Smith College Staff Council
May 2, 2001 (Approved at June 6, 2001 meeting)
A meeting of the full Staff Council was held on May 2, 2001 at 2:00 p.m. in the Mary Maples Dunn Room at Pierce Hall.
Attending: Cristen Abrams, Chrissie Bell, Sandy Bycenski, Cyndee Button, Mary Clayton, Lisa Dwinell, Michelle Finley, Patty Hayes, Patty Kimura, Mimi Lempart, Bob Lesko, Janice McDowell, Steven Monteiro, Patty Rist, Sam Rush, Stephanie Schoen, Bill Sheehan, and Jane Sommer.
Excused: Patti Corjay, Patrick Diggins, Honey Gillman, Scott Girard, Dottie Goulet, Serena Harris, Deb Letourneau, Mary Martineau, Joe Stoddart, and Maria Vallejo.
Sandy Bycenski called the meeting to order at 2:10 p.m.
Minutes of the April 2001 meeting were approved by an unanimous vote.
FOCUS GROUPS FOR WORKLOAD ISSUE
Chrissie Bell reported that at the last Steering Committee the pros and cons of whether staff council should, in conjunction with HR & Institutional Diversity, commit to the path to examine staff workload that begins with focus groups, or pilot programs, or a combination of both. Earlier, PPC, HR, and Brenda Allen planned for focus groups to study the workload issue on campus. The cost for the study was estimated at $20,000. Lianne Sullivan-Crowley then presented an alternative plan: instead of starting with focus groups, use information that Human Resources already has and move directly to pilot programs in two or three offices, with the Admissions Office to be one of the first. After much discussion, the Steering Committee considered the importance of gathering campus-wide data on the workload issue before pilot programs. Steering, and then Staff Council discussed the risks of such a path. If a campus-wide focus group study determined that no workload issue existed or that a solution other than pilot programs was warranted, there would be no way to justify the pilots, and funding would not be available. However, the importance of a credible and thorough study, that had community support, weighed heavily. Steering asked HR "if Staff Council elected the focus group path, and the results supported pilot programs in departments to examine workload from: process re-design, workload analysis, technology support, office re-structuring, etc., including possible FTE changes @ would there be additional money available from the college to support such pilots?" Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, Director of HR, said that since the funds currently allocated (of $20, 000) would be used to fund focus groups, there wasn't a guarantee of funding for pilots, but, if the focus group study supported pilots, she would work full bore to try and find the funding for the pilots. She felt strongly that there could probably be funding found for at least a pilot or two.
Staff Council discussed concerns and comments on how to proceed:
The focus groups must be well attended to gather the best representative information.
PPC must craft a great invitation to the employees that are asked to participate in the study and Council members must actively encourage participation to gain the most open discussion. Consider an open meeting for staff who were not randomly selected for the focus groups to offer their input.
Present the workload issue at a Community Forum (December?) to generate publicity.
Important that the randomly selected employees are not in groups with department heads.
Three years ago the Provost Office hired a company to study workloads in academic offices due to the addition of twenty or so new faculty positions. The workload analysis identified a need for additional FTEs, but when brought to ACRA the funding was not approved this year. It was explained that ACRA considered 80+ proposals for funding but funded only 3 this year. Comment made that the Provost does understand the need and while the funding was not available this year, it may be approved in an upcoming year. It was also noted that while 20 new faculty were hired, current faculty left or retired and the numbers might actually not reflect a net gain of 20. It was felt that the report from this study should be researched.
Risk that negative feelings may be brought up by the focus groups and expectations may not be met.
Risk that while many feel they are overworked, the study may identify offices that are actually overstaffed or under productive.
Highlight the need to enter the study with an open-mind. Entering the study with the belief that there is a universal workload problem with just one solution is unfair to the study and may ignore new ideas and creative approaches.
We might always wonder what the focus groups would have found if we skip this step by moving directly to pilot programs.
Staff Council voted to recommend that the college proceed with focus groups to study the workload issue. There are many details to work out, and we look forward to being an integral part of this process.
CONTRIBUTIONS FOR CHARITY IN RUTH SIMMONS HONOR
An email will be distributed soon to Staff Council members to notify staff about Ruth Simmons staff gift. Checks should be made out to the United Negro College Fund (or UNCF) and may be sent to Serena Harris, Staff Council, 30 Belmont Avenue. If staff prefer to donate to a Smith fund, checks should be made out to Smith College with a notation on the check that cites either Target of Opportunity, Poetry Center, Emergency Fund for Women of Color, Scholarship Support, Meridians, or Unrestricted Support. Patty Hayes will create a poster to advertise this information.
ACRA REPRESENTATIVE-JANE SOMMER
Jane Sommer checked with Ruth Constantine and found that it was fine to report on plans for the coming fiscal year. Ruth thought it was very important that we know what the committee's decisions are based on. The committee consists of 5 or 6 faculty along with John Connolly, Jonathan Lovell, Ruth Constantine and Charles Staelin, students, a staff representative @ Jane Sommer, and trustees.
Smith College is generally assumed to be a very wealthy college, but Smith investment earnings have actually been running low, about 5% compared to some colleges who have earned 40% in the past few years. The noticeable difference has had an impact on the ability of the college to fund fiscal priorities for next year. In the upcoming year, ACRA proposed funding for only three areas (out of the more than 80 requests they received): an increase in student financial aid, funding of staff and faculty compensation, and an admission selectivity program. (This year the entering class is 620, slightly smaller than the usual entering class, which decreases the tuition collected.) At the next Board of Trustees meeting it is expected that these three proposals will be approved.
Report given earlier in meeting-2nd agenda item.
Nominations and Elections
Bill Sheehan reported that since not all departments received the nomination forms he is re-sending these forms and the election will be postponed until the middle of May.
Sam Rush reported that the committee met on April 19 and began to look at next year's goals. One goal is to find ways to promote diversity within the Smith community through activities such as the Lunch and Learn Series, the Art Show, and new employee connections.
Handouts for the Van Tours were discussed. A simple handout that offers helpful information to new employees such as where to eat, what to do, etc. will be put together. The next tour is May 16 at 10:30 a.m. and includes a ride to the top of the new parking garage for the incredible view.
Patty Hayes reported that the Chronicle newsletter is going to Central Services and should be distributed early next week. She will delete Scott Girard and Dottie Goulet's names from the Staff Council roster since they have resigned.
Lisa Dwinell reported that the committee met on April 12.
The paperback exchange went well and received much praise.
Details on the Bronx Zoo trip are just about finalized with a flyer to be distributed next week.
Possible upcoming events are a Tanglewood trip, a cooking class, and a new employee social hour.
AD HOC COMMITTEES-LUNCH & LEARN
As of yet, there are no volunteers for the next Lunch and Learn series.
AD HOC VISIONS met on April 19. Patty Hayes and Amy Holich passed on the information from the previous art shows. The committee is currently looking at spaces in Mendenhall, McConnell and Neilson Library for the art show. Expanding on the art show, members discussed getting together interested staff for "Art After Work," an activity that may begin this summer.
Bob Lesko reported that after commencement the picnic tables would be the next priority.
As it was reported earlier, Dottie Goulet and Scott Girard have resigned from Staff Council. Members expressed their thanks to the two members for their support and work with the council.
The Staff Council meeting was adjourned at 3:05 p.m.