President's Luncheon Q and A 2008

These questions were put forward by staff members at the President's Luncheon on April 2, 2008. The answers were provided by senior staff members in attendance at that event.

Q: I am wondering how Mount Holyoke is going to be affected by what appears to be a weakening economy, headed for recession, if not already in it. How is the endowment looking so far, and what could be ahead? How will the College respond if or when the financial aid needs of the student body increase?

A: Right now there is enough “fuel” in the endowment to keep us going well for several years. The changes in the market don’t really affect MHC as immediately as it does people on a personal level; there is a delay. What we are doing now to prepare for a possible recession is to control our growth in anticipation for such times.

Q: Will the results of the health care survey be made public? Since a great many people took the time to fill out the health care survey sent out by Human Resources a few months ago, it is clear that health insurance is an important issue here--both the cost of it and the quality of it. Will the results of the survey be made known to us--whatever is not confidential? I think it would be very helpful to have this information, especially for those who may be thinking of switching to a different health care plan. Also, knowing the survey results would help staff understand some of what is considered when the College chooses health care plans.

A: Yes. 50% of the people took the survey. Of these, nearly equal amounts of subscribers from Blue Cross and from Tufts. People that stayed with Blue Cross reported that they were still satisfied People that moved to Tufts from Blue Cross reported that they too were satisfied. The most reported problem, (regardless of carrier?) was that the pharmacy benefits were confusing, especially when it came to mail-order prescriptions.

Financial aspects of MHC healthcare:
Some people are feeling the burden of the cost, but the changes made last year were to made to be beneficial to MHC as a whole. Most people that changed to Tufts from Blue Cross did so because of the price difference. Currently 1/3 of the MHC population are still on Blue Cross. This year there is a substantial difference in the “risk pool” between the Blue Cross and Tufts groups, where the claims rate is significantly higher with Blue Cross. The Blue Cross premiums are currently 40% more than Tufts. The school is currently working for a way to smooth the premium distribution across the MHC community – a “shared risk pool” approach. They are getting the final numbers and will reporting to everybody shortly. They can state that there will be 10% – 15% increases in healthcare costs this upcoming year.

Q: Why can’t union personnel be on Staff Council?

A: This would be out of compliance with the law because they already have a collective bargaining unit speaking for them, a “formal voice”. (NLRB) The Staff Council was formed because the remaining staff on campus did not have such a means of presenting their concerns and feedback to the administration.

Q: Will and when will there be a cost of living increase? Will or when will there be an adjustment to bring existing staff up to the levels of pay that new staff are hired at?

A: They currently are not in a position to state such things, but there are such things in the plans. They will announce any information as soon as it is available.

Q: Why can’t the night shift work 1 – 5 AM? May they skip their lunch period and reduce their total time here? Explain the new custodial services & impact on custodial staff as well as those they serve. When will the new hours start April or September and will this be the same for part-time staff.

A: They are currently holding talks on these subjects. An external review was performed, where MHC was benchmarked with peer institutions. Our numbers look right regarding staffing, although the difference is that ours are under pressure. There were and are concerns over when people are absent and how others need to cover. They are still doing analysis. Their goal is to improve the quality of work life and reduce the number of injuries on the job. There can be the same amount of productivity with less stress if there is better organization. There are still lots of discussion taking place.
Regarding the lunch break, there is a legal requirement for ½ hour of break for every 6 hours worked.

Q: With the new dorm there is less parking spots. What is being done to alleviate parking problems on campus?

A: After construction is finished and parking that is currently assigned a temporary status changed back to normal, (Gorse), there will be a look at the deficiencies. Addressing these problems is “on the radar” for next year.

Q: What will the new dorm be called?

A: The fund raising is not yet complete. Until all gifts come in, they may have a temporary name in place.

Q: What funds were used to finance the re-building of the skating rink and how is success of this project measured?

A: If the question is about whether or not the funding was worth it, the rink was not funded by the operational budget, rather a capitol funds budget. The goal was to improve life on campus for all people during the bleak winter months. The most straight-forward manner in measurement would be to monitor the use, however it would be hard to quantify such things such as improving life on campus.

Q: What plans does the College have to expand PVTA service to MHC for staff/faculty and encourage car-pooling?

A: They will be holding meetings soon with PVTA. They currently don’t have any information on ways to improve the routes. The staff council is working on a section of the website where people will be able to view and sign up for carpools as their effort to make MHC “greener”.

Q: Reports on Trustee visits always mention meetings with student or faculty committees, but no staff committees.

A: That is true, although there are many staff from various departments present at such meetings. It is a good idea. This will be brought to the staff council meetings.

Q: “Talk about staffing numbers”

A: Over the years there has been a fairly narrow range of hiring and loss. Last year there was a loss of Full-Time equivalent positions. This year there was more of a loss due to the budget. It is important to note, that it is not a steady decline. As far as how many staff are currently on campus, there are approximately 750 F.T.E. If you were to include faculty, there are approx. 1050.

Q: What is the status of short term disability insurance?

A: H.R. was asked to look into this by the Staff Council. Discussions are currently being held regarding a sick leave bank where if someone is out of sick time, others may donate vacation time to assist. This is hoped to be implemented by July, where at that time, there will be more details.

Regarding short-term disability, they are currently talking with a provided who will offer a plan that covers 60% of regular pay. The proposal was already received. Because this would be a different type of plan than they usually offer, because of our educational environment and part-time workers, underwriting will need to take place, which could take up to a year to complete.