UBAB, other ‘boiling issues’ inspire discussion among Staff Council members

Group also reviewing award nominations in advance of April conference

Service Excellence Awards, the University Benefits Advisory Board (UBAB) and a discussion of feedback about recent university actions and subsequent media reports topped the agenda at the regular monthly meeting March 15 of the University of Colorado Staff Council.

Council members reviewed nominations for the annual Service Excellence Awards, which recognize one employee from each campus and system administration for exemplary service to their home campus, the university and the community. Award-winners will be honored with a plaque and $1,000 during the All Staff Council Conference, April 13, at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post in Manitou Springs.

The annual conference also will feature Board of Regents Chair Kyle Hybl, who will present a university update to attendees.

UBAB continues to be a topic of discussion at meetings. Staff Council has been asked to provide input on whether the current administrative policy statement (APS) defining the role of UBAB as a representative group should be revised or whether the board should be disbanded.

Council members were unanimously in favor of “continuing UBAB’s role.” Council Chair Carla Johnson will develop a formal resolution, which will be reviewed by members before being voted on during the council’s May meeting in Boulder.

Previously, E. Jill Pollock, vice president of employee and information services, has said that the formation of the Health and Welfare Trust in 2010, and the transparency of its reports and financials, make the mission and goals of UBAB less clear.

UBAB members say the organization is necessary because the trust has no elected employee representation and because employees participate in funding the trust, they should have a voice in determining funding activities.  (See previous story.)

System Staff Council on Feb. 14 passed a resolution saying that while it supports the idea of staff and faculty involvement on the Health and Welfare Trust, it is not convinced that UBAB’s “current structure and function is the most effective for staff and faculty representation.”

The Boulder Campus Staff Council also passed a resolution March 14 urging President Bruce D. Benson “to review the APS for UBAB to include the provisions for membership to the Health Trust and Employee Group, and to continue to support the role of UBAB until an oversight committee can be established.” (See resolution below.)

In other business, council members discussed what constituents have said to them about recent university issues, including proposed tuition increases, merit pay and administrative pay raises, retirees returning to work who earn a salary and also are paid retirement benefits, and the vagaries of tuition benefits.

Many constituents have asked why retirees are allowed to “double dip” when others in the labor pool could be promoted. “People have commented, ‘We are higher education. Why are we not letting (retirees) train employees in a position to move up?’” said System Staff Council Co-Chair Debbie Martin.

Members also said constituents still ask them about pay disparities between classified employees, who are compensated under state rules, and exempt staff, and the ways in which recent merit pay/raises were distributed from the Regent-approved 3 percent salary pool.

“Some people continue to be compensated when there are others in the same department who cannot be compensated (because they are classified staff). That causes a lot of conversation,” said Debra Makray, who represents CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Others wondered if proposed tuition increases will be used to add value in the classroom by hiring more faculty.

“When you get students coming home, and they are juniors and seniors and they are talking about TAs in the classroom, or you’re allowing faculty members to buy out of hours and bringing in an adjunct or TA to handle that class, as a parent it’s hard to write that check,” said Dennis Russell, a Boulder Campus Staff Council member.

Council members said tuition increases should also be used for campus support services. “Retention is a huge issue, but if you don’t deal with support that students need outside of the classroom, you won’t retain them and they won’t be in the classroom,” said Stephanie Hanenberg, representing Colorado Springs.

“These are issues that are boiling,” Johnson said. “We in our roles have a responsibility to say, ‘This is what’s happening with people and staff on our campuses.’”

She will give a report to the Board of Regents in April concerning the “fallout” from recent university actions and news stories. The report will discuss:

  • Concerns surrounding rehiring retirees and ensuring that campuses are focusing on succession planning instead of recycling retirees,
  • The ability to ensure that (the university) has appropriate staffing available to support students and maintain quality of the academic enterprise,
  • The need for the administration to partner with governance groups to ensure there is transparency so members can answer questions coming from constituencies, and
  • The importance of ensuring a proportionate increase in value for students from increased tuition.
Statement of Support Defining UBAB’s roleWHEREAS, the University has moved to a self-insurance model, consequently all University employees could benefit now more than ever from truly independent oversight over their healthcare program management. A balanced healthcare review board is therefore critical at this time.

WHEREAS, UBAB’s role: “to represent the collective interests and needs of all University benefit participants while providing strategic advice to the President and University Administration on benefits-related issues” (Administrative Policy Statement #5025, Policy Title: Benefits Advisory Board to the President-2008) will always be needed.

WHEREAS, there is currently no faculty, staff or student group who can facilitate the role of communicating between faculty and staff, PBS and the president;

WHEREAS, UBAB enlists the opinions of all four campuses and their various shared-governance groups;

WHEREAS, staff and faculty from the various campuses do not have a current voice in the Health Trust;

WHEREAS, UBAB would serve as a balanced advisory group to help guard against “a real or apparent conflict of interest”;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Boulder Campus Staff Council urges President Benson to review the APS for UBAB to include the provisions for membership to the Health Trust and Employee Group, and to continue to support the role of UBAB until an oversight committee can be established.