Staff Council looks for two-way communication with Board of Regents, Health Trust

Members look for direction on how best to establish dialogues

Ways in which to develop effective two-way communications with the University of Colorado Board of Regents and the Health and Welfare Trust were main discussion topics at the CU Staff Council’s regular Dec. 12 meeting.

Regent Michael Carrigan, chair of the board, sent a letter dated Dec. 10 to governance groups at the university, asking them to help inform the university community about board activities.

The letter said: “While our meetings receive select coverage externally in the media and internally in CU Connections, that coverage does not always explain in detail the board’s discussion or direction or capture the nuance of a particular issue. Additionally, in conversations with people across the university, including governance groups, we have found that there is a distinct lack of meaningful information about the board’s activities, which can lead to rumors and inaccurate information. To remedy that, we are developing a communication from the board that will detail the significant decisions we reach and issues we address.

“After each board meeting, we will send you the communication and ask that you distribute it among your membership. Likewise, we hope you will take the opportunity to share your perspective on the board’s activities with your membership and read CU Connections. Among us, we believe we can better inform the university community about the significant actions the board takes and the issues it discusses,” the letter continued.

Council chair Deserae Frisk said that at the Dec. 3 Regents meeting, she reported on Staff Council’s discussion about the dissolution of UBAB (University Benefits Advisory Board) by President Bruce D. Benson. She also told the regents that some staff members had compared the move to the defunding of the Silver and Gold Record, the former faculty and staff newspaper that staff members felt challenged the administration.

“I think it is interesting that they now are trying to have more direct communications with us,” Frisk said.

The Boulder Staff Council also discussed the letter at its meeting a day earlier and questioned whether the board wants “a dialogue, a two-sided conversation as Carrigan mentions, or do they want it to be more of a monologue where they are essentially more proactive in providing information about their meetings,” said Erin Foster.

Frisk – who attends regent meetings, where she reports to the board on staff issues – said she believes the board wants to accomplish both: “The regents are receptive and are willing to talk about issues and listen, so I think there is opportunity for a two-way engagement, but I also think this is their attempt to make sure that their version of what happened is out there.”

Last year, the regents requested that at their meetings, governance boards offer short verbal reports but prepare and submit longer, more detailed concerns on paper.

Foster said this would be a good time to clarify how feedback from staff could be received by the board.

“This is a nice bridge to that conversation. In my experience, when we are able to see more transparent information, the staff tends to have more questions and more feedback,” she said. “I think it would be really important for us in our role as staff leaders to clarify how we can have this dialogue when it’s appropriate. When information needs to flow the other way, how will this happen?”

Frisk said she will draft a letter to Regent Carrigan asking how the board would like to handle feedback from individual campuses and the university Staff Council.

Council members also discussed the ramifications of the loss of UBAB.

“People are really worried that because UBAB is not there anymore, (staff) doesn’t have direct communication with the Trust,” he said. “It behooves us to address that and let people know there is representation, communication and some oversight. What is the best way for us to communicate with the Trust?”

Lisa Landis, assistant vice president of employee services, reminded the council that E. Jill Pollock, vice president of employee and information services, recommended that a committee be formed to act as one voice to filter communications to the Trust. However, she said, the Trust always solicits feedback from individuals. She also reminded council members that staff has representatives on the Trust at the vice-presidential level.

“We may not be the experts that UBAB claimed they were, and we may not have somebody who knows the ins and outs of the insurance world,” said Tricia Strating. “But we can at least be the mediator or facilitator between administration and staff, and get answers for people who do have questions.”

Staff council voted to form an ad hoc committee to address the concerns. The committee, composed of one member from each campus and system administration, will hold its first meeting in January.

In other matters:

  • Council members plan to prepare a systemwide staff survey to identify issues of concern and other items of interest.
  • Tricia Strating reported that the university’s new website launch has been delayed until the winter; the delay affects the launch of the new Staff Council website. Members had hoped to use the site to solicit nominations for the annual Service Excellence Awards, which honor one staff member from each campus.