Staff Council Minutes 2001-2002

Staff Council Retreat 11-13-01

Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. Willits-Hallowell Center
Topics for discussion

Role of Staff Council
    •     Do we make a difference?  Do we have a strong voice?
    •     Does the administration see us as a bridge to the staff community?
    •     What motivates people to be on the Staff Council?
Good Workplace/Environment
    •     We have an excellent place to work, compared with others, but it is uneven throughout the campus
    •     Good wages
    •     Benefits (breaks, dental plan)
    •     Safe comfortable environment. (air quality, cleanliness, heat/cooling - especially in the older buildings 
    •     Need for Staff Area  rest area
    •     As technology expands, creating the desire for improved services, staffing must keep up.  Not rely on current numbers to be overextended, at expense of personal time
    •     More students are admitted, but staffing/services does not increase
    •     Tremendous difference in types of positions and workload around campus; independent vs. highly supervised
Performance Appraisal
    •      Great need for standard, mandatory performance evaluations.
    •      Staff appreciation
    •      Manager accountability
    •      Staff appraisals/conversations  both good and bad performance reviews
    •      Mentoring
    •      Freedom to express thoughts without retribution
    •      Creative Freedom
Sense of Community
    •      Ability to attend work related workshops (TIAA-CREF), meetings
    •      Community outreach activities
    •      Social gatherings
    •      Effort needed to rid campus of classicism it is improving, but more is needed.
    •      Staff are people too!
    •      Winterfest

Town Meetings Nov. 2001

Three town meetings were held in November.  The invited guest was Lauren Turner, Director of Human Resources.

The following are the notes taken during those meetings:
    •     Tuesday Nov. 27, 2001
    •     Wednesday Nov. 28, 2001
    •     Thursday Nov. 29, 2001

Town Meeting, Tuesday, November 27, 2001

New York room
9 10 a.m.
Introduction by Li-Ling Waller, outlining the purpose of the meetings, the work of the Staff Council, and future plans that are under consideration.

Lauren Turner
Now that Plan 2003 is almost completed, we have Plan 2010:  the new plan for the direction of the college.  The President has convened committees including faculty, students and staff, covering all academic and administrative aspects of the college, to meet and formulate Plan 2010.

The President will be on leave in the spring of 2002, leaving the college in the capable hands of Beverly Tatum and Don OShea.

Student admission rates are excellent, and last year the College came in under budget.  This year there may be a shortfall due to the number of students who have elected to study abroad during their junior year.  Study abroad has been encouraged, and to this end, the program is being very successful.

What is the Human Resources Department doing for the Colleges employees?

1) Benefits progress in Health Care and beginning to consider the possibility of Dental.

2) Performance Management Program.  Need to be more focused on this issue.  There is no consistency across campus with regard to performance appraisal, and staff needs to have feedback.

3) Environment, community and communication.  Everyone is so busy in their job, but there is a need to sit back and reflect on ones place in the community, and how it affects your attitude and performance.  Need more opportunity to network among staff.  Social events.

Meeting was then turned over to the floor for questions, comments, suggestions.

* Is there any progress yet on the question of tuition benefits for the children of retirees, and the opportunity for retirees to take classes.

No outcome on this proposal yet, it is still under consideration by the Administration.

*Other benefits for long-term employment retirees are: health insurance, e-mail, Library privileges, use ofKendall facilities with purchase of patron card, parking decal, tickets for performances atKendall and Rooke Theatre, Willits-Hallowell membership, and participation in Remillard Group insurance.

*Mention was made that the new Staff Handbook is available to everyone on the web

*In the yearly letter that is sent to each staff member outlining conditions of service, salary, and benefits, it would be useful to have accrued leave included.

*Education benefits for employees are classes at UMass available.  Tuition reimbursement.

*Appreciation was voiced for the new tennis courts parking lot.

*Appreciation was voiced also for the Employee Assistance Program, and the fact that the college is possibly starting to consider a dental plan.

*Questions were raised about the closing/non-closing policy of the College over the Christmas break.  A survey was carried out, and the feedback was conflicting.  There is probably going to be more consideration of this.

*Age requirement for retirement plan 21.

*Question raised about supervisors reviewing employees, but no input from employees when supervisors are reviewed. Some departments are doing this informally, some formally but it is not formalized institution-wide.  One drawback fear about feedback.

*Snow days/early closings.  No changes in policy.  Use the inclement weather phone ext. 2330 to find out the latest about closings, late openings, or early dismissal.  Calling list is being revised and update.  Watch mhc.announce.

*Mountain Day.  Are student workers obligated to work?  No hard and fast rule. Early calls to staff who have to alert faculty coming from a distance seem to have disappeared.  Need for everyone to check Ext. 2330 around the time that Mountain Day is anticipated.

*Why are offices not allowed to close for Winterfest?   The inconsistency in this precludes the idea of Winterfest to get everyone together to celebrate.  Needs to be re-evaluated.

*There is now an MHC bus which can be reserved for use.

*Reluctance of some staff to attend advertised student events.  Not sure if welcome.

*Plan to institute a quarterly newsletter and a social committee for staff outings.

*Where do people get their information?  CSJ, mhc.announce, from friends, e-mail, web pages.

*Dining Services did not receive notification of the meeting

*It was announced that next week is National Drunk Driving week, and red ribbons are being distributed to all cars in the parking lots to remind people to not drink and drive.

The meeting ended withYvonne Nicholson thanking people for attending, and pointing out that this was pilot program to foster better communication among the staff, a program that we hope to continue.  She urged people to get in touch with Staff Council over any issues or suggestions, or comments that they have.


Town Meeting, Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Gamble Auditorium
11:30 1 p.m.
Introduction by Yvonne Nicholson, followed by introductory remarks by Lauren Turner; the same as previous meeting

Meeting then turned over to the floor for questions, comments, suggestions.

*Why are academic year employees not able to be paid over a twelve month period?  Hourly paid employees governed by state and federal wage laws, according to actual time working during the year.  Originally academic year employees were billed for benefit deductions over the summer, when they were not being paid, but now these deductions are calculated over nine months.

*How many years to be in position to reach maximum of salary grade level? Mid-range is market standard; ideally try to move people through the grade range to midpoint.  HR is constantly reviewing and surveying the market to remain competitive.  Reclassifying of positions where necessary and indicated.  Employee is notified by letter of any changes to grade level, other than a normal yearly adjustment.

*Dental.  HR is investigating if there is a way by collaborating with other schools to create an advantage for dental coverage.  Even if a solution is found, it is still a matter of budget.  Dental coverage is a cost sharing program rather than insurance.

*Any way that health insurance would cover a twice-yearly cleaning?

*Flex spending a good avenue to cover out of pocket medical expenses.  Open enrollment until Nov. 30.

*Offices around campus are not clearly marked.  This is compounded by all the construction that is currently being done.  But it is difficult for people new to the campus.  Also offices of Facilities Management and Campus Police are tightly stretched.

*Use of Kendall.  There is a desire for Kendall to be a resource for everyone, but the hours are limited, and therefore it is not easy to take advantage of this great resource.

    •      Notices of changes in parking, and restrictions to parking very late in being communicated.  Construction company does not always let MHC know its schedule far enough in advance.  Reminder that the Blanchard lot is only temporary during all the construction.
    •      Lack of communication to affected departments when a lot is being closed because of an event.  Need to consult the events calendar to be aware of conflicts.
    •      Need for snow policy to be very clear this winter because of all the construction.

*Campus Police
    •       Inconsistencies in safety issues locking doors, leaving others open.
    •       Student cars in faculty/staff spaces.  Not enforcing regulations when notified of these infractions.  Student guest parking.  Some unfair and irrational ticketing when parking lots are closed.

*Brown bag networking lunches.  This is an effort to bring people together in common interest groups.

*Winterfest.  Emphasis is on people being able to mingle and enjoy each others company.  A minimum of formality.  Again the question of being able to close all offices so that all staff can attend at the same time.

*Where do people get their information:  personal mailings, mhc.announce, e-mail, CSJ.  It must be remembered that not all people on campus as yet have unlimited access to a computer, nor have the expertise to access the web.  In the future there will be more use of the web for communication.  Check the arts and events calendars, too.

*Adverse impact of the increased use of technology.  Many more communications being sent, for example, to the academic assistants, for distribution to the department, often in the form of attachments that are not always able to be opened successfully.  People are still at very different levels of expertise, and this is not being taken into consideration. This was thought to be a good agenda item for discussion by the Academic Assistants Group.

The meeting ended withYvonne Nicholson thanking people for attending.  She urged people to get in touch with Staff Council over any issues or suggestions, or comments that they have.

Town Meeting, Thursday, November 29, 2001

Blanchard Campus Center, Room 215
3:00-4:00 pm
Introduction by Sue Rusiecki, followed by introductory remarks by Lauren Turner; same as previous meetings.

Meeting turned over to the floor for questions, comments, suggestions.

*What is MHC’s tuition reimbursement policy?  Smith College increased their amount to $1,500 per year.  Does MHC contemplate upping its amounts?

Tuition reimbursement is available for higher education courses taken for credit at other accredited institutions.   There is a six-month waiting period for new employees (pro-rated for part-time employees).  The College will reimburse up to $250.00 per course per semester with a maximum of $500.00 per fiscal year.  At the present time, MHC is not contemplating increasing our amounts, but this does not mean that we will not give thought to it.   Lorraine Gendron, Benefits Specialist, mentioned that the reimbursement tuition program has not been utilized much by employees.  Additionally, there is good news regarding tuition reimbursement for any employee pursuing a master’s degree; previously this money was taxable but commencing in January 2002, this money will no longer be taxable.

*Comment made that staff newsletter is a good idea.  Social Committee is also a very good idea.

*Some companies and organizations give release time for people who volunteer for projects.  Will MHC think about offering this as a benefit for its employees?

The College itself is involved in volunteer community programs and encourages its staff to participate in these programs.  We have sponsored “A Day of Giving” – volunteer program which staff gives its time to various local organizations.  There has been low staff participation.  The College will always encourage staff to participate and volunteer time to whatever organization staff has an interest in.  We can certainly give thought to thinking about release time for staff during the day so they may participate in programs they deem worthwhile.  An idea was brought forth that it would be a good idea if staff could share what volunteer work they do as they might find that other staff participates in the same organizations.  This would be a way to increase camaraderie.

*Will more computer training be offered?

Sue Rusiecki from LITS addressed this question:  LITS is always happy to offer training where and when needed.  We have trained entire offices on such things as web training, spreadsheet training, or any other training offices or individual staff members have needed.  There is a training page located on the web under Library that lists trainings and one may sign up at any time for the appropriate training session.  Contact Sue Fliss for any training questions/needs that you may have or call HELP X2600.  Lauren also mentioned that there is a Test Pilot Program being conducted by the E-Learning Company that will introduce all types of training.  If you are interested in learning more or interested in being a participant, call Lauren at X2503.

*Is there any future plan to increase personnel in departments that seem to be stretched to the max, such departments as Facilities Management, LITS, etc.?

Human Resources and the administration are very aware of these problems and are constantly seeking ways to address these situations.  At the present time, there is no real plan to increase numbers of employees.  Some shortfalls in personnel are addressed by departments by hiring temporary help.

*What system is in place for communicating storm news – closings?  It seems as if there is no definitive answer or there is confusion when the College shuts down.  The message that is left by HR, “Offices may close”, the word MAY is confusing and is this good verbiage?  Perhaps a better way to say this would be “offices are closing/ offices will close”.

Our policy is one that creates flexibility for each individual.  People are free to leave when they feel it is necessary for them to do so.  Lauren stated she is sending a Contact List to all department heads and academic assistants to make any updates to the list.  All people on that list will be contacted by HR personnel when the College must close because of weather/emergencies, etc.  If a person on the contact list is not at his/her desk, a message is left.

*Because of past confusion, it would be very important to have the “official” word passed down by “official” personnel when weather-related and/or emergency-related news needs to be communicated.

*Are other colleges notified of Mountain Day?

Dean Tatum tries to alert students around Mountain Day time so that they will pass the word to other five college students who take classes at MHC.  Suggestion was made that it might be a good idea to have a sign placed on outside of the 5-college busses stating that “Today is Mountain Day at MHC”.

*Dining Service workers who work weekends complain about limited parking.  From Friday at 5:00 pm to Monday at 7:00 am, boyfriends and visitors park wherever they like and take up any and all parking spots.  They park their cars and do not move them, sometimes for the entire weekend.  Can anything be done about this?

Paul Ominsky was present and addressed the question:  This summer Campus Police made changes to the Parking Rules and Regulations.  Students must park in student lots only.  This was changed with the support of the SGA.  Visitors may park in faculty/staff spaces after 7:00 pm and on weekends.

*There was a suggestion to possibly immediately designate some faculty/staff spaces around peripheral of dorms and do away with “visitor” spaces since there are plenty of visitor spaces on campus.

Faculty/staff can only park in faculty/staff spaces or they will be ticketed.  If one does not have an MHC parking sticker, they are allowed to park in faculty/staff spaces on weekends.    Paul Ominsky said he would be happy to review the Parking Rules and Regulations again to see if changes can be made to alleviate the problem.

The meeting ended with Sue Rusiecki and Lauren Turner thanking everyone for attending. Lauren and Sue urged people to be in touch with the Staff Council on any issues, concerns, or suggestions they may have.