SAA Highlights

June 8 annual meeting overview

The SAA annual meeting brings together outgoing and incoming members from Anchorage and Fairbanks for an all-day session. Special guests representing key areas of administration and departments that affect the work experience for Statewide employees are brought in to make presentations. It is also the time when new officers are elected.

New member orientation:

Outgoing president Lisa Sporleder gave a wonderful overview of the role and purpose of the Statewide Administration Assembly, its position within the UA governance structure, and the actual power to affect subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the workplace. In reviewing the SAA Handbook, the System org chart was reviewed, as was the SAA mission and history. The role of governance groups in advocating was also discussed, especially in terms of the annual meeting of Staff Alliance in Juneau, which traditionally includes a trip to the Capitol to meet with legislators. Members were encouraged to remember to thank legislators for their hard work and to build positive personal relations with their representatives. When you make a good first impression you have a stronger voice if you call about policy concerns later in the session.

Risk Management: Tina Holland

Tina Holland, with Statewide Risk Management, gave an overview of the work of the multiple departments that assess risks and provide services to campuses including risk management, insurance, environmental health and safety, emergency management and claims handling. Each plays a role in reducing workplace risks and injuries, reducing insurance costs, and responding appropriately when things do happen.

A major project currently under way is an Environmental Health Needs Survey (EHNS). Risk Services is working to identify possible hazards and will be developing training to help employees mitigate their risk factors.

In response to a question on ergonomic assessments of workstations, Holland said that the service is available on a time available basis. Workers in Anchorage will need to contact UAA risk services. If there are immediate concerns of discomfort, Risk Services will take action to find solutions. Most workstation modifications are minor and deal primarily with awareness and mitigating stress and strain. Persons under a physician's care may qualify for reimbursement and greater modifications.

Because of the workload associated with the EHNS, CPR re-certification or First Aid training is currently not available. Anyone charged with a first aid kit or AED have already received training. In the future Risk Management can facilitate providing some training. Currently there is not a need to have specific numbers of persons trained in CPR and First Aid because we have EMS services within four minutes.

Individuals who have trained for the C-CERT program, Campus Community Emergency Response Team, do receive some first aid training. For information on the C-CERT program contact Rick Forkel.

Emergency closures

Complications and confusion surrounding the emergency closure during the November rainfall identified problems with mixed standards for emergency closures. Butrovich falls under UAF systems and Bragraw under UAA. The November closure was unique in that both Anchorage and Fairbanks had bad weather conditions on the same days and the closures affected all Statewide workers.

UA is working on alert notification services. UAF currently uses the Nixel alert system and it has been working well. Risk Management is updating contact information and researching alternative notification systems.

Holland provided a handout illustrating the emergency decision tree. Any immediate or future safety threat goes to primary assessment team including emergency management, Chief of Police, etc. Once a risk is deemed serious the notification moves on to second level team including the UA president, chancellors, and other administrative leaders. There are secondary protocols for non-threatening issues.

The bottom line is that on a departmental level you need to make your own decisions for safety. There is no one-size-fits all solution for closures or for identifying critical vs. non-critical employees. That level of determination can be made at the departmental level.

As far as what type of leave to take in the case of an emergency closure, Holland could not respond. Risk Services deals with risks and safety, not HR matters. It is clear however that communications about closures need improvement. Holland recommended that everyone develop emergency action plans within their own departments. Risk Management has resources for creating an emergency action plan.

Facilities Services- Darrin “Bear” Edson

Planting day at UAF was a little disorganized this year. Greenhouse space is limited while the new facilities are being built. Facilities is sharing their current space with research projects from UAF. Things are pretty tight and not as prolific as years past. Former custodial manager Paula Dodson is the new greenhouse manager. She met with Lisa Sporleder about the beds out front of the Butrovich and it does look like the employee gardens will happen this year.

Several construction projects will impact staff in the Butrovich building. Installation of a sewerline for the new Life Sciences Building will close off the eastern parking lot and the intersection by the museum.

The retaining wall will not be replaced this year. It has turned out to be a much bigger problem than anticipated and is still in the design phase this summer.

The parking lot beside Arctic Health will be redone this summer, which will probably mean a lot more cars in the Butrovich lot while they are working.

The upper part of the Tanana Loop road will probably be open to traffic around the opening of the Life Sciences Building, providing an alternate north access road to upper campus.

This summer Facilities Services will put a flowerbed in front of the Phil Rounds memorial bench west of the parking lot. The plaque has been ready for quite some time, and the plaque holder is almost finished.

Upgrades to the parking lot including crack filling and striping will be done later this summer.

President Gamble asked for a full review of curbs, sidewalks and stairs on campus. Crews are reviewing all surfaces for wear, appearance and safety concerns. One plan is to move to more sweeping to minimize scraper damage to curbs and sidewalks.

Shoulder improvements around Yukon Drive are also slated to happen this summer. A wider shoulder will provide more safety for bikers and pedestrians.

Another summer project currently under way is the building of a new snowboard park on the hill just east of the Butrovich. Plans include a couple 20 ft. jumps and ramps. There have been discussions with Risk Management and EMS services about medical access in the case of injury.

Human Resources- Beth Behner and Mike Humphrey

Mike Humphrey recently attended a conference on health, wellness and productivity. The bad news is that national health reform really did nothing for us in the short term. It did not help costs, quality of care, demand or number of providers. UA is still faced with some daunting challenges. There isn’t much that UA can do to manage costs. The high claims cost group drives up overall plan costs.

One area that HR really wants to focus on improving is communication. They are committed to providing more personal contact, open forums and other communications in the future.

Dependent audit
The Consova report has been given to HR. About 250 questionables remain in the final group. Many may have to be removed. Consova provided a list of dependents they deemed ineligible. HR will be reviewing the list on a case-by-case basis and making the final determination. HR will contact any employees whose dependents will be affected.

Health care committees
Two staff positions have been added to the Joint Health Care Committee to provide a better balance between unionized and non-unionized staff representation on that committee. The Staff Health Care Committee will continue as well.

Joint Health Care Committee will meet next month to review additional recommendations for plan changes from the Lockton consultants. A possible future decision is to provide discounts for positive wellness choices.

It was suggested that members of the health care committees share their agendas with all governance members so they can better inform their co-workers about current discussions about health plan changes.

Tobacco surcharge
The UAF Staff Council requested that the tobacco surcharge not go in effect. President Gamble will likely not agree. It has already been reviewed and accepted. A delay was approved to allow time for tobacco cessation and to work out the final program details, but it is unlikely the surcharge will be removed. Employee smoking cessation programs will be in place after July 1, free of charge.

Some of the details on the charge that need to be worked out include how to keep the amount equal for monthly and bi-weekly payrolls. Likely an annual sum will be decided upon rather than a per-paycheck amount. Other concerns are about the affect on dual employed households. Enforcement is also a concern.

FSAs and HSAs
One area that employees should be better informed about are flexible spending accounts (FSAs) especially now that deductibles and out of pocket maximums have gone up. Health care groups are also actively discussing HSAs, Health Savings Accounts. Currently a HSA option is receiving a lot of support.

Annual leave cash-in
Staff Alliance asked President Gamble to expand the limits of the annual leave cash in program, and allow employees additional opportunities. The rationale is that in these difficult financial times money is tight for a lot of employees. Gamble proposed a compromise solution. He is supportive of the initiative, and sees the need for helping employees in difficult times, but is concerned about potential negative impacts on departmental budgets. Also, he wants to make sure that employees actually take leave time. Time off is important for individual health, and the health of the university in general. The compromise includes a one-year pilot program approving additional leave cash in under the conditions that actual leave time has already been used. Following the one-year pilot the program will be reviewed and concerns and impacts discussed.

Emergency leave
The topic of emergency closures and the affect on timesheets was brought up again. Beth Behner was asked to address the issue. There were widespread differences in how departments addressed the emergency closure. Administrative leave was given by UAA. Statewide had some discrepancies with some individuals working from home and others taking personal leave. There was no official offer of administrative leave. Administrative leave has a budgetary impact. The only way around this would be to have an official policy.  It was suggested that Staff Alliance take a look at whether a systemwide leave policy is needed.

Employee training- Anne Sakumoto

E-Learning with Skillsoft was recently revamped, and UA entered into a new three-year contract with them as an employee-training provider. Their training courses are available to all university associates. Safety training is also available. Many certifications are available on the site too. Access to those recertification tools can potentially be a great savings to university associates. Even laid off employees retain 12-month access to the online learning resources.

Demonstrations of the new site are included on HR training calendar. If unable to attend training, a quick start guide on the website provides a good overview of the new site.

Other staff training resources include specialized sessions, Wednesday Webinars, ethics training and supervisor training.

Sakumoto asked governance groups to provide input on needed training, assistance with communications, and to provide constructive feedback on training resources and offerings.

Administrative councils- Joe Trubacz

A virtual alphabet soup of councils exist at the administrative level to review policies and review systemwide project priorities and needs. Joe Trubacz provided an overview of some of those councils and their primary functions.

Statewide Executive Group
The SEG was set up during the last financial crisis. It is an executive level working group. One of their primary functions is to review vacancies to determine appropriate levels of replacement or reassignment of duties.

SEG is preparing for the upcoming strategic planning process and is developing a mission statement for statewide.

SEG is also reviewing movements within the Butrovich. Risk Management is replacing ARSC. Development officers will be moving up to the Butrovich. These movements provide an opportunity for review of our building layout and resources, and reduce external leases.

Senior Administrative Leadership Team
SALT consists of Joe Trubacz, the administrative vice chancellors and Beth Behner.  This group was formed out of the Business Council to meet more often and do strategic planning.  SALT meets weekly and coordinate financial systems statewide. The Business Council continues to exist for communications purposes and meets once a month.

Business Council
The business council largely represents an information sharing function, with reporting from all MAUs to statewide administration. Staff Alliance has a non-voting seat on the Business Council

Information Technology Executive Committee
ITEC oversees major automation projects such as web time entry.  A pilot web time entry project is scheduled for August for non-exempt staff, November for exempt staff and February for Faculty.  ITEC also oversees the Project Management Team (PMT), which oversees projects and the CIO Management Team (CMT), which defines IT policy.

Another team has been established called FIIT or Finance Information and Integration Team to obtain input from the MAUs in the Finance automation area.  A similar team is being considered for HR called the HR Information and Integration Team or HRIIT.

Right now, Karl Kowalski is serving as interim Chief Information Technology Officer.  The decision as to whether or not to hire a permanent replacement for Steve Smith is up to President Gamble.

Student Services- Saichi Oba

Saichi Oba reported on employee tuition as financial aid and the Alaska Performance Scholarship.

UA is often criticized about the tuition waiver by legislators. There are misconceptions in Juneau over how the program in administered. Tuition waivers are currently heavily paper driven.  Currently if you fail a course using a tuition waiver, there is no recourse and you can keep taking tuition waivered courses and failing with no impunity. Second, some students use tuition waivers and then get a full scholarship resulting in over awarding financial aid, which means financial aid needs to be returned the financial aid office then has to send back the award.  To streamline the process and avoid this we wondered if we could put the tuition waiver into the automated financial aid program. The SAP policy was re-written this spring to include the use of the employee dependent waiver. At the 50 foot level, it works but in practice, no. Can we put the tuition waiver into the automated financial aid program? At the 50 foot level, it works.  In practice, no. The verification process alone has slowed the process. A solution could be to move dependent verification upfront, possible in Banner. Doing this would minimize the criticism that tuition waivers are a giveaway.  President Gamble supports the idea. Minimum standards and grade criteria would have to be met.  Staff Alliance asked to join the discussions and the president said yes.

This year, the legislature appropriated $6 million for the Alaska Performance Scholarship and $3 million for the AlaskaAdvantage Education Grant. It is vitally important for dependents right out of high school who are going to UA to fill out the FAFSA in order to qualify for the Alaska Performance Scholarship or any other kind of financial aid such as the need-based AlaskaAdvantage Education Grant.  UA stands to get about 90 percent of the APS funds as it does of the AlaskaAdvantage Education Grant funds, most of which goes to nontraditional students.

Oba also reminded staff that they too are an important part of the overall university enrollment picture. In fact, staff are really important, and can affect a student’s decision to stay or not stay. Everyone understands the role of faculty- but for everything else there is staff. Don’t under-estimate your role in keeping the university healthy.

UA Foundation- Mary Rutherford

The UA Foundations accepts all gifts that benefit any school, department or program in the university system. It’s been a good year. Soon the Foundation will receive some large gifts that will fund several endowed chairs.  Alaska is very unique because most gifts come from business and foundations.
UA still needs to grow the individual donor base.

This year's Statewide Staff campaign will focus on percentage of participation rather than a goal fundraising amount. Like last year, the emphasis will be put on helping those funds that have almost reached endowment level reach that goal.  A couple reached the endowment level because of Statewide staff last year.

President Gamble has been very supportive of development. He added a new position for corporate fundraising. Corporations can make a gift to any program or specific use and many qualify for significant tax credit for donating to the university.

The Foundation is working on a long-term integrated advancement plan. An expert is being brought in to facilitate the effort.  The goal is better coordination amongst all the MAU development offices, marketing offices, and statewide leadership.

Mary Rutherford will be leaving the university next month. By leaving, there is a greater potential for flexibility in the organizational structure, which will help the goals of the integrated advancement plan.

Legislative recap- Wendy Redman

Although the legislative session was a little trying this year, everything worked out good for the university in the end. Budget reductions and limits are a priority. Currently the state is spending at levels greater than income- out of pretty massive savings- but it’s not sustainable at this rate. As a result fixed costs were received well, but increases, especially for salaries and benefits, were not.

Legislators really expect the President and Board of Regents to be in charge, and want to hear from them specifically. They desire a strong central hand. It is actually not beneficial to have staff, faculty etc. going to Juneau to advocate independently. The most influential UA supporters with the legislature are business leaders, alumni and students. Staff can play a more pivotal role in getting the word out, letters to legislators, letters to the editor and working in legislators’ districts.

Things get really tense when you have to cut budgets. Tightening up on the tuition waiver program will stop a lot of legislative complaints. Deferred maintenance continues to be a top priority for the university and it received full funding as well as additional receipt authority.

This year the full House Finance Committee acted as the university “subcommittee.” Redman and Michelle Rizk met with the full House Finance Committee twice a week for five weeks looking at all aspects of the university. They believe this was very beneficial.

UA will have a new State Relations director next year. Chris Christensen is being hired from the court system to be state relations director. He has a lot of knowledge about state government, but not about the university.

The move from 60-40 state to university funding to a 50-50 split will mean big budget cuts for UA departments. Currently there is much evaluation of cost cutting/containing/shifting efforts, and we are making progress towards the new formula.

The legislature read the Fisher Report with great interest and clearly sees President Gamble as the man in charge. They like that he is seeking improvement, not expansion, and appreciate that he is numbers driven.

Some legislation was passed that affects the university. There was a bill for removing a regent and the tax credit was extended.

The governor’s higher education task force is working hard to set priorities for education goals, and improve schools, retention and performance. They do recognize that the University’s challenge is in part that many students are arriving underprepared.

Retirement Announcements

Mary Rutherford, Martha Stewart and Wendy Redman are all retiring soon.

Staff Recognition

Staff Make Students Count
The Staff Make Students Count awards were handed out at the June Board of Regents' meeting. There were a really good number of nominations this year.

Statewide Outstanding Employee and Department Awards
The Awards Committee drafted criteria and a nomination form for the annual recognition awards. Wendy Redman has approved the new forms. A few minor changes are still required to receive President Gamble’s approval. The sticking point with recognition of OIT personnel will be cleared up with a Bylaw change. President Gamble will meet with the group at the July meeting

Bylaw Change

In order to make our Bylaws in accord with our award criteria, changes were necessary to clarify SAA reporting lines and to clarify that all employees whose personnel records reside within the Statewide Office of Human Resources are statewide employees.

Election of officers

By unanimous vote, Monique Musick was elected SAA President, Erica Kurowski was elected Vice President and Dory Strait was elected Secretary.

Improve communication

In an extended effort to improve communication from governance group members to their co-workers, some new steps will be taken. Announcements of meetings will include what will be discussed. Additional post-meeting announcements will follow up with what happened. SAA Highlights will continue to be included in the Statewide Voice as well. All members are encouraged to share what they learned during meetings with their co-workers too.

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