Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Summer Report 2008

The summer of 2008 began with the announcement that Brian Rogers would be our interim chancellor. He moved quickly to set up transition teams on the following topics: administrative services, athletics, child care, community economic development, community engagement, enrollment management, facilities, faculty/curriculum, information technology, KUAC, philanthropy, research administration, student services and sustainability. While there was not a staff transition team, I believe that Chancellor Rogers knows and appreciates staff’s role within the university. He included staff in all of the teams and the steering committee. Chancellor Rogers has already met with our administrative committee and he readily credits that committee with inspiring him to initiate the creation and implementation of a supervisory training program at UAF.

I was appointed to serve on the Administrative Services transition team and thought it a very educational and worthwhile opportunity. We met several times and interviewed many department heads and staff to put together our report. I interviewed the UAF HR manager, director of GI HR, an HR staff person, John Duhamel, now acting director of UAF HR, and Jim Johnson, then vice president of UA Administration for the HR component of the report. A strong recommendation that came from the team was the need for decisions on the HR redesign and within the HR department.

At the first meeting of the Transition Overall Steering Committee, I expressed my concerns about there not being a team dedicated to staff issues. Chancellor Rogers recognized my concerns but felt the biggest concerns of staff were systemwide issues i.e., staff compensation and health-care costs. And he expressed a willingness to discuss campus issues with me.

The Supervisory Training Program Group made up of Earlina Bowden, Brad Lobland, Jennifer Youngberg and myself, was created at the chancellor’s request to put together a proposal for a supervisory training program. We began meeting in June and working closely with the chancellor created the program announced at the convocation. At the end of this first semester, we will meet again with the trainers, review user surveys and adapt the topics and program if necessary. This program is intended to be university-specific and encourages staff to use SkillSoft for related foundational courses. You should know that the funding for SkillSoft beyond January 2009 is uncertain.

The Chancellor's Campus Diversity Action Committee met in August. Ginny and Katrina are Staff Council's representatives on that committee and I am the GCC's representative there. I agreed to stay on as co-chair of the committee with Jane Weber the Faculty Senate rep. We've got a great start on our action plan for this year which includes items like a diversity website, mediation program and reviewing the bylaws.

The Bunnell House Advisory Group did not meet over the summer but some of its membership participated in the Child Care transition team. The transition team did recommend a child care task force be created. At our pre-staff meeting with the chancellor I asked about the status of this. He indicated that he will be creating a Family Friend Task Force whose first order of business will be to work on the child care issue. The Bunnell House group’s first meeting is the end of this month. I would like to step down from this external committee if there was another council rep willing to serve.

As president of Staff Council, I was appointed to the Staff Compensation Task Force. You may recall last spring the legislature chose not to fund our step increases. President Hamilton moved quickly to add them to our cost-of-living increase which the Legislature did support. UA staff received a 4.5% adjustment to the grid for FY09. Statewide then decided to create a task force to make a recommendation on how compensation (or step increases) would be handled in the future. The membership of this task force is as follows:

From governance: Megan Carlson, Juella Sparks, Gwenna Richardson, Jason Davis, Janet Daley and Linda Lasota
From HR: James Yauney, Brad Lobland (John Duhamel), Kirk McAllister
From statewide: Jeannine Senechal, Julie Larweth

The FY10 UA budget goes before the regents next week and as I understand it, is pretty much set in stone. At the first task force meeting in July, we were told that there was a 4.5% placeholder in the FY10 budget. At our September 12 meeting I strongly suggested the task force simply ask for a 5% increase not only because that is the amount of the Anchorage Consumer Price Index but also as a show of support for staff and recognizing the economic hardships we are facing. Ultimately the recommendation for FY10 was that the actual request for a grid increase be somewhere between 4.6 and 5% depending on the amounts in negotiated contracts and the Anchorage Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Statewide has stated that we cannot continue to rely on grid increases. And it is important to note that these grid increases are not covering both the increase in cost of living and our traditional step increases. So for FY11 we are looking to develop a compensation system based on the following central values (this list isn’t final): market-based, allows step progression, cost neutral (as much as possible), increased performance management (with an infrastructure in place to support it) and efficient to administer. I have encouraged the task force to keep in mind that salary is but one piece of the compensation package. We must also be aware of health-care premiums and retirement. We have to make a recommendation for FY11 this year in order to get it through the budget process and allow time for any improvements in infrastructure that is needed to be completed i.e., the performance evaluation process. As always, I welcome your input and guidance on this issue.

Staff Alliance met monthly over the summer. We held our retreat in August during which I accepted the position of vice chair of Staff Alliance. We meet with President Hamilton next week and our topics with him include staff compensation and the MacTaggert report recommendations. At our July meeting, a representative brought up concerns about UA's termination processes to include general counsel's involvement and the manner in which employees are treated. I echoed those concerns citing examples that I have been personally involved in or am aware of. This initial discussion was intended only to determine if it was an issue that was campus specific or should be discussed at staff alliance as a system-wide concern. At our August retreat, Kris Racina, director of Statewide labor relations, outlined the non-retention process and stated that given our concerns it was under review. Alliance then decided to go back to our governance groups and collect more input on the topic. It will be an agenda item for our meeting next week and I would like to hear your input during new business.

The HR Council has met twice over the summer. I serve on this council as a member of staff alliance. These are typically three-hour meetings that cover many different topics and the membership is discussion rather than voting. Things like clarification of the leave of absence regulation, the tuition waiver and educational leave benefit come before this council. Beth Behner reports regularly to staff alliance and if there are any items that I should bring back to council for discussion, I will. Following my statements at staff alliance regarding non-retention practices, I spent a good deal of time answering questions in this council from general counsel and labor relations. I felt the discussion to be very worthwhile in airing our concerns about how staff are treated in the non-retention process and hearing the reasons behind the process.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Leadership

At the May 22, 2008 meeting of UAF Staff Council the gavel passed from Kayt Sunwood to Juella Sparks. Martin Klein is now President-elect.

I encourage everyone to attend our meetings and contact any of us if you have questions, concerns or solutions. Following is our first annual report to the chancellor for 2007-08. I initiated this report as a way to document our activities, successes and concerns at the end of each academic year.

Staff Council Report to the Chancellor of Activities & Concerns for 2007-2008

To start the 2007-08 academic year, council was presented with the following list from the previous year's minutes and agendas.

Agenda items:

• Staff training
• Tuition waivers
• Staff handbook
• Internal recruitments

Issues to watch:
• Mediation program
• HR redesign
• Performance based budgeting
• Job Family Reclassification

Issues/actions of interest:
• Political Action Committee
• Childcare
• Online elections
• Bureaucracy busting
• Master calendar
• Fair process

Over the course of the academic year, these were our activities and successes:


• Staff training – Council and Staff Affairs worked actively with Anne Sakumoto, Director of Fac/Staff Training & Development, to disseminate information about SkillSoft and encouraged staff to participate in beta testing this online training application.
• Tuition waivers – Council provided the initial push on expanding the tuition waiver to include non-credit courses (i.e. CPM). An active letter writing campaign and constant pressure by Council and the Staff Affairs committee may be successful.
• Staff handbook – Staff Affairs has put together a strategy for creating an electronic table of contents to use as a starting point in discussions with UAF HR in the fall.
• Internal recruitments – There has been no activity on this issue since the departure of Liam Forbes, long-time chair of Staff Affairs early in the academic year.
• Mediation program – Council's president-elect has made implementing the mediation program a priority for the Chancellor’s Campus Diversity Action Committee.
• HR redesign – Council's president-elect is a member of the HR Redesign Senior Advisory Group and has kept Council informed of the redesign activities.
• Performance based budgeting – There has been no activity on this issue.
• Political Action Committee – the Advocacy committee has recently been re-activated and is charged with researching the development of this group.
• Childcare – Council's president-elect is a member of the Bunnell House Advisory Group and has kept Council informed of their activities. Council passed a resolution supporting finding the funding to keep the Bunnell House open during the summer.
• Online elections – There has been no activity on this issue.
• Bureaucracy busting – There has been no activity on this issue.
• Master calendar – There has been no activity on this issue.
• Fair process – Efforts on implementing the mediation program will have an impact on this issue.


• Staff training – Council was instrumental in the acquisition of the SkillSoft license that makes online training available to all UA staff.
• Tuition waivers – Revisions to the tuition waiver policy that would include non-credit supervisory courses are close to being approved.
• Staff handbook – HR now distributes a CD with benefits information and other forms to new hires.
• Childcare – Governance succeeded in convincing the Chancellor to support the Bunnell House allowing it to stay open thru the summer. We were also able to get the Chancellor to recognize the need for more childcare on campus. The Governance Coordinating Committee passed a motion that the Chancellor subsequently approved, requesting that a childcare task force be created. This is now a transition team topic for the incoming Interim Chancellor.

In the UAF 2010 Strategic Plan, Strategic Pathway VI - Faculty and Staff Development states: The university is dedicated to recruiting, developing, retaining and recognition of a diverse faculty and staff who will carry out our mission of excellence in teaching, research and service.

• Increase the representation and retention of women and minorities in staff and faculty positions
• Increase recognition of staff and faculty excellence
• Increase staff development activities
• Increase assistance to new faculty in areas such as establishing research programs and pedagogy
• Improve measures for evaluating faculty and staff performance

Remaining and Recent Concerns:

We believe the concerns listed below will define the university's success in meeting the goals stated above.

• Staff training – While the university now has SkillSoft online training available for staff HR has cut its full-time training staffer at UAF to part-time. This will likely reduce the number of trainings unique to UAF available to staff.
• Staff handbook – Council was not aware of Statewide HR's intent to distribute a benefits CD to new hires and therefore had no input as to the content of the CD. The CD does not entirely meet the need for a staff handbook but is a good beginning from which we can work. Note that the handbook is a recommendation of an accreditation review of the university. And Council remains concerned that, without a staff handbook the university does not meet its EEO rights information distribution requirements.
• Internal recruitments - This policy has apparently been an informal one and inconsistently followed but would certainly demonstrate the administration's commitment to developing and rewarding staff.
• Mediation program – The implementation of this program is necessary for fair and consistent treatment of staff and would demonstrate the administration's interest in retaining staff.
• HR redesign – This project is taking a significant amount of time resulting in low staff morale and high turnover.
• Political Action Committee – Organizing this committee is necessary to effectively work with legislators.
• Childcare – The dearth of childcare on or near the UAF campus is a serious concern for faculty, staff and students. It is important that Council keep up the pressure until the Childcare Task Force is created. Council also hopes to have staff representation on the task force.
• Online elections – Online elections will provide greater efficiency and participation in council's elections.
• Job Family Reclassification – A market analysis was to be done at the completion of this project. Statewide has stated that funding for the analysis was requested but could not say whether or not it had been approved. They also stated that a compensation advisory group that will include governance will be put together early this summer. Council's officers will watch for this.
• Healthcare costs – Council recognizes that the cost of healthcare is rising. The concerns on this issue are how quickly the university will pass the increases to staff and how our premium dollars are being spent (i.e., WIN for Alaska).
• Step Increases – As a result of the last legislative session, President Hamilton suspended step increases for UA staff for FY09 and the grid was adjusted to include a step increase and COLA. Staff are concerned about how the university intends to seek funding for step increases in the future and how long the suspension will be in effect.

Monday, March 3, 2008

UPDATE - Hearing March 6th 3 pm on competing Bill to Students' Merit Aid Bill

A competing bill to our student led effort for a scholarship program (see blog item below) has been granted for Thursday, March 6th at 3:00pm. This bill HB 384 seeks to create a merit based scholarship task force.

We need your help. The students in Alaska need you stand up for them and say "enough!"

The creation of a task force is unnecessary and only delays necessary action.

Highly respected education organizations have already done the research.
They have found that:
• A 2007 report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers
found that a $1,000 difference in the price of college may impact college enrollment for the most financially needy students by as much as nine percent.
• A 2007 Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education report
determined that for every $160 in increased tuition, low income enrollments dropped by .5 percent in four year, public institutions and by
2.3 percent in community colleges.
• An internal University survey found that the number two reason why
students dropped out was because of financial reasons.

Furthermore, the state’s high school graduation rates are among the lowest in the country. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that Alaska ranks 42nd in high school graduation rates at 60.7%. More students will be encouraged to graduate by providing the promise of a postsecondary education. Most student want to move on to postsecondary education but do not think it is within their means and so do not strive to achieve.

It has been shown that the rising cost of an education is changing the perception of affordability among our elementary and middle school students and their parents. It is at these ages that students and their family decide whether their future holds a college education.

For students approaching their high school graduation, the cost of a postsecondary education is the most important topic discussed by the student and the family. It is unfortunate that students do not move on to higher learning because of the cost.

The research has already been done. We have consulted ACPE, relevant research groups, and state legislators. We cannot delay another year.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Support Students on Alaska Achievers Incentive Program

With the lead of ASUAF president, Jake Hamberg, University of Alaska student leaders have brought their Alaska Achievers Incentive Program (needs based/merit-based scholarship program) to the Alaska legislature. The following bills have been introduced by Guttenberg, Kawasaki, and Nelson (HB 397) and Guttenberg and Nelson (HB 403).

Make sure to thank Guttenberg, Kawasaki, and Nelson for supporting our students with this much needed legislation (use personal email, of course).

And, please do what you can to support our students in their initiatives to secure needs and merit based scholarships!

Contact legislators (via phone calls, letters, and/or personal email) to urge positive action on this postsecondary scholarship grant program. And, spread the word around the state. Encourage friends and family to support our current and future students, which, of course, enhances Alaska's future!

Full versions of the proposed bills are available from the links below.

HB 397

HB 403

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tell the Governor What to Do with the Oil Revenue Surplus

Governor Palin has asked Alaskans to voice their opinion on how the state should allocate a potential budget surplus of $1.2 billion.

What a great opportunity for University of Alaska supporters to get their message to the Governor!

This is a really fast and easy survey to take - the question asks: How should the state spend its potential budget surplus? There are various choices, including 'education and workforce development', but it doesn't go as far to say 'higher education'. However, there is an opportunity at the end to voice your opinion in the text box at the bottom of the questionnaire.

This is a perfect opportunity to ask for the Governor's support of the University of Alaska.

Please note: the deadline for comments is December 3rd.

Feel free to share this information with any UA supporters out there. The more input the governor receives before she presents her operating budget on December 15th, the better!

The URL to the Governor's questionnaire is:


You can also access the survey from the Governor's home page at:

http://www.alaska.gov or http://www.gov.state.ak.us/

Thank you for everything that you do to support the University of Alaska. Your voice and your actions do make a difference!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Feedback on SkillSoft Online Training Needed BEFORE Friday Nov. 16th

University of Alaska employees have approximately three (3) more weeks to take advantage of numerous free online courses, books, job aids and test preparatory exams offered by SkillSoft Corp. The online training materials are being reviewed during a three-month pilot that ends November 30, 2007. Your input on the content and delivery method is important in assessing the near-term future of employee e-learning options.

Please complete the following survey, whether or not you’ve used SkillSoft training material. Your response and input before Friday, November 16, 2007 is critical in gathering opinions on e-learning and this particular option for University employees. The survey should take about 15-20 minutes to complete, depending on the extent of your answers.

During the pilot (August 30 – November 30, 2007) University of Alaska employees have access to a wide range of SkillSoft’s offerings which include business skills courses and books, desktop courses and books (e.g. Microsoft Office applications), IT certification courses and books, workplace legal compliance courses and books, environmental health and safety and transportation courses. There are also test preparatory exams, job aids, simulations and online mentoring available in some of the above categories. The online materials provide you an opportunity to pursue new interests or to increase job skills at no charge to you or your department. If it is appropriate to speak with your supervisor if using work time because supervisors were asked to properly schedule work and minimize disruption to the service we provide to internal and external customers. We requested that non-exempt (overtime eligible) employees obtain approval from their supervisor before viewing courses during the work day. In general, you would schedule your “attendance” at an online course in a similar manner as you would with other training.

The online training provides University employees with access to training material and flexibility based upon the employee’s and/or University’s schedule. Online training options, such as those offered by SkillSoft, are being looked at to possibly supplement current employee development programs at various campuses. The online training is not intended to replace instructor-led sessions or University courses available to employees. Employees may still request and use tuition waivers when authorized. If you’re not sure what the SkillSoft online training is about, two articles can be found in the Statewide Voice Archives, in August and October, 2007. One article is attached: http://www.alaska.edu/opa/voice/index.xml?StoryID=302 and may provide helpful information.

Sections of SkillSoft’s catalog are posted at the Statewide HR Website http://www.alaska.edu/hr/training/e-learning/skillsoft.xml. Currently 380 University employees have logged into SkillSoft’s online training & development program. You may continue to log in from the Statewide HR website http://www.alaska.edu/hr/training/e-learning/skillsoft.xml or through the MyUA portal http://myua.alaska.edu/cp/home/loginf. The login requires the UA ID number or the UA user name and the AuthServ or MyUA portal password. If you do not know your user name or password, follow the directions on the Statewide HR e-learning webpage or contact your local helpdesk.

NOTE: In accordance with wage and hour and overtime pay regulations, supervisors are asked to schedule job-related training for non-exempt (overtime eligible) employees during regular work hours when at all possible. If you and your supervisor have identified job-related training and your supervisor approves your request to work on a job-related course outside normal work hours, the permission and amount of time granted should be clear to both you and your supervisor. However, if you (as a non-exempt and overtime eligible employee) initiate and voluntarily choose to view any courses during non-work hours, it is not compensable time. If you choose to access these courses on your personal time, it is your own choice and not paid time.

If you have any questions about the pilot or the survey, please contact Anne Sakumoto at Anne.Sakumoto@alaska.edu

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Send a Postcard to Governor Palin

Improve UA’s Budget: Send a Postcard to Governor Palin

With oil prices still high and a proposed increase in oil taxes that could add as much as $700 million in state revenue, now is the time to seek a funding increase for the University. Any increase to the budget begins with the Governor. The Governor’s budget proposal sets the parameters on what the University can ultimately expect to receive from the legislature. Experience has shown that if a budget item is not in the Governor’s operating budget, it is unlikely that it will be funded.

Help Governor Palin become a friend of the University

Governor Palin ran on a campaign pledge to increase spending for K-12 education. The time has come to help her understand the importance of increasing the university’s budget as well. Now is the time to explain why adequate funding is needed for UA to respond to the needs of Alaska and how the University can affect the economic development of the state.

There is a strong case for increased University funding

• UA has experienced unprecedented enrollment growth and record graduation rates.
• The Alaska Scholars program is attracting the top high school graduates.
• UA is expanding its programs in nursing, engineering, psychology, and social work to meet the state’s needs.
• In spite of our recent successes, there are serious shortfalls and unmet needs at UA including the need for more full-time faculty, improved facilities, and additional buildings to improve programs.

Here’s how you can help UA

This is the time to urge Governor Palin to include in her budget request additional funding for the University. The UAA Faculty and Staff Association is coordinating a campaign to contact the Governor’s Office with postcards in support of an increase in the University budget. We've been invited to join in. If you wish to participate, please send an email with your mailing address to Steve Rollins at uaafac@alaska.net . They will send you a stamped postcard addressed to the Governor. They will also provide suggestions about the current issues. Please join in this important effort.