October 12 meeting overview:
The Statewide Administration Assembly last held its monthly meeting on Oct. 12. The folowing is an overview of the meeting. If you have any questions please contact SAA president Monique Musick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAA President’s Report
On Oct. 10, SAA President Monique Musick attended the System Governance Council’s President’s Retreat. The System Governance Council consists of faculty, staff, student, and alumni representatives from governance groups throughout the University of Alaska system. Each representative brought forward the concerns and annual goals of his or her group. A common goal amongst all groups was a need to improve academic advising in the university system. UA executives, including Carla Beam, Chris Christensen, Donald Smith, Michelle Rizk and Patrick Gamble, presented overviews and outlooks for the next year. President Gamble discussed the strategic direction planning process, his goals, the policy review and other issues brought forward by the group. Gamble did state in the retreat that he would like to see more staff development. This is an area that he would like to see stronger in the future.
Staff Alliance met Oct.11. Chair Juella Sparks focused on 4 time-sensitive issues: FY13 staff compensation increase; tuition benefit changes; FY13 health plan changes including the tobacco surcharge; and the policy review process. Sparks received a memo from President Gamble in support of a 3.5% increase for staff compensation in FY13. The proposed budget will go to the Board of Regents for approval in November. No changes except the tobacco surcharge will affect the health plan in 2012, however employee contributions are expected to increase. Sparks asked each governance leader to report back their group’s feelings towards the tobacco surcharge. Staff Alliance is going on the record as being opposed to the surcharge, and wants to verify that truly represents the feelings of staff in the system. Sparks believes the surcharge sets a bad tone in the workplace. Regarding the policy review, Monique Musick will create a Google form that will compile information so that it can then be passed on to the President. Once the form is designed it will be sent out by all governance groups. Questions arose regarding representation on some committees now that Joe Trubacz is leaving. With his departure the Business Council will be ceasing, and the future of ITEC is unclear.
Musick had a private meeting with President Gamble on Sept. 30 to discuss matters of concern to SAA. They discussed the Longevity awards and are planning to hold the awards next spring. Musick asked for more information regarding governance involvement in policy review. Gamble agreed to share the list of administrators assigned to specific policy sections. Compensation was an important topic. Gamble said he found the Staff Alliance request for 3.5% to be reasonable, and he included that figure in the budget going to the BOR. Musick requested that governance leaders have an opportunity to get involved in the compensation conversation earlier in the budget process and thus avoid the late season reaction, BOR testimony and other responses common in recent years. By informing staff earlier about the upcoming year’s changes, a last minute reaction can be avoided. They also discussed communications channels between governance and the president, and internal communications challenges including sign holders and possibly new bulletin boards in the Butrovich building. Employees are reminded that taping fliers to walls and windows is restricted, and all efforts should be made to keep postings neat and professional.
Stay on TRACK
Cathy Ewing and Saichi Oba of Student and Enrollment Services spoke about the new “Stay on TRACK” program. The program’s goal is to encourage new full-time students to complete their bachelor’s within four years by taking at least 15 credits a semester and making other conscious choices to complete their degree program. For each additional year above four-years a student increases their debt load by $10,000. Presently eleven percent of UA students graduate in four years. Saichi noted that there was a decline in graduating in four years after the consolidated tuition model was discontinued. There is ongoing discussion on reinstating that, though there are complications and some resistance across the system. At this time there is no proposal to implement the consolidated model. This program is geared for first-time, full-time, degree seeking students. The question was asked how staff can help with the program. Saichi noted that staff has more interaction with students than faculty actually has. That is why it is important that we are aware how critical our role is in retaining students. Good interactions with staff show students that the university cares about them.
Non-Union Staff Salary Increases for FY13
Staff Alliance received a memo from President Gamble in support of the 3.5% increase for staff compensation in FY13. The Board of Regents will be voting on the budget Nov. 2. It then goes to the governor for consideration. The governor submits his budget to the Legislature by Dec. 15. Last year the place holder was split in two: the grid increase in July and a mid-term raise in January. The question was asked if they might happen again. Answer: no one knows. The legislature is not supportive of “step increases.” Many staff members feel that longevity should be rewarded by movement up the grid. Governance leaders have requested greater involvement in the process of determining staff compensation figures in the future.
Performance Evaluation Update
Tara Ferguson will report back with a timeline on when the performance evaluation will be presented to the President for approval. With that information she can determine the deadline for final feedback.
The update from the Joint Health Care Committee is that the tobacco surcharge is the only health plan change that will be going into effect next fiscal year. Annually at open enrollment everyone on the health plan will need to indicate that they, and any dependents on the plan, are either non-tobacco users; that they have been tobacco free for at least six month (that would be from Nov. 1 of this year); or that they are currently enrolled in a tobacco cessation program. For more information please contact the HR office. Staff contributions to the health plan have not yet been determined for FY13 but we expect to know what our costs will be by March or April. Out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles will not be increasing.
Future discussion will focus on a Health Care Savings plan, discounts to employees for responsible behavior, and a University sponsored weight management course. A UA Employee Survey addressing the benefit programs is in the works.
Employee Tuition Waivers
Changes to the Employee Tuition Waivers are not a reaction to how the waivers are currently being used, but are a pre-emptive move to satisfy the legislature. Many legislators believe that the employees and dependents using the waiver program prevent paying students from getting into classes and other myths about the benefit. President Gamble suggested to manage the waivers by the Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) plan, which is a federally mandated program for financial aid. SAP’s make financial aid dependent on three components: GPA, percentage of credits completed and earning a degree within 150% of the required credits for the degree. Exceptions to policies are accepted under the current SAP. Discussion is underway as to whether or not a separate SAP should be drafted for the Employee Tuition Waivers or use the standard SAP with exceptions. You can view the proposed changes to the education benefit on HR’s website, http://www.alaska.edu/files/benefits/2011-7-11educationbenefitrevised.pdf.
Monique Musick proposed organizing a panel discussion for the spring about the University of Alaska budget and State of Alaska budget processes. It was decided that SAA would host the event. Further discussion will be held at the next meeting.
The first Holiday potluck for the Butrovich staff has been slated for November 18. Izzy Martinez has graciously accepted to spearhead the event. Signup sheets will be sent out soon.
Musick spoke with Kit Duke and President Gamble regarding the possibility of additional sign holders near the entrances most used by employees. Installing bulletin boards in the stairwells instead of ordering additional window display holders was suggested. Future discussion is needed on how to control content and organization on the board, and time is needed to research types of bulletin boards and possible locations. Requests were sent to the building manager regarding peeling desktop laminate, a downstairs bathroom countertop that needs to be repaired and a mirror that needs replaced on the 1st floor men’s restroom.
Discussion has started again on a building directory of Butrovich after complements were given to Bragaw on their lobby directory.
The next SAA meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 10 a.m. 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 statewide staff.