October meeting with the Trustees

Categories: Agendas, Trustees

It’s not even August, but we’re already formulating our agenda for our meeting in October with a committee of the Board of Trustees. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far. Please let us know if you have additional concerns!
1. “The New Normal”: the number of staff has been reduced, “things not to do” are (sometimes) identified, but then some months later they get put back on the “to do” list. Many staff members feel that expectations have not been lowered even though the administration has said they should be. (We have specific examples from across campus.)
2. Committees (the Benefits Advisory Committee and the SRC’s Wage and Salary Committee) that were established in the last couple of years to participate in policy discussions related to compensation and benefits are either no longer convened or have been reduced to a role of “approving” policies established without their participation. MCSC feels it is appropriate that we have a more active role in these important policy discussions.
3. Is the previously stated target of 850 staff still a valid number given a) no apparent decrease in expectations of services (see item number 1) and b) improved budget forecasts?
4. Staff morale is very low for a number of reasons:

    Staff numbers have decreased but expectations and requirements for their work have not (see item number 1).

    Units that have lost the most staff are also the units who have had to relocate to smaller, less functional office space, or they are the ones performing the moves (Facilities Services). Further, the compressed timeframes required for these moves (in order to bring dorm space online for Fall) made it logistically overwhelming for Facilities and also difficult or impossible to modify the new spaces to function appropriately. Yet the staff affected by these moves are still trying to meet the same level of service that was expected of them three years ago.

    The ERPs and VSP has not only resulted in the loss of valuable institutional memory that affects work units and the college as a whole, but also the loss of long-time colleagues who have become close friends over the years makes many of the work environments on campus less congenial than they were a year or so ago.

    Minimal, flat raise levels over the last two years, while economically understandable, have coincided with the most stressful times for employees. This has further lowered morale.

4 Responses to October meeting with the Trustees

  1. Tim Spears says:

    This blog is a great idea, and I hope it encourages discussion of the issues mentioned above and any other items that staff members or Staff Council brings forward.

    As for the concerns that Arabella describes, I’d like to weigh in as chair of SRC.

    Both the SRC and President’s Staff are aware that there is more work to do on the so-called “not to do” lists. Vice Presidents and Deans need to speak frankly with managers and supervisors about prioritizing their workloads and backing away from less important tasks/functions, especially if there are fewer staff members to do the work. However, we also know that these conversations cannot take place in a vacuum since–as Sue points out–what one dept does or doesn’t do affects other areas at the College. VPs/Deans need to speak to each other about their respective missions and vet their “not to do lists” with one another. To help move these discussions along, SRC is circulating a questionnaire for VPs and managers to complete, which asks all depts to describe what they are not doing, or doing differently, in the context of current staffing resources. It also asks depts to explain the process they used to revise their work practices, if they have made changes. The surveys are due at the end of August, and SRC will devote much of its energy in the early fall to reviewing them, so that VPs/Deans can use the info to follow up with managers and department heads and clarify expectations.

    The survey is also designed to follow up on the staffing analysis of last summer and the voluntary separation programs. We need to see exactly where we are with regard to staffing and, as we said we would at several open meetings in the last couple years, develop processes for moving staff from one part of the College to another. This is challenging work, but with the ERP/VSP departures winding down, this is a good time to move forward with it, and SRC will be focusing on this project in the fall. The ideal FTE count of 850 (mentioned above), which the SRC recommended last fall, is not set in stone, as some areas may grow to meet institutional needs (for instance, revenue-generating programs like Study Abroad). But we feel it is a reasonable benchmark to keep in front of us since the larger economic pressures that brought us to this point are not likely to go away (plus, our plans for resolving projected budget deficits assume this reduced FTE count), and, as the president has reminded us many times, the three sources of revenue the College counts on each year for its budget–comp fee, endowment income, and gifts–will be constrained for the foreseeable future, no matter how much the economy recovers.

    Finally, with the help of Human Resources, SRC is developing a proposal that addresses the way in which we grant salary increases. The proposal will include several options and will be vetted with members of the Wage and Salary Committee, and then presented to the staff as a whole for discussion.

    I, and my administrative colleagues, welcome and invite specific questions both about my response here and any other issues out there.

  2. Arabella Holzapfel says:

    Thank you very much for your comment, Sue!

    I also want to point out that these are not all “my” comments. I posted them because I’m a Co-Secretary and I took the notes at the meeting. While I certainly agree that all the points are areas of concern, I didn’t come up with them myself – they came from all the members of Staff Council.

    Thank you for reading and for posting!

  3. Susan Levine says:

    I agree with all of Arabella’s comments. Another example of increased expectations with reduced staff (especially for those of us doing on campus events) is the loss of our Dining Events staff. Having to work with outside caterers (often several for large events) takes a great deal more time, is more work, and has added to our level of stress as the results are often unpredictable.

    • Valerie Costello says:

      I think the decrease in catering has greatly affected campus events. Using outside “approved” vendors is costly, and as Sue mentions, takes quite a bit of time to organize, adding to the stress levels. Just when you think certain details have all been worked out, getting that final detail arranged can send you back to the drawing board.

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