COLLEGE STAFF COUNCIL
January 5, 2000
The Staff Council meeting was held at 11am in room 105 , Seelye Hall.
Present: Ann Finley /RADS/Catering, Patty Kimura /HR, Ay Ling Han /Health Services/Counseling, Patti Corjay /FinAid, Naomi Curtis Sturtevant /Libraries, Cindy Rucci /Libraries, Marion Abrams /Health Services, Mary Martineau /Advancement, Mary Clayton /Controllers Office, Sandy Bycenski /ITS, Michelle Finley /ESS, Mary Ann Phoenix /Provost's Office, Bill Sheehan /Controller's Office. and Cyndee Button/Campus School.
Excused: Kelly Taylor, Chrissie Bell, Stephanie Schoen, Scott Girard, Pat Rist.
Resigned: Cynthia DiGeronimo, Amy Holich.
We were thrilled by the bountiful layout of food and drink for the meeting, for the first time in a number of meetings. Ay Ling noted that the extra snacks and sandwiches were as a thank you from Patty Hentz, RADS/Davis Center, for our patience with last semester's food misadventures. Thanks to Ay-Ling for her persistence and forbearance as our food liaison.
Scott was unable to attend today's meeting which was ably led by our Vice Chair, Ann Finley.
Grant/Picnic Table Proposal
Bill Sheehan reported that the proposal is currently in the hands of David Greene, Assistant to the President. David is looking through the proposal.
Nominations and Elections Committee
Bill Sheehan noted the recent resignations of 2 Staff Council members Cynthia DiGeronimo and Amy Holich. There are now 3 vacancies (including the earlier resignation of Laurie Wyman in the fall) which the committee suggests we leave open since the new elections are slated to occur in a few months. The new members will begin tenure as of June 1st.
The committee did not meet in December. Sandy Bycenski reported on Communications committee issues discussed at the December Steering Committee meeting, these included:
1. A recommendation that issues of the Chronicle be sent to past Chairs of Staff Council.
2. There was concern that with the resignation of Staff Council Council Chronicle liaison, Amy Holich, the Communications Committee & Staff Council have no active member working on oversight of the Chronicle. There was some confusion about: what the yearly publication dates are for the Chronicle; why steering committee/committee chairs were not solicited for information or announcements which should be included in the publication; who has final say over content; who is seeing a final draft/proof before the newsletter is printed and distributed; why do copy deadlines seem to vary for the same issue.
The committee will meet and discuss these issues and nominate a new liaison.
B. Personnel Policy Committee
As a longstanding member of the committee, Mary Ann Phoenix volunteered to poll that group for a nomination of a new chair in the wake of the recent resignation of Cynthia DiGeronimo.
C. Activities Committee
Bus Trip to NYC: There were a lot of initial cancellations for the trip due to colds & flu. But when told there would be no refund for cancellations "everyone who canceled showed up" and the buses proceeded on to NYC.
Bright Lights: The bus trip to see Bright Lights went very well. Cindy said "I have never seen little kids so excited." The trip went smoothly no traffic delays, and the group returned to Smith 20 minutes early.
Activities Survey: The committee will begin work on a staff activities survey.
Canned Food Drive: There will be another non-perishable food drive probably during the last two weeks in February. It was suggested that the drive capitalize on the recent extra stocking of canned food in preparation for Y2K with the slogan "Unload Your Y2K Surplus!"
Proposal for Staff Council Training
How We Got Here
Members of the steering committee met over winter break to brainstorm and draft a proposal for Staff Council to address campus climate issues. Copies of the draft were distributed to members present. Patty attempted to paraphrase some of what Scott Girard (who was unable to be present at today's meeting) discussed with the smaller group on his feelings about this proposal. That this represented a return to the original concern and mission diversity -- of the informal Staff Connections group he felt was part of the genesis of the current Staff Council. And that perhaps it was finally time to turn as a group to face diversity again. Ann asked people to take a moment to look over the proposal that Scott, Ann, Ay-Ling, Sarah, Sandy and Patty worked on over break, and which Sarah kindly agreed to hastily cobble together for the meeting.
Smith College Staff Council
Proposal for addressing campus climate issue
Rationale: Smith College's Staff Council, as any integral part of the community would like to address campus climate issues that result from participating in a diverse community.
Goals: To bring forth initiatives that address and improve current and long-term campus climate issues. To have diversity as an institutional priority on a continuous and long-term basis for Staff Council.
Objectives: To educate the community through a two tiered plan.
1. Data collection.
Survey the employees of Smith College to determine what bias incidents actually occur. This will be modeled after the University of Massachusetts surveys that help address climate issues.
Distribute the results of the survey to the entire community for educational and progress tracking purposes.
2. Staff Council Training and Skill Development.
Develop staff members as support lines for campus climate and community issues.
To continuously educate staff members on how to be resources for all staff.
Potential for self-education at many levels.
There was a point of clarification about the "two tiered" plan the numbers do not represent a hierarchy of importance nor a timeline, they are just a quick way of delineating two avenues of action for staff council.
There was a fair amount of discussion about what this proposal meant, and the reasons it was proposed at this time. Someone reminded the group that President Simmons had come to Staff Council last year and invited us to come forward with our own initiatives. Another person said that most of the other campus-wide groups have diversity as a primary focus, mentioning the College Council, and SAMS. Student groups and faculty have also taken fairly vocal and active roles in addressing diversity. It was important to acknowledge that the years of hard work and tireless effort of Staff Council up to this point has had a significant effect on improving the life of the college in so many ways. It was "time for us, as a representative college-wide body, to ask, demand, to be included as an equal partner in the work and responsibility of diversity, of transforming the climate that we live in."
Sarah discussed the proposed survey. While much anecdotal information abounds, the proposed survey would provide hard evidence of employees actual experience on campus.
Sarah and Patty attended a workshop on Hate Crimes offered as part of the Otelia Cromwell Day Symposia last November. There, Grant Ingle, UMass, spoke about the efforts that the University was making to improve climate. One of the tools they used for both educating the community and gathering hard statistical tracking data was an annual climate/bias incident survey. Through both its administration and data compilation the survey was an educational success. This was done as a phone survey. They were able to act on the data they collected, and then track the educational program's effectiveness by comparing to the other year's data. The survey proved enormously helpful and necessary to UMass' efforts to improve climate. It provides empirical data needed by the state for funding purposes. Ay-Ling mentioned that the town of Amherst does something similar.
Sarah is very excited about the prospects for a survey at Smith that staff could spearhead this project for the college, and begin with a focus on staff life at Smith She believes that there is a significant amount of work that will have to go into this project for its success.
The planning phase for this project will be this semester with an expected implementation date sometime after the June 2000 new member installation. There was discussion about a phone survey and a paper "check off" type survey. Again it was noted that both the survey and training proposals are simply proposals and the whole of Staff Council will need to make a final decision about methods and content.
An ad hoc group will meet to begin looking at this project. If you are interested in working with this group in designing the survey, please contact Sarah Lazare. You can also send her your thoughts and ideas even if you cannot attend the meeting.
Ann mentioned that she felt that her participation as a member of Staff Council over the years -- what she has learned and talked about in this open cross/multi-departmental forum has had a profound impact on her work within her own union the latest 211 contract now has a clause about flexibility that Ann traces back to her work in Staff Council. Ann feels there is something unique about this cross-departmental experience. There were more comments about what it means to be a representative of Staff Council that it's more than just "release time and free snacks," it's about learning and leading, about responsibility to the constituencies that we represent. We talked about the idea of mandating training and what the training would be about. Someone said that she wants to find out what she "needs to know about how to be a true representative." It was noted that Staff Council has no precedent for mandated training but that some other campus bodies do. It was reiterated that the whole of Staff Council would need to consider the idea of required training and approve it before it could be mandated.
But what kind of training was being proposed? The small Steering Committee group had discussed it as a "problem-solving skills" training, but the proposal was intentionally vague because it is seen as a first step, a draft, a prompt to the larger Staff Council to define for ourselves, as a group, our goals and needs. Patty has spoken with Kathleen Chatwood, HR Training & Development, about what would be possible in tailoring training for our group. Kathleen said that we could consider a variety of configurations and lengths of training but that a _ day training might work well for us. In any event, she said we would have to do our own "needs assessment" to determine what skills/learning/experience we want to leave with after the training. Staff Council would need to do this first, then Kathleen could help us from that point with tweaking it a bit and helping locate the best trainer(s) for our needs. Kathleen was very open to and buoyed by the prospect of working with Staff Council.
We returned to the idea of mandating training. We agreed in principle that this might work for staff council for a tailored training program. Sentiment was voiced that it might be hard to mandate a single training for everyone since we already have different levels of experience and skill and it might be redundant for some and perhaps too difficult for others. Someone noted that we always come to every situation with varying levels of skill and different life and work experiences, but that a single, say half-day, training would give us all a single shared experience it might serve to bind us together, and that our differences in skill & experience might ultimately prove an asset we can call on singly and as a group. Another person felt that mandating training was a good idea that she strongly supported "as a commitment to being on staff council." We further discussed a timeline for training after the upcoming June elections. A few people said that this was a good idea since it would alert those running that this would be part of the responsibilities of being on Staff Council. It might encourage others to run, as well. A member wanted to be sure that everyone's voice was heard, to invite input, disagreement, and concerns about this proposal. A few members noted the initiatives of a couple of departments in including shared diversity training Advancement and Health Services, as a positive thing. We discussed some other benefits of shared training including: "getting some skills, knowing how and what to say when I am in a situation that I want to speak up about"; "being able to ask for help from other people who have gone through the same training"; "becoming an additional resource for peers"; "really beginning to know people on a deeper level across campus" as in the diversity training workshops; "learning things that have an impact in my personal life being able, knowing how, to talk to my husband about the different attitudes we have about how the world has changed"; and "building a sense of unity as Staff Council."
An ad hoc group was formed to brainstorm about what our training outcome/needs proposal might look like. Patty agreed to draft the ideas and run them past Kathleen for a reality check. If you are interested in being part of this group or participating in any part of the planning phase for proposed training, please contact Patty. She also welcomes all ideas, thoughts, concerns, worries, and opinions, even if you cannot attend the brainstorming meeting. Patty will announce, by email, the ad hoc group's first meeting date & time.
One person said "We live here, we spend years of our work lives here, and we want to be held responsible, accountable for changing the climate, for diversity, because it affects us too, because it matters to us too."
Scott Girard asks for your comments and thoughts on this proposal. Please feel free to contact him with any comments, concerns, or questions. Please feel free to contact any member of steering committee member -- we welcome and value your thoughts, comments, feelings and ideas on this. Ann noted that her email address is incorrectly listed in the directory please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was a motion to adjourn the meeting. It was seconded, and the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting is set for Wednesday, February 2nd, 11am, MMD room in Pierce Hall.
These minutes respectfully submitted by Patty Kimura and Sandy Bycenski