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.