Staff Alliance discuss major issues during annual two-day retreat

New and veteran members of Staff Alliance launched a new year during a two-day retreat August 7 and 8, 2013. The eight-member body comprises staff governance leaders from across the system.

The following is an overview of some of the key topics addressed during the two-day retreat, and opportunities for you to provide input on some of these priority issues. To jump directly to the section click on the topic heading:

2013-2014 Staff Alliance Members:

  • Carey Brown, UAA APT Council
  • Kathleen McCoy, UAA Classified Council
  • Gwenna Richardson, UAS Staff Council
  • Dayna Mackey, UAS Staff Council
  • Brad Krick, UAF Staff Council
  • Ashley Munro, UAF Staff Council
  • Alex Amegashie, Statewide Administration Assembly
  • Monique Musick, Statewide Administration Assembly

Performance Evaluation (Top)
For years governance groups have been working with university administration to develop a performance evaluation tool. Annual performance evaluations are called for in university regulation, but in practice do not happen regularly. President Gamble recently proposed a new tool designed to evaluate more than just job performance, rather to evaluate the whole person including their interactions with co-workers in addition to rating the quality of their work.

Following input and review from governance, Gamble’s intention is to use it for Statewide employees. For that reason the Statewide Administration Assembly, or SAA, (the staff governance group for Statewide employees) is taking the lead on collecting and providing feedback. Gamble will leave it up to the chancellors to decide if they want to use it at their campuses, but Staff Alliance feels that it is important to seek feedback from staff throughout the system, whether or not the new form will be required, simply because the tool will be available and it is likely that it will be used on other campuses in the future.

It is important to note that this is still in draft form. SAA members have received considerable feedback so far on the language used in ratings, the length, subjectivity and complexity of the form, ideas on the evaluation process, concerns about supervisor training for using the form and concerns about the length of time this new evaluation tool could require.  There has also been really positive feedback in particular on the goal setting part of the form. It has also been suggested that this level of review be opened up to include peer on peer and employee on manager evaluations. A special committee has been formed by SAA to evaluate and compile the feedback and prepare suggested modifications to the UA administration.

To review the proposed form and provide feedback please visit the SAA website. Please include your MAU in the comment field so we can track the origin of the feedback we receive. Thanks for participating in the review process:

Compensation Working Group Proposals (Top)
Earlier on this blog you were introduced to the compensation working group and the proposals that they forwarded to the administration. There are some questions that Statewide Human Resources has on several of the proposals, and a special working group has been identified to work with them to answer questions, evaluate costs and vett the viability of the proposals. The discussion is still very much in progress, so please feel welcome to provide feedback on any of the proposals on this blog or directly to working group chair Monique Musick at

FY15 Budget, Compensation increase (Top)
On both a national and state level the fiscal outlook is fairly grim. While Alaska has not been hit as bad as some states during the recession, the uncertainty around the state budget, including the possible recall of HB341, leads to a lot of speculation about the future funding of the university. On July 29, the state Office of Management and Budget sent a memorandum to President Gamble outlining the Governor’s budget guidelines and priorities. Not surprisingly Parnell is calling for a flat budget request. Not only are state agencies being asked to submit a FY15 budget with no increases but also to identify potential savings opportunities.

The budget guidance memo did say that statewide priorities including salary increases, and on the capital side, ongoing and partially funded projects, (for instance the remaining funding for the engineering buildings) will be considered. Deferred maintenance will also continue to be funded. But the overall message is that no increases will be funded.

Staff Alliance members reviewed data including the consumer price index, market basket surveys and geo-differential data; the projected funding for state employees; and the ongoing negotiations with unions at the university, and came up with a general range that seems most reasonable for a cost of living compensation adjustment. While Staff Alliance has no bargaining powers or the like, we do intend to formally share our discussion findings with administration as they work on developing the budget.

Career development (Top)
A Career Development Plan is a formal process developed between an employee and his or her supervisor establishing training and skill development goals and steps for advancing in the department or university. Many staff are unaware that such planning tools exist. There is an interest in increasing awareness about career planning and succession tools. There was also an interest in really encouraging the university to hire from within as much as possible as a way of providing employees greater advancement potential.

Human Resources (Top)
The afternoon of the first day Michelle Rizk, Interim Chief Human Resources Officer; Tara Ferguson, Director of Compensation; Erica Van Flein, Director of Benefits; and Anne Sakumoto, Director of Staff Training and Development spoke with the group about a range of Human Resources issues.

Chief Human Resources Officer (Top)
President Gamble has made an offer to Erik Seastedt for the Chief Human Resources Officer position. There has been no official response. Alliance members had the opportunity to meet with Seastedt and ask some questions when he visited Fairbanks for his second interview on August 1. He has over 24 years of experience in human resources.

Compensation increase FY14 (Top)
A 3.25 percent compensation increase was reflected in paychecks beginning August 9. The increase was applied to the first full pay period in July, the new fiscal year. In a quirk of the calendar, the first of July was on a Monday, meaning that pay period actually began in June. The first FULL pay period in July began on the 14th through the 27th. Because the university payroll is two weeks delayed, the increase wasn’t seen on checks for an additional two weeks, thus accounting for the “delay.”

Bullying (Top)
Based on feedback collected during the work life survey Staff Alliance sent out last year President Gamble has moved forward an training program on bullying that will be required for all Statewide staff and encouraged throughout the system. The training defines bullying, compares it to harassment, and helps to define what behaviors are and are not acceptable in the work environment. It is still under development and an initial draft is expected to be shared with governance leaders soon.

Wellness program (Top)
As you may have heard, the contract for our wellness provider, WIN for Alaska ends this fall. As part of the procurement process, an RFP went out earlier this year. UA received multiple bids to review and compare. A committee reviewed all of the details of the bids. After much research and comparison, a new provider was selected. A notice of purchase through HealthyRoads was recently announced and there has been a formal protest submitted by another bidder. The protest is currently being reviewed and a final decision will be made after August 16th.

To follow State of Alaska law, the University of Alaska cannot respond to requests for information regarding the protest. Staff Alliance has met with the Director of Benefits to receive this update and request as much information as possible. We will keep all UA staff informed of any updates or changes when that information becomes available.

Staff Make Students Count (Top)
The June meeting of the Board of Regents is typically when the Staff Make Students Count award is distributed. The June meeting is also one of the busiest of the year and changing schedules and busy agenda mean that the recognition is often rushed or overshadowed. It was suggested that the nomination period and deadline be moved up so that the award goes out at the April meeting. It was brought up that the April meeting is usually held at a remote campus, impacting the cost of travel. A final decision on when to hold the recognition event is pending budget review.

Smoke Free Campus (Top)
The proposal for a smoke-free/tobacco-free campus was brought before the Board of Regents by a group of students. In April BOR heard from students that were in favor of a SF/TF campus, while at the June meeting they heard from students that opposed the measure. Administration is requesting feedback from governance groups regarding a SF/TF campus policy. Some topics discussed were enforcement, campus definition, designated smoking areas/sheltered areas and potential impacts to tenants on UA owned property or impacts to non-UA occupants in shared buildings. We’d also like to hear from our constituents regarding their feelings on this matter. Please provide your feedback in a comment below or directly to your governance representative.

President Gamble and Vice President Thomas (Top)
The two-day retreat ended with a discussion with UA President Pat Gamble and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dana Thomas. They had spent the entire day in a budget meeting with the chancellors. At that meeting each chancellor presented his priority budget requests. As mentioned before the guidance from the governor’s office was to bring forward a flat budget. They will be working to prioritize the funding requests and to work on developing a budget for the initial submission to the Board of Regents in September. The November meeting of the Regents is entirely focused on the budget that is submitted to the governor in December. In January it goes to the legislature.

The Strategic Direction Initiative has progressed into its third and final implementation and integration stage. They are finalizing the effect statements, or specific outcomes that the university will be working for and developing the metrics for evaluating those effects.

Student success is one of the five major themes of the SDI. We discussed some of the challenges the university faces, including the extremely high numbers of non-traditional students at UA coupled with 80 percent of high school graduates not being adequately prepared for college curriculum and requiring remedial coursework. Alaska also ranks low in college going rates and our completion rates are also dismal. These and other hurdles is one of the many goals of the Strategic Direction Initiative.

As staff we are a crucial part of building the environment that students encounter at the university. We were charged to take pride in our participation and to strive to provide the highest quality service possible, to students and each other. We need empowered employees making the right choices to provide excellent support and assistance to university communities.

Election (Top)
An election was held for officers. The Vice Chair is Monique Musick. The Chair position will be filled at the next meeting when all members are present and after Staff Alliance representatives have had the opportunity to discuss being a Chair with their supervisor. Musick will act as interim chair until the Chair is elected.


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Filed under Benefits, Compensation, Policy and Regulation, Staff Communication, Uncategorized

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