Proposed changes to University of Alaska layoff regulations

On the afternoon of Wednesday Feb. 4, Staff Alliance and System Governance received from Chief Human Resources Officer Erik Seastedt proposed changes to University of Alaska layoff regulations. As opposed to policy, which require Board of Regents approval to change, regulation changes require only the signature of the President after a review by governance. We have been given until February 17 to respond.

In brief the regulation changes affect:

  • The reasons for layoff
  • Final determination of layoff selection process
  • Halving the length of notice or pay in lieu of notice for exempt employees (reducing from 6 months to 3 months)
  • Alternatives to layoffs
  • The grievance process is replaced with a review process

A copy of the proposed regulation changes as well as a form for collecting your suggested edits, feedback and concerns is available here:

CHRO Seasted will be at our Staff Alliance meeting Feb. 10 to answer questions and discuss our proposed edits. The agenda and link to join the meeting is posted here:

Some context

Over the next few years the university anticipates a series of significant funding reductions. The estimated reduction in State General Funds in FY16, combined with fixed cost increases, puts the university at a $42.9 million loss. That’s expected to be followed again, and again, in FY17 and FY18 for an estimated grand total of $90.9 million in actual reductions and a cumulative impact of reductions and rising costs of $136.6 million in just three years. By comparison last years’ entire university state appropriation was about $370.6 million.

With these deep cuts in funding it is only logical that there will be significant reductions in staffing as well. It seems a really lousy time to have reductions made to the length of notice and or pay in lieu of notices, considering that most of us feel more vulnerable than ever, but this change, like the recent addition of a furlough policy, is trying to reduce the total number of layoffs necessary. We simply cannot afford to have people in positions for six months that have already been identified for layoff, nor afford to send everyone out with a full six months pay.

After reviewing the proposed changes and speaking with CHRO Seastedt, we have identified a few real benefits in the changes, but we have also found areas we wish to revise or clarify. The way that the changes to the review process are currently written we find unacceptable and will be working with administration and legal counsel to change.

First the good news.

A number of changes in section E, alternatives to layoffs, make it easier to move into appropriate vacant positions regardless of campus or university. It requires HR offices to assist potential layoff employees and employees in layoff status to find employment. It also makes layoff employees priority in consideration for internal hires.

A change in section C, selection for Layoffs, adds a higher level of oversight to the final determination of the order for layoff. The intention behind this change is to add a layer of protection from biases of a supervisor or department head in the selection process. There is some concern that this change diminishes the authority of departments and we anticipate further discussion and possible revisions in this area.

The hard part

The reduction of the length of notice, or pay in lieu of notice, for exempt employees from six months to three months is financially and practically driven. The revisions as proposed were intended to be signed in March and to go into affect for exempt employees on August 1, 2015. Essentially to give employees six months notice that their layoff benefits will be reduced to three months instead of six. There was no change to the notice for nonexempt employees.

The truly troubling part(s)

As your staff leaders we are truly troubled by the proposed changes under section I, review of layoff or recall decision, and will be working very hard to oppose them and to find a solution that affords employees our right for due process.

According the CHRO Seastedt the intent was to prevent a slew of time intensive hearings, especially should all members of a department selected for layoff decide to grieve their determination, when all that could be grieved, even under current policy, is the process by which the layoff is determined. (e.g. did the process follow the rules in section A) So they substituted a review instead of a grievance request and removed layoffs from grievance regulations. The revision provides for a more expedient layoff review process when appropriate.

In cases where an employee asserts grounds that require a due process review, a hearing will be provided, as in the existing grievance procedure.  Regardless of the process that is used, the review will still result in a recommendation to the chancellor (or chief human resource officer, for statewide employees) who remains the decision-maker in layoff reviews.

However, when combined with the change in final determination in section C, we now have a regulation that says your only recourse for challenging your layoff selection is to go to the person who approved it in the first place. This is appears to be a violation of our rights to due process and a mistake resulting from making to many changes at once without fully analyzing the cumulative impacts of these adjustments. This is particularly troubling since the problem that this is trying to prevent is a hypothetical one at best.


As stated above we were given an extremely short timeline for response. The good and worthy intention of that was to give employees adequate warning that layoff benefits were being reduced so they could begin to prepare financially. However that well-intentioned deadline doesn’t even begin to allow the time needed for the governance system to review and respond. Considering the very troubling issue highlighted above, in addition to numerous other concerns and suggested edits not even addressed here, we will be requesting more time from the President. The need for expediency does not supersede the need to make these changes correctly and in the best interest of employees and the university.

This discussion does not address every change in regulation, nor every suggested edit that we have identified this far. I encourage you to take moment to review the changes yourself and to submit your suggestions through the online response form:

A note on this communication

(Applies to the e-mail version.) This is a new e-mail list, overseen by the system governance office, intended to improve the process of distributing information and when combined with the new centralized response collection improves the speed with which governance can facilitate two-way communication flow. This does not supersede local governance connections or communications and will only be used for items of great importance.

It is a pleasure to serve as your representative and all of us in governance will be working hard to be your voice during these times of rapid change. Please feel free to contact me or your local governance representative with further questions. Thank you for your service to the university.

Best Regards,
Monique Musick
Staff Alliance Chair

c.c Also e-mailed to University Staff



Filed under Uncategorized

Feedback requested on proposed new policy

Chief Information Technology Officer Karl Kowalski asked Governance leaders for feedback on a proposed mobile device security policy. I had the opportunity to hear a discussion about IT risk analysis during the last Board of Regents meeting. The greatest threat to protecting sensitive information is people transporting and sharing sensitive information on their laptops or mobile devices and being careless about security. He wants to hear back from us by Jan. 15. Please contribute any suggestions, concerns or feedback. Thanks!

Rationale: The proliferation of mobile devices on our campuses utilizing our information resources has necessitated the development of policy regarding use of those devices and protection of University information assets, intellectual property and research.

Kowalski proposes the following policy. Regulation will follow and then guidelines for specific tools and practices for protecting mobile assets.

P02.07.066. Mobile Device Security Policy

University employees and students who use a laptop computer or mobile device (e.g. portable hard drives, USB flash drives, smartphones, tablets) are responsible for the university data stored, processed or transmitted via that computer or mobile device and for following the security requirements set forth in this policy and other applicable Information Resources Policies regardless of whether that device is the property of the university or the individual.

The use of unprotected mobile devices to access or store non-public information is prohibited regardless of whether or not such equipment is owned or managed by the university.

The Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO) is responsible for coordinating with the campuses in the development of consistent measures and business practices for ensuring the security of sensitive data on mobile devices.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Smoke Free Tobacco Free Policy Passed

Today the Board of Regents approved a policy banning smoking and tobacco products on UA campuses. Chancellors have until Dec. 2015 to implement this change. One of the biggest concerns has been enforcement of the policy. We’d like to hear your ideas and suggestions.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Testimony to the Board of Regents, Dec. 10, 2014

Monique Musick
Staff Alliance Chair

Good morning Madame Chair, President Gamble, and Regents

While there is a lot of business on the agenda these next two days, it feels like we’ve finally reached the conclusion to many long processes, discussions and hours of work. To those members of the board who are nearing the end of your term I wish to extend heartfelt thanks for your commitment and service.

Tobacco free campuses have been discussed for years. This time the Board will take action, and draft regulations have been put forth from the President. Staff and System Governance groups support the restrictions up to a point. There is still interest in the possibility of designated areas beyond personal vehicles, and I hope that all testimony and input will be listened to and valued even if it seems the solution is already in sight, and that any final decision reflects that.

Similarly, there has been a lot of effort put in to drafting regulations for the furlough policy. This was a great example of a productive working relationship between administration and those affected by policy…. But again I must emphasize how much we hope it is a tool that is not employed.

Staff Alliance is working to improve our record collection, communications, and transition planning, but cannot elevate the governance processes, or the speed of decision making, without beneficial relationships with administration too. Sending an e-mail to governance groups with a proposal and a deadline is not nearly as effective as coming to a meeting, discussing it with the representatives, framing it so it is understood, and allowing time for discussion, the collection of feedback and formation of a fully-informed response. More can be done to improve the speed at which things move through governance, but it is going to take a better understanding of needs and timelines among all parties.

The addition of a tracking system to the Shaping Alaska’s Future Website for the initiatives being investigated or implemented by the Summit Team is a great move toward transparency and communication. It will help minimize surprise, and adds another avenue of communication between administration and everyone else. This is a very positive move.

There are still instances where staff wish to have input, but don’t. By example, the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Research also oversees the governance office. While the Faculty Alliance – who clearly have multiple layers of interest in the staffing of that position – were asked to review and comment on the make-up of the hiring committee, but staff were not involved at all, and there is no staff on the 18-member hiring committee nor any assurances that understanding the important role of Shared Governance – at all levels– is a priority for them. As I said a few months ago, staff are here, and we want to be involved.

That said, this is my limited opportunity to address this board prior to your January strategic planning retreat. These few minutes are hardly adequate to address such a large topic, and I am not a financial advisor, but I’d like to share a few thoughts.

It is no understatement that the long-term budget picture is pretty bleak. The university cannot absorb the kind of cuts that we got this year, especially if they continue on for multiple years, without affecting all aspects of the university. With the price of oil dropping to $65 a barrel, and state revenues coming in billions of dollars below projections, it is reasonable to believe that we will be cut, and that those cuts are going to continue.

All members of the university community need to be involved in responding to these budget cuts. Closed-door meetings and top-down decisions will do little to dispel fear or over-come distrust. There are departments and programs looking at re-organization. Who better to be involved in those decisions than the ones who actually know what work needs to be done, what resources are needed, and what is necessary to maintain or even improve our levels of service to our students and other stakeholders? Give people a voice in this—and in turn listen to what is said.

If we want to continue to improve as a university, even through this transition from an era of growth to one of reductions, we must continue to be able to attract and retain top faculty and staff. Resist the temptation to shift more costs on employees or eliminate benefits. Any further cost shifting on our health plan for instance and we will loose more members, put greater burden on those who stay, and in turn see more loss until it is no longer viable. Similarly our wellness program is one of our few tools for combating ever-growing healthcare costs, don’t be tempted to reduce it to save a few short-term dollars at the expense of long-term benefits. As staffing levels go down due to attrition, retirement, reorganization or layoffs, those who remain are tasked with ever-greater workloads. To ask so much more and then provide less would only lead to more loss. We must avoid that as best we can and demonstrate to all employees that they are valued.

Similarly, while looking into incentivizing retirement or offering buy-out options for early retirement, make sure that we’ve also addressed training and transition planning. To lose our time-tested leaders—no matter their level in the institution – during such times brings about additional losses. Support and training needs to be maintained.

We may not need to try a whole new system of budgeting, but we could make great strides by changing our current practices and attitudes. Eliminate the fear around a use-it-or-lose-it departmental budget and instead incentivize and reward fiscal stewardship and restraint.

In this opportunity to evaluate “business as usual” lets work on transparency and communication as well and engaging all members of this community. In the end we will be stronger and better, especially if we work together, understand our goals and needs, and never undermine our real mission as an institute of higher learning.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Opera singer’s day job: Saving students’ time, money

In the interest of highlighting the good work and innovations implemented by University of Alaska staff, we share this story from the UAA Green & Gold News about a staffer who found time and money savings for students through his work in the Office of the Registrar.

Story begins:

Bachelor of Music, Class of 2011
Curriculum and Publication Specialist, Office of the Registrar
Hometown: Eagle River, Alaska
Fun Fact: Michael plans to continue his music education at the graduate level.

Michael Smith sees a virtual river of schedule forms flowing through his office each day, about 30 to 40 of the online requests UAA’s departments use to add, delete and change classes the university offers each semester.

I AM UAA: Michael Smith

Smith processes those forms as part of his job with the Office of the Registrar, where he manages flow and review processes involved with curriculum in the University Catalog and in Banner, the UA System’s administrative software package.

The task of managing that virtual paperwork used to consume time—too much time, in Smith’s opinion.

Find out how Michael solved that problem by reading the full story here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Board of Regents Pass FY16 Budget Requests — Program and efficiency reviews continue

The budget meeting November 5-6 was interesting and informative. For information on the outcomes and overview of the FY16 budgets, as well as President Gamble’s comments, please review the post-meeting press release:

I’d encourage everyone to also take a moment to go to the Board of Regents page and review the budgets and the supporting documentation linked to the agenda (

Right away you will recognize the immense amount of work happening throughout the system to improve efficiencies and save money. Lets keep working at it because these tighter budget days are not likely to end soon. Our years of continued growth may be over, and now we may have to make some tough decisions. I commend the chancellors for their leadership in conducting detailed program reviews. This will not be easy.

As several Philosophy students testified during the public comment, not all majors can or should be measured by the employability of graduates, and many skills, like critical thinking, problem solving and discourse cannot be valued in outcomes based evaluation systems. It is critically important to maintain that balance as we move forward, and look to our faculty to guide these tough choices and maintain a full array of classical as well as workforce education offerings.

As far as my staff governance report, I’ll post it below in full. In short- we are working hard. I look forward to sharing more updates with you as we continue to work with faculty, students and administration on major issues affecting the university. As always, feel free to comment, use the staff submission form (, write me an email ( or give me or any governance representative a call with your concerns, suggestions and questions.


Monique Musick, chair Staff Alliance

Testimony Nov. 4, 2014

Good morning madam Chair, members of the board, president Gamble,

I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you again. I just had a good conversation with President Gamble on Friday where I got to address some of the recent focuses of staff governance groups and had was able to hear the history of the University of Alaska’s land grant status and the theory behind the proposed Sovereign fund. As Alliance Chair I have regular meetings with Gamble. This kind of accessibility to, and open discourse with, university leadership is truly appreciated and an invaluable opportunity within this organization and one that is vital to the shared governance process.

And staff governance has been busy.

Recently a committee of staff representatives from campuses across the system has been in discussion with CHRO Erik Seastedt to draft proposed furlough regulations; namely to address chief staff concerns including timely notification, limits and end dates, the opportunity to appeal for hardships and provisions for voluntary reductions before a full-fledged furlough is enacted.

We know that policy and regulation cannot address every possibility or future outcome, but we do want to be sure that regulations require clear notification of any proposed furlough including implementation details and an end date. We need faith and transparency in budgeting to see that such measures would be taken only to prevent job loss or to mitigate extreme unexpected budget shortfalls.

To be sure there are many of us who are listening closely these coming two days to the presentations about, and discussions surrounding, the university’s budget and its subsequent future with the governor and Alaska legislature. A showing of solidarity and support by this board is important, and the hard work being done by our budget offices and staff in developing a thoughtful, efficient and targeted budget is greatly appreciated.

Staff representatives have been identified to join a committee of faculty and administration to work as technical advisors during the creation of a common calendar for the three universities. We hope to help continue to make progress on this initiative.

Staff also have been working to develop a statement of UA Core Values concurrent with the value statements recently shared by Summit Team leadership. There are many similarities between the two drafts, and there are stark differences too. Like so many things within this system, it will take time to work through the processes and revisions. The challenge as we move forward is not so much the editing of words but of explaining why it is being done at all. While progress is consistently made improving cooperation and communication across the university system, there are still silos, disagreements, distrusts and frustrations that make it hard to even imagine a pervasive unified culture let alone take steps toward it.

As part of my work on the Joint Health Care Committee I attended Premera’s “Alaska Wellness Institute” training module yesterday about motivation and rewards. While the context in this instance was wellness programs, time and again belief in ones company, its leadership and mission is shown to be more motivating than rewards or prizes. Simple recognition or compliments can be more positive and inspiring than fear or reward. In short, how we feel about our company, our university, means more than we get from it. This is all the more reason why we need to be addressing instances where faith is lost, and to work together to avoid it in the future. We don’t need to be told what values we should have, we need to believe that our organization shares ours. That is why this is important.

Staff governance has created a new form for collecting suggestions, success stories, complaints and concerns. The goal was to give all staff a means to share their concerns and ideas, anonymously if desired, to be evaluated and redirected to the right department for further development or feedback. It will still take a lot of work and promotion to fully engage staff in the initiative, but proving them with tools and clear instructions on how to be involved will only help and is one way that we can assist with the Shaping Alaska’s Future initiative. (

One final note, in light of our goal of promoting staff successes, is a sneak announcement of some really great news: the UA College Savings Plan, in addition to yet again being recognized as one of the top rated 529 plans in the nation for the quarter, has recently partnered with Design Alaska to accept a staff payroll deduction contribution form for UA College Savings Plans. We hope this is the first of many business and industry partners to share their support of saving for college and the recognition of those benefits. Namely that children whose parents establish a college savings account are more likely to earn a college degree than those who don’t. Great work and congratulations to Lael Oldsmixon and her team for building this new partnership and sharing the college mission with Alaska businesses and children.

Thank you for your time, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Presentation to the Board of Regents Sept. 18, 2014

Thank you to the many staff who listened in to the public testimony and governance report this morning. I hope you continue to listen in to the meeting, via live streaming ( or video conference, as the discussions and decisions made at these meetings are vital to the future of the university.

It was difficult to write and deliver testimony today. I tried to balance honest feedback with our sincere desire to be a part of positive change at the university. I felt it was taken pretty well and laid a foundation for truly working with administration and the Regents as we move forward.

Below is a copy of the testimony that I gave today (more or less). One of the best things that came out of todays discussion (post remarks) was an honest request for ideas from staff on what and how we can improve processes. Please, as much as possible, share those ideas in the comments or directly to me or your staff representative.

Thank you.

Staff Alliance Chair BOR Testimony Sept. 18, 2014

Good morning madame chair, President Gamble and members of the Board. My name is Monique Musick, Staff Alliance Chair.

This is not the first time I’ve testified before you, but it is probably the most significant to date. As Chair I’ve been elected to speak on behalf of the nearly 3,000 staff of the University of Alaska. And we truly want to be part of the conversation.

To begin, one goal Staff Alliance identified this summer is to better represent the great work being done by staff throughout the system—to highlight our successes. We are our only champions and yet rarely take the time to speak up for ourselves. Let me say it now—we have incredible staff working for this university.

In future testimonials I hope to bring more of those successes before you. I’ll start today sharing from an e-mail I received from Stephanie Ahern an 8-year fiscal staff employee at UAA. Three years ago, faculty of the School of Engineering told her they wanted better fiscal tracking and reporting so they could improve how they manage resources. She created a new accounting structure and was able to implement it by FY14. It was a major improvement that could better allocate and capture revenue and expenditures for the growing school; now the College of Engineering. In UAA’s prioritization report, the Dean’s office quality function used this new org structure as an example of excellence. Ahern wrote “while I was not acknowledged in the report I am proud that it was used as an example because I know that my work for the two years as manager was appreciated and made a difference and will be the fiscal foundation to continued customer service within the college.” That is one great example of staff taking initiative to improve processes and create efficiencies.

Second, I want to recognize the hard work throughout the system in response to the Office of Civil Rights Title IX Compliance review. Not only was the team able to compile and submit a tremendous amount of information in a very short time, they’ve trained thousands of employees and students, expanded awareness campaigns, are entering into a new agreement with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and expanded agreements with law enforcement throughout the state. When OCR comes for their site visits in October we will be ready to showcase the great work being led by the Title IX coordinators on each campus—Marva Watson, UAA; Mae Marsh, UAF; and Kirk McCallister, UAS—and all of the staff working with them to address, and work toward prevention of, sexual harassment and violence on our campuses. We shall all benefit from their dedication.

Those are just a couple examples of staff excellence, and more are created every day, but that is not the only reason I am here today. I mean to as accurately as possible convey what is happening with staff at UA, and to keep us in the conversation regarding our system at all levels. Part of being in the conversation means coming to your table and bringing some hard truths.

No. 1 Current events have damaged UA’s reputation and lowered morale at a critical time when we most need to elevate it. Our hearts fell as valued donors rescinded their support on the pages of the ADN and alumni berated UA in letters to the editor throughout the state. It is demoralizing and it comes at a time when national, state and local realities are already painting a bleak picture.

Even worse, that misstep unfolded at the same time the university faces a budget shortfall and people are losing their jobs. Sure, $320,000 is not a lot compared to the millions needed to offset the current budget shortfall, and not all were opposed, but to most of us that is an enormous amount of money at a time it is sorely needed in many arenas.

Of the 8,600 total employees in the system nearly 3,000 are barely making Alaska poverty wages: $37,000 a year or less. Most of us earn less than our counterparts in state or private industry. We receive regular job offers from outside entities, with corresponding increases in compensation, but choose to stay at UA. We choose meaningful work over salary: the opportunity to support the next generation of Alaska leaders and problem solvers.

That is why all the attention that hashtags like #bonusgate get in the press, instead of the true successes of this institution, really hurts us. So yes, the elephant may be out of the room, but the damage lingers.

No. 2 Staff are anxious about the introduction of a furlough policy and the vagaries of the as yet undeveloped regulations. Our Staff Alliance blog is full of questions, comments and valuable suggestions. I have worked to pull together a group to work with HR in drafting these regulations. The details in regulation will greatly impact staff and their families; and need to be developed BEFORE a policy is adopted.

None of it is pleasant or easy, but we understand fiscal responsibility. We don’t want to see people lose their jobs if we can avoid it. As my earlier example shows, staff will be critical to the university’s navigation of the current and any future economic crises. We are creative; we can think of ways to save money that do not decimate or demoralize the backbone of the university: our staff.

Also, we trust that the introduction of this policy does not indicate an immediate plan to implement it. Rather, let us partner with you in problem-solving, belt-tightening and fiscal leanness. A furlough to staff will severely impact morale and productivity and right now you need us to be at our best.

No. 3. Shaping Alaska’s Future. We are all trying to make this the best university possible. We want to do right by our students, their families, the industries whose workforce we train and the intentions of the state, alumni and donors who support us. We know that is the driving force behind Shaping Alaska’s Future. Like many in this room, I’ve worked hard to promote the initiative; to explain it and help transform it into its intended compass guide. But I can tell you many staff have not embraced it. Some say it cost too much, took too long, used the wrong methodology, or are simply unaware of their role in the process. It is often perceived as an expensive lexicon—a common set of catch phrases used to fit a general picture, but changing little in actual day-to-day activities.

When staff governance leaders asked directly how to be involved in the process we were directed to read articles on national higher education trends. That does not accomplish persuasion or inclusion. We know real change is needed. That is going to take real reorganization, real new thinking, not simply polished language or thematic presentations of our budget requests. And we have yet to understand when, where and how staff fit in that plan. (Though I will add some of what Gamble said in his report this morning is encouraging for the future involvement of staff, as opposed to only faculty, governance involvement.)

We fear that with the retirement of Dr. Thomas, a real champion of this effort who is both trusted and supported, and the loss of faith in leadership that resulted from the bonus controversy, that the legs are slipping out from underneath the movement. Staff is your resource pool for making authentic change happen.

Lastly, I want to try and summarize some of the many comments I received from staff in preparation for today’s meeting. Some implored you as a board to be more connected to the day-to-day reality of the university. The 90–120 day wait period to fill a new position has one effect on the bottom line and another on those who have to pick up that workload to keep the university operating. Many tell me they are working more than 40-hours, with no additional pay, because there is too much to do and not enough time or manpower.

“More needs to be done, in quick fashion, to improve the bureaucracy of the system so that it is more seamless between the MAUs and easier to navigate for the students,” wrote one staff member. We need to leverage technology to streamline tasks, not only for administrative functions, but for students as well. We must improve functionality and productivity and stop frustrating students so they stay in our system. We could use more support in this in the form of workflow process analysis, technology upgrades and reducing meaningless reporting requirements.

There are places that the university can be more efficient, and yes there may be positions that should be cut, departments needing reorganization and processes that need reviewed, but cross-the-board reductions and simplified decision making will not get us to the real goal: a valuable, efficient and innovative university.

The staff who work for the University of Alaska do it because we believe in the value of higher education. We love our university and want to do our jobs well. Please, as stewards and guides of this institution, do your job well too. The complexities of this organization are not learned in a year or two. The budget process is affected by forces beyond our control—but not beyond comprehension. We expect you as leaders to understand it. When a member suggests that money could be moved from a benefit fund to offset student fees, or when a six-figure bonus is offered in the middle of a budget reduction, it neither demonstrates an understanding of the operations of the university or the will of the public and workforce that supports it. It causes damage within and outside the university that now needs to be reconciled. We need to build relationships and truly talk and listen to each other.

We need our leadership to reflect our goals just as much as you need us to achieve yours. And we have a lot of work to do.

Thank you.


Filed under Uncategorized