The University of Colorado has set a goal to be one of the healthiest places to work, and we need your help to make it happen. We understand the importance of your health, and we are providing you the support, time and tools to help you on your personal wellness journey. Join me and take action today.
When you complete the health assessment you will be automatically entered to win one of 12 airline vouchers, each worth $300.
In my new role as the Wellness Coordinator for the CU Health plans, I see my direct connection to the university’s mission regarding health and wellness: We drive health care innovation, delivery and education for Colorado and beyond; we improve health by treating and curing disease through research and innovation.
Support the university mission and help your campus win the health assessment participation competition, all while doing something for yourself. Go to www.becolorado.org to learn more about the health assessment, campus competition, new incentivized Be Colorado. Move. campaign and wellness opportunities across the university. Join the discussion on the Be Colorado forum, where you can meet colleagues and get support with your wellness goals.
Join me in helping CU become the healthiest university system in the nation.
Becky DiOrio, MPH
CU Health Plan Administration
Recently President Benson sent a mass email to CU staff (and others) titled, “The window into CU,” espousing the value of intercollegiate athletics and asking us to support the athletic programs – specifically the new football coach and the football facilities upgrade.
Every time he sends these mass communications, it gives me a window into his thinking on the value of classified staff. Because sending these messages to classified staff who have long gone without raises is like a slap in the face, and it’s not the first one. Enough already. It’s very discouraging to start the workday reading something like this and being reminded of our low position on the CU totem pole.
Hey, I’d like to help support CU athletics, but I have no spare change to do that. Can classified staff please feel a little love from the president? If you can’t give me a raise, can you at least stop sending me these emails?
College of Arts and Sciences
I listen to everyone, including myself, complain because state classified employees have gone years with no pay increase. The exempt employees have been given salary increases by the regents because the regents are able to increase their regular salary.
I don’t think that a lot of university state classified employees realize that the state General Assembly gives state classified employees pay increases, not the regents. The regents can give those of us who are state classified employees a bonus, or merit increases that are non-base building, but not a general salary increase.
Colorado state classified employees have not had a raise in pay for over four years. That hasn’t kept the cost of everything from going up and it also affects those who are nearing retirement.
Now that the elections are over and the state General Assembly is getting prepared for its next session, every state classified employee should take a minute or two to send their state representatives letters, emails, phone calls or all of the above, telling them it is time to give them a pay increase.
It is wonderful that the governor is requesting a budget increase for higher education. State classified employees might also consider sending him a letter requesting that a state classified pay increase goes through as part of that proposed budget. If someone wants to send a letter or two and doesn’t know who their representatives are, they can go to Colorado.gov, click on “Government,” scroll down, click on the “State Legislature” button, then click “Colorado General Assembly.” This link has state district maps, the Legislative Directory pink book and a lot of other contact information.
Hoping for it may not be enough: State classified employees need to let it be heard that they want their salary increased.
Diana K. Warren
Office of the Registrar
CU Anschutz Medical Campus
I’m happy to see Staff Council undertake a resolution that encourages CU-Boulder to find (and fund) a mechanism that will allow classified staff to receive salary increases (CU Connections, Oct. 25).
Professional exempt staff and faculty have received salary raises in the last few years, but almost all classified staff salaries have remained stagnant since 2008! Morale is low; salary increases could definitely help.
Aerospace Engineering Sciences
If you work on or visit the Anschutz Medical Campus, you will meet up with street closures. I can understand those next to construction projects.
However, Wheeling Street north of 19th Place has been dug up for months. No one is working there – it just lays there dug up and blocked off.
With all of the necessary detours, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to get working on this instead of leaving it half-done week after week?
Student Services, Office of Registrar
CU Anschutz Medical Campus
I have discovered that the shingles vaccine is not covered by Cigna until after age 60, while our former provider, Anthem, covered it after age 50 in accordance with current medical thinking. Cigna is behind the times and I would like to see their coverage brought up to date.
Accounting and Business Support
Aug. 30: Once again it is another 90-plus-degrees day and those of us who work, teach and study in buildings without a swamp cooler or air conditioning are suffering. I not only work in such a building, McKenna, but am an alumna of the University of Colorado Boulder. For the past 25 years of my association with the university, faculty, staff and students in buildings such as McKenna and other non-administrative and non-science buildings swelter in the hot, dry days of late spring, summer and early fall.
The continuously high temperatures in these buildings make it all but impossible to successfully complete our individual mission to the university and general public. Students are crammed into classrooms which are equally as uncomfortable, making learning difficult if not impossible. Were I a parent of such a student, I would be upset at the conditions my student must endure to receive a very expensive education.
For years I have brought building problems to any administrator who would listen. Facilities Management is sympathetic but their hands are tied because the Architect will not allow window air conditioners. Each year, Facilities Management conducts a walk-through of the buildings on campus noting their problems and condition. In my 18 years as a staff person I have yet to realize any significant improvements that bring our building into the 21st century.
The occupants of this building, and others like it, are only too aware of the problems, challenges and health issues faced each day, year after year from working under these conditions. We care about the university and we love the work we do. We sacrifice a lot to work here and support its mission. Faced with five years of no raises, significant increase in job responsibilities, increases in cost of living and lack of administrative support, we continue to give 100-plus percent. Don’t you think it is about time the university and the state recognize that we are vital to their success and channel resources into the very least making a comfortable and productive work environment?
Program Assistant, Spanish and Portuguese Department
McKenna Languages Building Proctor
Workplace wellness is not a new concept. It has been around for years and looks very similar from workplace to workplace. The usual elements include “opt in” participation in a health risk appraisal, disease management programs, behavior management programs like smoking cessation and weight management, possible discounts on health club memberships or other activities, and finally, the obligatory office “challenges” to get people engaged in a health-promoting activity for at least a brief period of time.
Given that these programs have been around for a while and are intended to reduce health care costs among employees, you might expect health care costs to be going down or at least leveling off. Sadly, that is not the case. Costs continue to rise. In response, some employers are shifting more of the cost burden to employees in an attempt to manage organizational expenses.
Most of the upwardly spiraling costs are driven by preventable lifestyle behaviors including smoking, physical inactivity and excess calorie consumption leading to obesity. Obesity fuels a growing list of health issues including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, which are responsible for a large fraction of health care costs in the workforce today.
In a typical workplace, health care risks and associated costs can be grouped into three categories: low, medium and high. Low-risk employees typically have fewer than two risk factors, medium-risk workers have three to five factors and high-risk workers have more than five risks. While health care costs for any worker go up with age, the costs are greater at any age if an individual has more than two risk factors. A study to look specifically at CU Trust beneficiaries and their risk factor profile is currently under way and will be completed this fall.
It is striking that over time the “flux” of employee movement between risk groups is disproportionately from lower-risk to higher-risk categories. Hence, the overall change in costs over time within a business is essentially an unbalanced movement with more people moving from lower-cost to higher-and-higher-cost categories than the other way around. This is important because most of the money that is spent on wellness programs is spent on the highest-risk individuals, e.g., those under treatment for one or more diagnosed chronic diseases. Relatively little is spent on the low-risk individuals, because they are healthy. Given that many fewer of the high-risk individuals ever become low-risk individuals and low-risk individuals frequently become medium- and then high-risk individuals, it becomes obvious that we are never going to stem the tide of rising risks and costs without paying more attention to keeping the low-risk people at low risk.
In total quality terms, the system we have today amounts to “waiting for defects to occur and then trying to fix them.” A corporate CEO would never do this when running a successful business. That would be like running an airline and waiting for the airplane’s engines to fail in flight before fixing them. Would you want to be a passenger on such an airline? Airlines rely on routine preventive maintenance so that key systems don’t fail. In health terms it should be the same: If you do routine preventive maintenance, the key body systems won’t fail. In quality terms, this translates to “fix the systems that lead to defects to prevent them from occurring.”
We need to think differently about the problem of rising health care costs. We need transformation. We need a new approach to promoting health in the workplace, one that is focused on keeping the healthy people healthy, and keeping the people with existing risk factors from getting any worse.
The missing ingredient in today’s wellness programs is providing a compelling enough reason for people to change anything. The most common approaches today provide nominal incentives (“trinkets”) for good behavior, like reduced health care premiums or monetary payments for completing health risk appraisals or enrolling in disease management plans. While these are sound approaches to encourage participation, they have proven insufficient to drive lasting behavior change.
This is perhaps not surprising considering that employees are expected to practice these health behaviors largely “on their own time.” Historically they have not been rewarded in the workplace for healthful living. People typically practice the behaviors they are rewarded for, and the rewards for sitting at your desk and staying on task far outweigh the “trinkets” that can be earned for participating in wellness activities. In the workplace, advancements, salary increases and related recognition typically come from achieving results relevant to the organization’s goals, not from keeping a healthy body weight, blood pressure or serum cholesterol.
To achieve the organization’s health goals then, we need to align them with its overall goals and to manage health as an integral part of the entity/organization. The closest tie between health and most organizational goals is productivity however you define it. Healthy people are productive people, have more energy, miss less work due to illness, get more done when working and help create an environment that is good for recruitment and retention.
Making a business case for employee health is really no different than what happened in the 1980s around total quality and in the 1990s around workplace safety. At first, these initiatives were just “programs.” Over time, they were recognized as good for business. I see the same thing happening with employee health over the coming years.
We need a cultural transformation in the workplace such that being healthy is part of how the culture defines itself.
So, what would characterize a workplace of the future that aligns employee health goals with its business goals? Taking care of one’s self is an expectation of employment. Senior and midlevel leadership embrace this principle because it ties directly to the purpose, values and principles of the organization. Employees are given permission and access to practice healthy behaviors. All levels of management are held accountable for creating and sustaining an environment that supports employees being able to achieve and maintain healthy behaviors in the workplace. Individual employees at all levels of the organization are held accountable for creating and sustaining a work environment that promotes employee health.
Now, some would say that creating expectations at work about health behaviors is crossing the line into individual privacy. However, there are already many expectations in the workplace for how employees should behave, from interpersonal propriety to information security. All of these behavior expectations are enforced because they help the organization achieve its goals – just like good health. It is even more critical in the case of health because the employer is paying for a large share of the cost for unhealthy behavior. Until this situation changes, it is incumbent on employees to hold up their end of the bargain by devoting effort to staying healthy, as long as the employer creates a supportive environment.
Of course, any culture change takes time. How do we progress from where we are today to this future state? I recently had the opportunity to speak to a collection of leaders from all four CU campuses as part of the Excellence in Leadership Program. I engaged them to think about what some of the first steps might be in creating a culture of wellness here at the university. They broke into groups and each group addressed one of six questions; to view the questions and responses, click here.
Workshop participants were full of ideas about what a healthy workplace environment might look like. It is striking that most of the suggestions don’t require large financial investments: It is more about changing people’s attitudes, giving permission to be healthy and valuing healthy behaviors as important for the work of the organization.
Changing the culture in the workplace to embrace employee health as part of business as usual will take support from all levels of the organization top to bottom. People at all levels will have to see “what’s in it for them” that relates to how they are recognized and rewarded in the workplace. We must look for better ways to measure how employee health improves individual and organizational performance. This will be critical to build the necessary evidence base to drive more investment and engagement in creating the desired cultural transformation.
I think this is the right time for the university to embrace such a transformation. Our health plans are self-insured, so every penny we save on health costs is a penny to invest in keeping the healthy people healthy and preventing those with some existing condition from getting any worse.
And doing this is in perfect harmony with the university mission statement: “The University of Colorado is a public research university with multiple campuses serving Colorado, the nation, and the world through leadership in high-quality education and professional training, public service, advancing research and knowledge, and state-of-the-art health care.” We just have to think of health care as keeping people well as much as treating the sick, and we must be sure to include university employees in the focus on state-of-the-art health care.
|First Steps In Creating A Culture of Wellness
at the University of Colorado
Ideas generated by participants in the CU Excellence in Leadership Program
Describe at least three things you could do to align employee health explicitly with your organizational purpose.
Describe at least three things you could do to make healthy behaviors easy choices at work.
Describe three things you could do to set an example and inspire others to do the same.
Describe at least three things you could do to align workplace incentives with employee health goals.
Describe three things you could do to empower employees to be their best at work.
Describe ways to measure results for each element above.
Note: The Excellence in Leadership Program (ELP) began in 2000 as an initiative sponsored by CU President Elizabeth Hoffman to support leaders and leadership at the University of Colorado. The nine-month professional development experience provides opportunities for faculty and staff to become more effective leaders who can successfully address key challenges of a dynamic university. Throughout the program, university leaders gain the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill the promise of academic and administrative excellence that CU requires today and in the future. To strengthen the understanding and relationship within and across CU, the program includes participation from all campuses and the Office of the President.
Dear Members of the University of Colorado Community,
As we approach the end of the academic year and commencement, I want to thank each of you for all your efforts. Even though we face fiscal challenges, your dedication and hard work allow CU to continue to provide a high-quality education for our students and substantial value for our state and beyond.
As you may know, the Board of Regents late last month approved tuition for the 2012-13 academic year. Rate increases will be 5 percent or below on all our campuses, which reflects our commitment to keeping a CU education affordable. Total cost of attendance (including tuition and room and board) is increasing less than 3 percent. The board also unanimously approved a 2 percent salary pool for faculty and exempt staff. I appreciate the regents’ recognition of the hard work of faculty and staff and the importance of ensuring salaries remain fair and competitive. I want to thank the Board of Regents for its leadership on these issues.
Under the salary plan, exempt professionals earning less than $100,000 are eligible for merit raises. Exempt professionals earning between $100,000 and $175,000 are eligible for merit increases of no more than $2,000. Exempt professionals earning more than $175,000 are not eligible for an increase. The faculty pool is 2 percent, regardless of salary level. You will hear more specifics soon from your campus and department.
I recognize the salary pool does not include our classified employees; we are limited in what we can do. However, some action at the Capitol will help classified employees. Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Legislature allowed the 2.5 percent shift in PERA contributions from employer to employees to expire. On July 1 those in PERA will have that amount restored to base salary. Additionally, efficiency legislation the General Assembly passed in 2011 allowed CU to shift responsibility for benefit plans for classified employees from the state to the university. The result is a decrease, in some cases substantial, in health plan costs for classified employees who were in state plans.
We are committed to ensuring our health plans remain a good value for CU employees. This year, our increase in health plan costs averages 5.5 percent, which is below the national, state and public university averages. This was possible because of the performance of the University of Colorado Health and Welfare Trust. Because of legislative action directing an increased employer contribution, most of you will see a decrease in your monthly health plan rates in the coming fiscal year. As a reminder, open enrollment this year requires you to affirm your benefits by May 25, even if you are not making changes.
The 2012 legislative regular session ends today, and Colorado public higher education and CU are faring better at the end of the session than they were at the beginning. In the governor’s November budget, higher education faced $60 million in cuts (half to financial aid, half to operating). Positive revenue forecasts in December and March lessened the cuts. CU’s 2012-13 budget will likely be reduced about $5.8 million. We appreciate the work of the governor, Joint Budget Committee and legislators in reducing the cut to higher education. We are still on the wrong side of the state funding equation (cuts), but smaller than expected reductions resulted in smaller than expected tuition increases.
We promoted a notable piece of legislation that passed this session, House Bill 1350, which allows some dependents of active duty military personnel to attend any CU campus at resident tuition rates. We recognize what active duty military personnel do on our behalf and are happy to extend this benefit to the children of the men and women serving our country.
In recognition of the service of our employees, CU is also providing tuition benefits for dependents of employees, effective this summer. The plan is a first step toward what we hope will become a robust program. We have asked faculty and staff governance groups to assist us with its assessment and to make recommendations this fall.
We continue to do a good job helping ourselves manage our budget. Our continual focus on operational efficiencies has allowed CU to realize millions in savings in areas such as purchasing, health plan costs and risk management, among others. We are also creating more public-private partnerships that allow us to leverage funding and meet the needs of the state and the business community. Legislation we promoted in previous years allows us to increase the number of nonresident and international students on all campuses, bringing additional revenue.
I particularly want to thank all those who have an increased workload. Staff are taking on added responsibilities. Many faculty are teaching additional courses and doing more advising. I appreciate how the CU community is stepping up in difficult times.
Our Creating Futures fundraising campaign, which launched publicly slightly more than a year ago, recently eclipsed the $1.1 billion mark toward our $1.5 billion goal. I know many members of the university community are also donors to CU and I appreciate the investments you make to add value to our educational and research enterprises.
We are also seeing the benefits of our branding effort, which is less than a year and a half into implementation. The visual images of the university and messages we present today are much more effective and efficient than the previous mishmash of logos and communications, which confused our community of supporters. The branding project has brought clarity and consistency to our efforts. However, branding is a process not an event, so I urge the university community to continue to work toward presenting the University of Colorado in ways that promote our collective strength.
The CU Advocates program is another way to tell our story and marshal support of those interested in helping us. If you are not already a member, please join at www.cu.edu/cuadvocates and lend your voice and efforts to the thousands of CU supporters working to convey our value, tell our stories and articulate our challenges. The program is one way we are stepping up our outreach, which helps raise our profile, as well as bring us students and donors. Our new Ecommunication program also allows us to communicate better with our constituents and, as important, ensure we have current and accurate contact data for them.
I am proud of the way members of the university community deliver a first-rate educational experience and provide exceptional value to Colorado and beyond. In these challenging times, you continue to meet a standard of excellence that has been the hallmark of CU for 136 years. Your efforts serve our students and state extremely well. Thank you again for what you do to ensure the greatness of our university.
For feedback, contact email@example.com
Bruce D. Benson
Dr. Bracken was “Sandy” to me as a young employee at Anderson College, now Anderson University in 1978. It was a pleasure to work with him, even for a short time. It has been my honor to also write and teach in the area of leadership since 1990s, maybe some inspiration from him so long ago.
Congratulations to Dr. Bracken from some of us who remember when he worked here. Blessings, grace and peace in this new endeavor.
David L. Neidert
Director of Student Development
Anderson University School of Theology, Anderson, Ind.
Many people believe perception is reality. If that is the case, then Chancellor Phil DiStefano and the CU administration didn’t do itself or CU employees any good by not being transparent in regards to administrative rehires or pay raises. Several of the retired administrators who were rehired are good friends of mine and I believe rehiring them was a good thing to do by the CU administration. I’m not upset that these quality individuals were rehired, but how they were rehired needs to be transparent to the general public.
The problems lately with Chancellor DiStefano are his lack of communication with CU employees and the media. He should have been clear to the media that by rehiring these administrators, the university is saving money. What the media should have asked Phil are the following questions: Are you currently training new administrative staff to fill these positions when they do retire? The media should have asked, were these positions opened up to the general public when these administrators actually retired? And finally, the media should have asked if there is a criteria or policy set up as to whom can retire and be rehired for a particular position? The state currently allows 10 positions where retired employees can be rehired – who determines who gets rehired and for what positions? Right now, the “perception” is Chancellor DiStefano is rehiring highly paid administrators (his good old boys). These good old boys are now double dipping and making a ton of money working only seven months at the expense of the taxpayers. I am aware not all of this is true but that is the “perception” the general public is receiving from our top administrative leaders.
Chancellor DiStefano started the media ball rolling when he gave raises out to some of the top administrators and stated these funds did not come from raising student fees. OK, then where did they come from? Once again, I have no problem with the raises but just tell the public where the (over 150K) raises came from?
My final concern is that these issues have once again exposed those of us who pay into PERA. We recently made some great strides in the Colorado Legislature in regards to retaining PERA benefits. Unfortunately, many people in the general public “perceive” our PERA retirement as a form of overcompensation for years of average service. Now, those of us who are close to retirement and have worked honorably for the university have to live with the current “perception” that our administrative leaders are double dipping, nontransparent, use the state system to your advantage, top-heavy administrators! For the future, all I can say is good luck on raising student fees, asking for additional money to compensate CU employees and keeping PERA stable. The “perception” on these issues does not bode well for the university or its employees.
Kristopher J. Schoech
Dear “Leadership” of the University of Colorado-Boulder,
I do not disagree with the philosophy that in order to retain good employees that care about the greater good of the institution you need to pay them a fair wage. What I have a problem with is the fact that instead of giving a non-base-building bonus to the top level administration like the rest of us got, they received base-building raises.
In his defense of the pay increases President Benson said, “I’ve got to pay for good people, I want quality. You’re not going to have quality if you don’t have quality people working for you.” I have news for you, Bruce. This place is loaded with quality people who do top-notch work in all aspects of their profession, all while making less or the same as they did three to four years ago. I work with these people and see the pride they have and the top-level craftsmanship they put into their jobs on a daily basis. These are overworked people who in many cases are up here because they have a passion for this university and what it should represent, not just for the pay. To make a statement like you did after throwing the front-line staff some crumbs, in comparative terms, is appalling. You can’t buy loyalty. If the only thing keeping some of the top-level administrative people here is the pay, do you really think they have the university’s best interests in mind?
If funding has increased by the sizable numbers, no doubt impressive, under DiStefano’s leadership while he was being under-compensated, what can we expect now that he is getting what you consider a fair wage? What is happening on the front lines is a far different story. In the last few years we have added hundreds of thousands of square feet of new buildings as well as the challenges that are coming from upkeep of the current older systems. And instead of getting more bodies or more pay, what we got was less of both. We have watched as positions were not filled or eliminated as part of budgetary concerns. We have been asked to do more with less but we are nearing a time when that isn’t feasible.
If the people you are relying on to keep this place operating at a top level feel like they are being taken advantage of now, how do you think they will react when called on to go above and beyond? I can tell you how: They will get the job done. Without us you have failing buildings, an ugly campus and a lot of very well-paid administrators in a dark office with peeling paint and no heat because the people who take care of that stuff are too busy trying to do the work of the unfilled positions as well as their normal tasks, all while being paid less than they were making a couple years ago.
I write to affirm the point made by the author of the Feb. 16 letter “Salary talk detracts from greater budget concern.” The author correctly notes that rather than blaming salary, “you actually should blame every person who says ‘taxes for education are a burden,’ rather than ‘taxes for education are an investment in the future.’” I want to affirm the author’s point because it’s so easy to hear (listen, listen) the anti-tax zealots already sharpening their knives to go after such an important (if obvious) truth.
For many years, many in politics and business-centric “think tanks” (including some powerful forces from outside our state) have maintained a divide-and-conquer strategy. Their rallying cry has centered upon demonizing taxes: all taxes, regardless of their purpose. With propagandistic phrases like “starve the beast” and “it’s your money,” this effort has sought to cast government (including universities) as tax-wasting enemies and the “free market” as the solution. (Who crashed the economy, again?) In the process, large portions of the voting public have become confused about where their actual self-interest lies. As Cornell University’s Suzanne Mettler shows in a recent nationwide survey, “Almost half of people who received such submerged state benefits as home mortgage interest deductions, student loans or the earned income tax credit reported that they had not used a government social program.” Source: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March11/MettlerGov.html
We here in Colorado would do well to resist the disconnection of perception and reality and the divisive rhetoric which makes taxes and government the enemy. The result of such rhetoric, as we’ve seen, is in effect to say that caring for one another–and investing in our future–is not important. But most people have a moral and economic compass which points in a different direction. We would do well to argue more imaginatively and forcefully for what is, in fact, the truly popular cause: a knowledge economy and a state which makes taking care of its own the most important mission.
Philosophy, CU Denver
Yes, the Boulder chancellor now makes $389,000 per year. The chancellor also runs an organization with 14,700 employees, with an annual budget of $580 million. In the private sector he would probably earn more than twice as much. As a matter of fact, the football coach does make more than twice as much!
But the important budget story is that in the last five years, from before the recession, state support for education has dropped $300 million. Since Colorado began its great tax-cut experiment, the drop is roughly double that. That is by far the main reason tuition has gone up. There may well be too many administrators, but that’s not the reason the university is poor. Failure of Coloradans to invest in the future is.
You actually should blame every person who says “taxes for education are a burden,” rather than “taxes for education are an investment in the future.”
I grew up in California, when Silicon Valley was filled with trees, and Apple was a fruit, not a computer. The state invested heavily in education, and the return was enormous, truly stunning. But then Californians were persuaded that they didn’t have to support education, and look where they are now – right where Colorado is, sacrificing the future. And the worst cost is hidden: My students work more and more hours every year. Then some of them say, “You need to make the courses easier; we don’t have time to study.”
The most desirable jobs of the future require education. Lockheed, Google, even factories all want highly skilled employees, not “easy course” graduates.
The last three hires in my technical field here in Colorado all came from outside the United States. When we decrease research and education funding, we lose jobs to countries where investment is increasing.
Recently I took 100 Coloradans on a trip to China. While there, we visited private Chinese families, with a translator. One Chinese mother asked me, “Why do you Americans want to spend all your money now? Why don’t you invest it in the future, like we Chinese do? We want good jobs for our children.” What would you say to that mother?
Douglas Duncan, Ph.D.
Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
The CU Connections news story “Tuition benefit likely to be expanded in April” (Feb. 2) discusses how an expansion of the tuition waiver benefit for CU employees is “on track.” It outlines how the “expansion” will permit employees to transfer their nine-credit tuition waiver benefit to their dependent child, spouse or domestic partner. A fact sheet describing the new benefit rules states that an “employee may use or distribute the nine credit hours to eligible dependents” and, for dependents, the “credits are to be taken on the campus where the employee works.” Fine and dandy, this sounds great. I work for CU-Boulder and my daughter is a full-time student at the Boulder campus.
But hold on, all is not as it seems in the Emerald City. There are exceptions to the benefit, and there’s a big and glaring one for employees of CU-Boulder. It reads “a full-time student on the Boulder campus cannot utilize the tuition benefit during the fall or spring semesters.” In other words, the dependent child, spouse or domestic partner of a CU-Boulder employee can only utilize the benefit if they are less than a full-time student or desire to take classes during the summer. Too bad, CU-Boulder employees, if you have a full-time student attending any CU campus, they are basically ineligible for this tuition benefit.
Why does this seem like blatant discrimination against the employees and students of CU-Boulder? Can this benefit be viewed as fair and equitable when students attending other CU campuses can fully utilize it if their parent works at the same campus, but CU-Boulder students cannot? I would pose that CU views this as a way to expand the tuition benefit without making it available to the dependent children, spouse or domestic partner of most CU employees. As advertised, the expanded tuition benefit looks great, but sadly only a small number of CU employees will actually be able to benefit from it, and probably next to none who work at the Boulder campus.
The powers that be have given themselves some hefty raises and have left the rest of us lowly workers out in the cold. I wonder where the value of ethics comes into play here? We are asked time and time again to do more with less, a cut here a cut there, but don’t cut back on services.
I am disgusted and appalled that I work at an institution run with such disregard for the average middle-class workers and even lower regard for the student population that has to fund these salary raises in order to continue their pursuit of higher education. You should all be ashamed of yourselves and forfeit your ill-gotten raises.
Barbara A. Bogner
Aquatics and Ice Rink Manager, CSW Coordinator
Dear President Benson:
I read the article in the Daily Camera in which you defended the raises awarded to the top administrators at CU. I’ve been an employee of the university for 10 years now. My take-home pay is currently $400 less than it was four years ago. The 3 percent one-time non-base-building “raise” I received last year was more a slap in the face than anything.
In your interview you state, “I’ve got to pay for good people, I want quality. You’re not going to have quality if you don’t have quality people working for you.” Every year during my annual evaluation, I’ve been scored in the highest tier, yet as a member of the classified staff I’m not seeing the “pay for good people” that seems to be a given among the faculty and upper administration.
I understand that classified staff are in a different job classification than faculty or professional exempt; however, I am still an employee of the University of Colorado and would appreciate it if the upper administration, including yourself, would be more supportive of our hard work and dedication.
Somehow I don’t think you or any others in the upper administration have a realistic appreciation of what it’s like to be a single parent with a child in college, a mortgage, a car payment, utility bills, grocery bills, medical bills, etc., trying to live on $1,900 a month. Chancellor DiStefano’s raise alone is $10,000 more than my total gross salary. I hope that gives you some perspective on my situation.
Faculty Affairs Coordinator, MCD Biology
While I am in favor of a wellness approach to health insurance (a healthy population is cheaper to insure), CU’s Wellness Initiative, highlighted in the Dec. 22, 2011, issue of CU Connections, raises concerns.
While the role of UBAB is undergoing clarification, I have never felt that input about our medical plans has been invited or easy, and doing so continues to be a mystery. Should employee concerns be channeled through staff or faculty council? To PBS? To UBAB? Honestly, I still don’t know what the University of Colorado Health and Welfare Trust is, how it works, what it does, what it really means to be self-funded, or how all of this fits together to produce CU health benefits — of which I am thankful, don’t get me wrong.
Regarding incentives to use exercise facilities, what about those of us who pursue an active lifestyle outside of these facilities on a regular basis? Do we miss out on discounted premiums, if offered? In a similar vein, I have an annual wellness exam performed by my primary care physician that includes a lifestyle questionnaire and full lab panel. I visit my dentist and other needed specialists regularly. Does an incentive-driven health assessment and screening provide something that I am not getting now? If not and if I don’t do the assessment, do I miss out on lower premiums?
I acknowledge the laudable goal and unique challenges inherent in getting a diverse population to change its ways. Ideally, the incentive of health itself would be enough, but that does not seem to be equally shared among us. Should incentives be offered on current health stats and/or results such as lower blood pressure, weight loss, etc.?
It’s a slippery slope to offer lower premiums to groups who practice particular sets of behaviors deemed likely to reduce the rate of insurance utilization because it calls into question the very concept of an insurance pool. However CU moves forward on this, I encourage its leadership to seek input from its employees before decisions are made that affect our pocketbooks.
Accounting and Business Support
We want to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to the success of the five 2011 Bonfils blood drives at CU-Boulder. There were 1,133 units of blood collected this year, a 21 percent increase over the previous two years. This translates into the availability of 3,399 blood uses for those in our community who desperately need this life-saving contribution.
A very special thanks to the Staff Council blood drive chair, Randi Viola of the ATLAS Institute, for her endless efforts in working to make blood drives the success they are today. Thanks also to many others, including the staff and directors of the UMC and Recreation Center for their venue considerations, the artists and students who do our poster advertising, the Concerned Youth of America student group that sponsors our use of student facilities and other members of Staff Council who have helped. We are proud of each donor, as donors should be of themselves.
Boulder Campus Staff Council
After reading about the “Green Roof” at Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (July 6 issue), I thought, wouldn’t it be great if the Boulder campus had gardens available for staff? What an amazing gift! How can we start such a project around here?
Maybe we could have a beehive on a roof like the Brown Palace in Denver. They use the honey in their bakery and for the tea and in the future for spa treatments. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Where can we put a beehive in Boulder? We need some of these “green” projects, too!
Office manager, Department of Mathematics
The April 27 issue of the Faculty and Staff Newsletter reported that the Board of Regents voted in favor of tuition increases and a salary pool. I found Regent James Geddes’ comment a mix of irony and ignorance: “When you look at what made this country great, it wasn’t higher education. What made this country great is the free enterprise system.”
The irony is that he voted against allowing CU to operate like a free enterprise. His insistence that we should function without adequate resources is delusional. The ignorance is that free enterprise is just a small part of greatness. It is freedom that lies at the bedrock of a great nation.
Assistant Director of Policies and Procedures, Accounting and Business Support
The percentage of unemployed workers is close to 9 percent. Some unemployment is due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. Historically, workers must be trained for new jobs like IT, for example.
But when only the very (assisted) poor and the very rich can afford education, regents, what will the rest do?
Records Division, Police Department
I attended President Benson’s recent town hall presentation to the Boulder campus. He spoke of the difficult budget situation and its impact on the institution’s ability to maintain competitive salaries, retain academic stars and to maintain the physical plant (infrastructure).
It would have been helpful to hear about the total amount of funding brought into the state of Colorado from external sources by tuition and fees, research grants, donations and other forms of income relative to the amount of money allocated to the institution by the legislature. I’m confident that the former total far exceeds the latter.
I doubt that the typical Colorado citizen with an interest in higher education is aware that CU is largely self-funded, and contributes much more to the Colorado economy than it takes out. This kind of information would support Benson’s view that the organization’s resource utilization is highly efficient by any measure.
Our leadership has an obligation to inform our fellow citizens of the economic and social benefits of higher ed in general and of CU in particular. I’m certain that it can be argued that investment in higher education stimulates the economy (attract business and industry, enhance job opportunities, income of college grads far exceeds that of others).
David R. Kassoy
Professor Emeritus, Mechanical Engineering
University of Colorado Boulder
While it was good to hear news about how well various CU schools have done in the recent U.S. News ranking of graduate programs, it’s good to remember that these rankings can cut both ways.
More important, though, is the issue of methodology. Malcolm Gladwell’s recent piece in The New Yorker (excerpted here) provides some serious reasons to take U.S. News rankings with at least a grain of salt.
I’m all for self-congratulation, but let’s be careful how much we link our (genuine) merit to U.S. News’ money-making contrivance. Too fulsome an embrace of their lack of rigor will imply our own. Let’s not.
I have been a state employee for nine years and it has taken me 30 years to find a job I love. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to survive.
The classified staff employees have not received a raise in three years. Last year, insurance premiums went up and it was decided the employees would pay the state’s 2.5 percent to PERA. Taxes have gone up, not to mention gas and food. I feel like I am being penalized for the state’s financial problems.
In December, I fell and broke my ankle. I went on leave without pay but now I have to pay back the university for overpayment. I was told I could apply for leave share, but don’t count on it. I was denied because I wasn’t in the hospital dying. A broken ankle doesn’t require hospitalization, but I did require two months of “residential care due to my incapacity to stand or walk.”
The leave-sharing policy refers to “an unforeseeable life-altering event beyond the employee’s control.” I didn’t break my ankle on purpose. I required surgery to repair a ligament and they put two screws in my ankle. I applied for short-term disability, which I have not seen yet, and when it comes I will just turn it over to the university. Thank you, state of Colorado, for a job I love.
While most of us still miss the Silver & Gold and the opportunity to read from the printed page, it is gratifying to have space in the Faculty and Staff Newsletter for our letters and opinions.
More of us should take advantage of this outlet.
Institute of Behavioral Science, Economics, Retired Faculty Association
I am becoming more and more concerned about my paycheck here. I don’t expect my employer to worry too much about how much comes out in tax withholdings, however the recent changes have caused some very unfair pay increases and decreases through the entire system.
I was excited to read on the White House blogs about the changes to the tax laws and the increase in pay expected to come to me, the average worker. When I called payroll and told them they must have made a mistake, I was given the bad news. I did not realize this was only for Social Security-paying workers.
Another concern of mine is the fact that I’m paying the 2.5 percent employer match of our PERA. I don’t see how us paying the employer portion of our PERA is helping anyone. Isn’t that money then ours when we retire? I should be able to choose how much I want to put into my retirement. With the cost of living skyrocketing out of control, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be saving much for retirement. I have to buy milk and bread. Forget about luxury purchases. Really, when’s the last time any of us had money to spend on entertainment? It’s all going to necessities!
Perhaps if the state paid us livable wages, we could help contribute money back into the economy. Instead we have full-time employees who are living at poverty level making use of the state resources for assistance. How’s that for skewing the numbers?
Office manager, department of mathematics
University of Colorado Boulder
As a survivor of throat cancer, I read Roger Ebert’s recent blog with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes. Mr. Ebert will, indeed, be terribly missed at the Conference on World Affairs. Thank you for publishing your commentary and link to the blog in the Newsletter.
Procurement Service Center, CU system
If the tuition benefit is extended to dependants (Feb. 9 issue), the current requirement that courses taken by employees must be job related should be eliminated. Why shouldn’t employees also have the opportunity to enhance their education in any field of study offered at the university?
Payroll & Benefit Services, CU system
The recent announcement that Social Security withholding will be reduced to 4.2 percent from its previous 6.2 percent rate basically gives some CU employees a raise while others found their incomes reduced by the additional 2 percent PERA contribution.
As reported in the Staff Council story in the last newsletter (Feb. 9), the continuing budget shortfall brought up the mentioning of a possible 2 percent, across-the-board wage cut. Perhaps any wage adjustments should be focused only on those employees who pay into the Social Security system, because in actuality they would not be experiencing a “pay cut” as has already been felt by those in the PERA system.
Payroll and Benefit Services