker who violates community standards. Menghini said that options for disciplinary action will depend on the type of employee involved and the offense. Discipline involves a disciplinary pre-conference or conversation, then a pre-disciplinary conference as a condition of employment which will determine future standards of action. Theresa Silsby asked if the condition of employment requirement is participating in the testing program if you are not vaccinated. An employee who is vaccinated is exempted from participating in the testing program. Menghini said that one must do one or the other or be subject to disciplinary measures of some sort.

L.E. Alexander raised concerns about temporary employees who may not have or perceive themselves not to have leave to obtain testing or vaccination. Menghini said that this is a UNC System question as these temporary employees do not earn benefits. She hoped that supervisors would encourage employees to get vaccinated on a Friday afternoon or a weekend to minimize time away from the office in case of negative side effects.

Elizabeth Dubose raised a question on behalf of an employee who might be classified as having two full-time jobs and pay streams at the University. Menghini offered to discuss this question following the meeting. It was noted that Senior Director of Employment Staffing Noreen Montgomery is the best person to deal with this question.

Matthew Teal asked the next steps that OHR is planning for improving career development and advancement to align with strategic plan initiative 3.2, following the rollout of Carolina Talent. Menghini said that OHR is working with partners to put additional content into Carolina Talent, first related to compliance training for employees. Follow-up is easier to pursue through Carolina Talent than through other means. In general, campus partners have been overwhelmed with COVID-related questions and have not had enough bandwidth to work on proving other content for this purpose.

Menghini was pleased with the numbers of employees using Carolina Talent, either through the LinkedIn learning programs or other means. She hoped that the University can continue this momentum in consultation with academic units to determine and prioritize efforts. She invited feedback from users on performance management and professional development questions related to Carolina Talent.

Teal asked what roadmap that a first-line employee can use to become a front-line supervisor through Carolina Talent. He suggested mentoring programs or other ways of developing career advancement development holistically. Menghini said that Carolina Talent is not the only part of that strategic initiative. Much is driven by individual supervisors and employees working to identify their next steps. She said the development team is beginning to discuss the employment progression question with broader campus groups. She emphasized that the strategic initiative belongs to a whole host of people, not solely OHR. Additionally, she hoped that the University could make more progress in providing greater access to the tuition remission program.

Chrissie Greenberg asked about previous assurances that people would not have to declare their vaccination status, but now seem subject to this scrutiny. She reported an employee had received an email stating that person had not logged in to the vaccination website. Greenberg said that this employee recalled University assurances that there would be no attachment of vaccination information to a person’s individual identity. She wondered if this were simply a communication issue.

Menghini responded that organizations commonly have environmental, health and safety offices separate from the rest of the institution. Vaccination information is managed separately by these offices. Menghini said that University OHR does not see any of the vaccination data as it all stays with EHS (Environment Health and Safety). She drew a parallel with a request for accommodation from the EOC (Equal Opportunity and Compliance) requiring employee information that their supervisor never gets to see. The vaccination information is siloed in just this way. EHS would need to track an employee who had been in contact with an infected person, whether they had been vaccinated or not. Menghini stressed that she and her office want this information kept separately from employee records.

Evan Marsh recalled that he did not upload his vaccination card at the time when he attested to his vaccination. He said that the card has personal information on it that he does not wish to share. He received an email a couple of weeks later saying that he had not uploaded proof of vaccination although he had tested and entered that he had received his vaccine. Marsh asked how employees in this situation will be treated.

Menghini recalled doing the same thing in her attestation. She understood the message to be that if she chose not to upload the information if contacted for having been a close contact with someone who is infected, she would then, at that moment, either must verify that she had been vaccinated with an actual card, or her attestation would be insufficient. This is a second administrative layer to confirm that she had been vaccinated.

If an employee chooses not to upload their card, they would be required to show proof of vaccination or be tested only if contact tracing is required. The testing requirement is not triggered once the attestation box is checked unless the employee cannot produce their vaccination card in the case of contact tracing.

Senior Director of Employee & Management Relations Angenette McAdoo asked rhetorically what administrators or supervisors should do if an employee refuses to wear their mask or to get a test or to get vaccinated. She said that the University would not move directly to termination in these cases. Instead, first, the supervisor would converse with the employee to do some counseling to try to understand their reasoning as to why they refuse to comply. Then, the process would move through the disciplinary course to ensure compliance. McAdoo offered the help of her unit to deal with these situations.

Joseph Nsonwu-Farley asked if the University is considering these cases as part of its vaccination rate calculations. Menghini replied that those who are not vaccinated or who choose not to say are automatically placed in the University’s testing program. Those who attested that they have been vaccinated are exempt from the program.

Menghini added that the University’s transitions are difficult. She said that the Forum’s feedback about communication has been fair and reflects internal discussions. She noted difficulties in communicating all the correct information in a way that everyone will read it at the appropriate time.

Human Resources Consultant Tarron Brandon spoke about the open enrollment process, which will run from October 11th-29th. She noted that all will default to the 70/30 reimbursement plan in the State Health Care system unless they act. Additionally, employees must act to claim their premium credits for tobacco non-use or cessation attestation. Thus, employees must interact with their application as otherwise they risk losing these credits.

Brandon said that the State dental plan high level will increase its premiums this year. This year, the IRS will allow 100% rollover of health care flexible spending account funds to the 2022 plan if desired. The Chair thanked Brandon for her update.

The Chair asked the Forum to defer its consent agenda until October to give time for the Forum’s election of delegates to the UNC System Staff Assembly. Jen DeNeal administered the election through Qualtrics.

At this point, the Forum took five minutes to vote electronically to elect the staff assembly delegates.

Stephanie Forman and Matthew Teal led discussion of the second reading of Resolution 21-04, calling for the elimination of the “20 Percent Rule.” The Chair asked if there was any further discussion of the resolution. Absent discussion, Shayna Hill called the question and moved that the resolution be approved, seconded by Phil Edwards. The motion was approved by unanimous consent. The Chair thanked all for their work on this document.

Stephanie Forman said that the resolution will also require a complementary document responding to recent salary compression issues. She asked for input from delegates and others with insight into this question.

Laura Pratt asked if there were plans for an upcoming Employee Appreciation Day. Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler said that plans are underway despite the pandemic’s difficulties. He said that the Day would likely look very different, but proposals are in development.

Arlene Medder said that the Carolina Community Garden would like to recognize Kenny Davis, who has worked very hard to ensure produce gets to campus Housekeeping staff. Davis will retire at the end of September. The Chair praised Davis’ work in this area. Medder also noted that the Garden has received a grant to support its work for another five years.

Given delays, the Chair called for a motion to approve the minutes of the August general meeting. Arlene Medder made this motion, seconded by Phil Edwards. The motion was approved by unanimous consent.

DeNeal announced the UNC System Staff Assembly election results. Keith Hines was elected to the three-year position, James Holman to the two-year position, and Laura Pratt to the alternate position. Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth also ran for the two-year position, but was not selected.

Matt Banks asked delegates to refrain from using University time, resources, or computers for lobbying their legislators. Instead, employees should use personal time for this purpose.

Laura Pratt noted a chat comment that the University’s hosting of football games and tailgating but not hosting Employee Appreciation Day seems unjust. Linc Butler said that the University will carry through with Employee Appreciation Day but must work to ensure it occurs in the safest manner possible.

Kevin Robinson moved that the meeting adjourn seconded by Shayna Hill. The meeting adjourned by unanimous consent at 11:35 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

 

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