Staff survey indicates wide-ranging opinions on hot topics

Input gives Staff Council direction on guiding principles, nondiscrimination law

Respondents of a recent staff survey were split on whether a guiding principle of the university proposed by Regent Jim Geddes that specifically focuses on philosophical diversity of faculty should be adopted.

In the same survey, respondents favored a recommendation to add the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression" to a regents' nondiscrimination law. (See related story here.)

About 600 people – including classified and exempt staff – responded to the opinion survey, in which 41.7 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the guiding principle proposed by Geddes, R-Sedalia, in April; 40.1 percent said they disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The proposed principle reads:

"Promote faculty, student and staff diversity to ensure the rich interchange of ideas in the pursuit of truth and learning, specifically including faculty diversity of political, intellectual and philosophical perspectives."

Geddes has said the principle is "meant for all members of our complex university family, but places with our esteemed faculty the prime responsibility of fostering political, philosophical and intellectual diversity."

But some, including members of the University of Colorado Staff Council, said the principle is too narrow and should be rewritten to include all members of the university. The staff council has suggested that the principle read: "Attract, develop and support a diverse faculty, staff and student body to promote the rich interchange of ideas in the pursuit of truth and learning, including diversity of political, geographic, cultural, intellectual and philosophical perspectives."

Faculty Council and Regents Monisha Merchant, D-Lakewood, and Stephen Ludwig, D-Lone Tree, also have suggested changes to the principle.

In all, respondents to the survey were asked about eight different versions or parts of the principle, which many said was confusing. Other respondents, however, agreed with Geddes' proposal, saying faculty should be held to a higher standard concerning diversity. Some said the principle could not be enforced.

"I was pleased with the number of participants, as well as the variety of comments that were submitted to Staff Council," said Lori Krug, council co-chair. "The last electronic survey that we administered to all university staff was the 2008 survey to obtain staff opinions on work environment, training, resources, benefits, etc."

Results of the 2008 survey are posted at; Krug said the most recently completed survey will be added to the site soon.

At its June 24-25 meeting, the Board of Regents put the issue on hold until those who had drafted changes could meet with governance groups to determine language that would be acceptable to everyone involved.

Krug said final changes in the language are expected to be ready for the September meeting of the Board of Regents.

Another question on the survey dealt with Article 10 of the Laws of the Regents concerning nondiscrimination. Of those who responded to the survey, taken from May 25 through June 21, 43.6 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression" should be added to the law, while 36 percent indicated they disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The Board of Regents has said that CU's nondiscrimination law is in line with current state laws prohibiting discrimination, but students, governing boards and others have strongly advocated for the language.

"At this time, the reworked version of the Regents Laws, article 10 (nondiscrimination) that was completed in the Laws and Policies committee has been tabled," Krug said. "It will be up to the new chair, Regent Kyle Hybl, to provide us with some direction about when this revision will be formally presented to the board."

Survey respondents were asked to comment on issues or concerns Staff Council should address in the upcoming year. While responses ran the gamut, many who commented said they want better health benefits and tuition benefits, an examination of pay that might include reassessing of pay grades and ensuring work descriptions match actual duties, alternative work schedules, and pay raises.

"As many expected, many comments from staff were focused on a common theme: how to address stagnant staff pay rates, coupled with increased job duties due to a two-and-a-half-year hiring freeze and staff reductions due to budget cuts and increased benefit costs," said Krug, who pointed to medical and dental plan increases and PERA's 2.5 percent shift for fiscal year 2011. "The employees at CU are grateful to have continued employment but are approaching a breaking point."