System Governance

SAA Highlights June 2012

The SAA Highlights provide a brief overview of discussion items from monthly meetings of the Statewide Administration Assembly. SAA often reviews processes and decisions still under development, so discussions at meetings may not reflect the final or official views of the University of Alaska.  Consider these Highlights as informational in nature, not the final word on a subject.

June 13, 2012 meeting overview

Annual Face-to-face Meeting

The Statewide Administration Assembly held their all-day annual meeting on June 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the morning, SAA met with a variety of managers, directors, and executives for an overview of issues that affect Statewide staff. Later in the day was the SAA business meeting, which included officer elections.

New officers for 2012-2013: Monique Musick, President; Dana Platta, Vice President; Heather Arana, Secretary.

All meetings are open to the public, and Statewide workers are encouraged to contact their governance group to address workplace concerns, policies and other matters affecting staff. If you have any questions please contact SAA president Monique Musick at

The next SAA meeting will be Wednesday, July 18, at 10 a.m.

Human Resources – Erika Van Flein and Donald Smith

Erika Van Flein, Director of Benefits, gave an overview of Human Resources activities. Plans are underway establish a health savings account (HSA). The advantage of a health savings account is that it rolls over year-to-year and is transferrable to another company if an employee leaves. It is an alternative to supplementing a health care plan. It would work in conjunction with a second HDHP (high deductible health plan) designed to meet HSA requirements. It wouldn't be available with the existing HDHP or the 750 plan (which would both still be able to use a flexible spending account).

Health care plan changes currently being considered include phasing out the 500 plan and redefining family structure. Less than five percent of the employees are on the 500-plan, discussions are underway to phase out the plan in FY14. Currently, family plans do not differentiate between a family with one child or five. The change would be to charge incrementally on a per-child basis, with a funding increase cap probably at three children (as in employee plus one child, employee plus two children, employee plus three or more children, and the same for family: employee plus spouse plus one, two, or three + children).

UA is the only public organization in Alaska that allows employees to opt out from the company health care plan. That option may be eliminated in FY14. In doing so our pool size will increase, thus lower individual health care costs.

The annual leave cash-in program is being reviewed. President Gamble received notice from outside counsel that the current program may possibly have tax liability issues. The additional cash-in pilot program will not be extended.

Tuition waiver changes are in final review. It was decided that the waivers will not follow the federally mandated SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress). Waiver usage criteria is: 1) available to new employees after a six-month probationary period, 2) credits will increase to eight credits per semester, for a total of 16 credits an academic year, and 3) cumulative GPA for semesters that the employee tuition waiver is used will need to be maintained at 2.0 for undergraduates and 3.0 for graduates.

Donald Smith, Interim Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Director Labor & Employee Relations, addressed the unfair labor practice hearings happening later in the week and upcoming meetings on workers' compensation considerations.

Grounds and Operations – Darrin “Bear” Edson

Bear Edson, UAF Operations Manager gave his annual update on UAF and Butrovich specific construction and development projects. He introduced Lance Cowan, student employee assigned to the West Ridge for grounds keeping. Edson encouraged everyone to seek Cowan if they have a problem and he’ll assist. Every morning he will be at the Butrovich.

The UAF campus is bustling with construction activity. Deferred maintenance construction is slated for the next two summers to fix and replace the utilidor, and replace water and sewage lines across campus. The benefit for West Ridge buildings will be more heat capability and better tasting water.

Edson spoke on the plans for the Butrovich building. There is a landscaping plan being drawn up for Butrovich that will be initiated next summer. The plan consists of wider walkways, low maintenance plants, and fixing the retaining wall. In response to a question on the ice dams that build up in the parking lot, Edson explained that UAF has repaired their steam truck so they can respond faster to clearing ice.

Everyone was in agreement that the wider shoulder on Tanana Loop is a welcome addition to campus. Edson calls it a "shoulder enhancement" and “not a bike path” since functionally it is a wide shoulder and not marked for any specific purpose.

Future plans for the campus include an archery range off Farmer’s Loop Road, heating the bus huts, and making Taku feel more a part of campus by having a road connecting Taku to Tanana Loop near the satellite dishes.

University Relations and UA Foundation – Carla Beam

Carla Beam, President, UA Foundation and Vice President, University Relations, updated SAA on the changing roles in the Public Affairs office. She publicly acknowledged two SAA members—Monique Musick and Izzy Martinez— for their commitment to stepping up to help fill in gaps while Public Affairs Director Kate Ripley is in India and Kate Wattum is interim director.

State Relations is beginning the budget process for FY14. Hopes are high that the next legislative session will be as good as this year’s. Right now though, all eyes are on the changing oil prices. Lower barrel prices mean that the state will have to tap into reserves to meet their financial responsibilities.

After Martha Stewart retired in December 2011, UA contracted with Washington, DC-based firm Patton Boggs to assist with federal relations. New bans on earmarks has changed government relations. The main focus has been on setting the university’s priorities. UA’s priorities have been limited to three tiers: Tier I, increased research and student aid; Tier II, ANSEP; Tier III: Fisheries, Mining, and unmanned aviation research.

UA Foundation is changing its format from a top down unit to working more collaboratively with the MAUs. Beam wants both greater collaboration between campuses and less being directed by Statewide.

UA Strategic Direction Initiative – Chas St. George

Chas St. George, Strategic Direction Coordinator, indicated that content from the listening sessions is being analyzed. Clear themes are emerging from the data: enhancing student advising, increase STEM courses and technology programs, better flow between the MAUs, clearer communication, and improving facilities at the campuses. A seminar with executives, directors and governance leaders is slated for July 23 to discuss the next goals and plans for the Strategic Direction Initiative. 

New Member Orientation

Monique Musick gave a brief overview of the Statewide Administration Assembly handbook, bylaws, constitution and its position within the UA governance structure. She explained the importance of governance within the university system and the rights and rewards of being involved. Also mentioned were volunteer and staff appreciation opportunities SAA is involved with including holiday potlucks, food drives, Adopt-A-Family gifts, Staff Service Awards and more.

Staff Alliance

Staff Alliance drafted a memo to President Gamble regarding proposed changes to the tuition waiver. The memo asks for clarification on how GPA will be weighed; how withdrawals, incompletes, and audited classes will be judged in the waiver; and asking for a one semester grace period to improve GPA before the waiver privilege is revoked. Concerns arose concerning FERPA compliance between dependents and employees.

Staff Make Students Count Awards 2012

Staff Make Students Count Awards were announced at the June Board of Regents meeting. Kate Wattum was selected as the SW awardee.

System Governance Office

It was announced that the Executive Officer position within System Governance will not likely be refilled. It is still being discussed where exactly governance will reside within the UA organization – University Relations or Academic Affairs.

Since the executive officer position will not be refilled there is growing interest in Room 105H, Pat Ivey’s former office. The office is considered prime real estate. System governance would like to keep the room within the department and use it as a governance library. The room already holds many of Pat’s files and history for many governance groups.

Budget Brown Bag

The brown bag is in flux. The purpose of the budget brown bag is to explain the budget process to interested staff. The Budget Office has suggested that the brown bag be held, at the earliest, in August if SAA is still interested in holding it. A straw poll showed that the assembly is still interested.

SAA Highlights

The SAA Highlights now link to Statewide Voice as opposed to being an article in the newsletter. The Highlights are now housed on the SAA website. The move was made to better show the separation between SAA and the Voice, which is a monthly publication for statewide employees created out of the public affairs office.

Election of Officers

By unanimous acclamation, Monique Musick was re-elected SAA president and Heather Arana was elected secretary. A ballot vote elected Dana Platta as vice president for the coming year.

Employee Tuition Waivers

Discussion centered on the memo that Staff Alliance sent to President Gamble, along with the administration of the waiver and FERPA compliance. Concerns arose that the changes will affect how the waiver is viewed as a benefit. Daniel Hostetler suggested a market analysis of the waiver as a benefit.

WIN Program

The WIN program had overwhelming support from staff in favor of keeping the program. Donald Smith’s response to JHCC declining the recommendation to end the WIN program was shared with the group. Staff support for the program was a deciding factor in that decision. However, Smith was concerned that not all UA employees were properly represented in the short survey period.

Health Care Task Force

The Health Care Task Force is now ready to convene. The task force is a temporary work group, whose sole purpose is to look at alternatives to our health-care and wellness plans before the end of August. This group is not a replacement for JHCC, but is helping JHCC with their “homework” of looking at alternatives. Many expressed concern of the effectiveness of the group with such a short timeline. Lisa Sporleder expressed her concern on the information that will be gathered.

Staff Compensation

Staff Alliance was asked to recommend a placeholder number for staff compensation for the FY14 budget. They suggested that 5.5 percent be the placeholder. That was a number they felt comfortable discussing and defending.

Staff Health Care Committee

The May 17th meeting discussed making available prescription history from CareMark. Extra training is needed for the Payroll Personnel Assistants on the health care process changes. SHCC members feel they have less contact with administration by having to report through Staff Alliance, not directly as was standard in the past.

Joint Health Care Committee

Sporleder gave a brief history of the JHCC. While staff employees comprise 2/3 of statewide employees, they have only two representatives on the committee. Each union has three. JHCC’s last meeting was occupied with the discussion of an email to President Gamble from an employee regarding the WIN program and a presentation on high dollar claims. Though the number of high dollar claims has risen, the dollar figure for the claims is lower, thus translating into lower costs. More information on accounting information and consulting results for JHCC can be viewed on the JHCC website,

Butrovich Indoor Sign

Musick received cost and contact information from Erica Kurowski about the building signs in the Bragaw Office Building. A memo is being drafted to request similar signs at Butrovich. The draft will be forwarded to all SAA members for their input.

Butrovich Custodian Service

Jennifer Young questioned a letter being sent to Martin Klein about custodial issues. It was suggested that she be invited to a SAA meeting to help address building and custodial issues.

Butrovich Employee Garden

The Butrovich Employee Garden is planted. Edson was thanked for providing such beautiful plants for the garden. To keep abreast of the gardening development you can visit the gardener’s blog at . It was reminded that there needs to be mutual respect between the gardeners and employees that park in front of the garden walls.

Other Butrovich Building Issues

The approval deadline for electronic timesheets will be changing. Look for notification to come soon.

Linda Hall was notified by an employee that there is need for a dedicated lactation room. Right now there is a storage closet on the second floor that is being used. It is inconvenient to employees that need to use the storage room to complete a job. An alternative that is not a bathroom is needed.

Bylaws and Constitution Review

Musick suggested a change under article II: officers, where it presently states that the President’s responsibilities include “serving on the Staff Alliance and the System Governance Council,” changing to “serving on, or delegating service to, the Staff Alliance and the System Governance Council.” A second reading with this change will be at the next meeting.

The point was brought up that our bylaws and constitution shows that SAA reports to Vice President of University Relations. Since the topic of whom we report to in the future is still up in the air, it was decided to leave this as is until a more formal decision is made. Platta proposed review of this point after the reporting decision is made.

Academic Affairs – Dana Thomas

Dana Thomas, interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, stopped by for introductions and to wrap up the meeting. Thomas stated his belief in the governance system and feels that it is a strong component of the university. A decision on where the governance system will reside within UA in future will come at the earliest this fall.

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