The University of Colorado Staff Council conducted short discussions on the recent dissolution of the University Benefits Advisory Board (UBAB) and the nomination criteria for the annual Staff Excellence Award, and also heard from Mark Stanker, assistant vice president of Employee Services and plan administer for the CU Health Trust, and Brian Burnett, senior executive vice chancellor for administration and finance for the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, during the council’s Nov. 14 meeting on the UCCS campus.
Council members from each of the campuses said some staff members have expressed concern over the discontinuance of UBAB. President Bruce D. Benson, on the recommendation of E. Jill Pollock, vice president of employee and information services, made the decision to disband the board earlier this month.
UBAB was founded in 1999 to represent the interests of university benefit participants and provide advice to administrators about benefit issues.
“President Benson believes the voice of faculty and staff is heard through their Regent-designated governance groups,” Pollock wrote in an email to UBAB members. She also said that employees can offer suggestions about benefits via governance groups, including the Staff Council.
Council members said feedback on the dissolution included concern over who would act as a watchdog and as an interpreter concerning benefits issues. Others were concerned over the precedent President Benson has set by eliminating the board, and, previously, The Silver and Gold Record, the former faculty and staff newspaper which staff members felt challenged the administration.
Council members also said they were unsure about what their future role regarding benefits issues would entail and said they would seek more direction from chancellors on their campuses.
The council also discussed modifying the nomination method and criteria for the annual Service Excellence Award, which honors one staff member from each campus and system administration. Council members are concerned about the dwindling number of nominations for the award, which includes a $1,000 prize. In addition, in previous years, some nominees did not meet the qualifications. The process requires letters and documentation of nominees’ service to campus, community and the university.
The council hopes to streamline the process, including using an online nomination form, as well as clarify the criteria to make it easier for people to nominate deserving staff members. The nomination process usually begins early in the new year and awards are handed out at the annual All Staff Conference in April.
Council members also heard health plan and wellness program updates from Stanker, who said that employees were asked to offer input on health benefit plans and 165 suggestions were received. The ideas will be funneled to employers where they will be evaluated for merit and cost benefits during the next few months.
New wellness programs offered by the university include a smoking cessation program and the Weight Watchers at Work program. The stop-smoking program is offered at no cost through health plans while the Weight Watchers program offers employees a 50 percent discount. If 15 people or more sign up at a single location, a Weight Watchers representative will conduct meetings on site. In addition, the Be Colorado Move program continues to attract participants. He said more than 4,700 people are enrolled in the program, which offers a cash incentive for those who meet monthly exercise goals.
Stanker said the university also will be creating a children’s wellness program in 2014 to help employee dependents ages 5-11 learn important behavioral, nutritional and activity lessons. Children can earn points for following the program guidelines and counseling and other support will be offered.
In other matters, he said a policy directing how final payments are calculated for someone leaving the university is being written. Another policy that addresses hand-drawn checks – used when a pay error has occurred – is being drafted. The policy is intended to reduce the number of hand-written checks – about 900 each month – that are issued.
Guest speaker Burnett discussed the growth of UCCS, which currently has 10,598 students on campus. That number is expected to increase next year and will surpass enrollment at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Burnett also answered questions about a Board of Regents-directed initiative to prioritize campus programs. The directive is meant to help regents consider resource allocation during a time of declining state financing for education and increased tuition rates.