Minutes of Meeting: April 7, 2009
April 7, 2009
Members Present: Mike Haehnel (chair), Shirley Georgia, Tara Loewenguth, Carla Kinser, Judith Walsh (recorder), Jane Bachman, Alicia Fish, Linda Wells, David Moxley, Barbara Konze, Anne Moriarty, Kim Noling
Others Present: Donna Cahill, Allison Spears, Stephanie Brunetta, Nancy Lehtonen, Regina Baker
Guest: Margaret L. Drugovich
1. Call to Order. The March 7, 2009 Staff Council meeting was called to order by Chair Haehnel at 9:03 a.m. Quorum was present.
The Chair recognized the long and excellent service provided by Council member Shirley Georgia. Shirley has served on Council from the beginning and this will be the last meeting she attends as a member.
2. Minutes. The March 3, 2009 minutes were approved as presented.
3. Treasurer's Report. Ms. Wells announced that some invoices for the Professional Development Committee have not been received.
Staff Council Budget
Summary Year to Date
Misc, Give-aways, Luncheon
Prof. Development Speakers
Ice Cream Social
Garage Sale Money
4. Report From the President: On March 12th, Staff Council emailed the President concerns that arose out of discussions following Dr. Drugovich's February Conversation with the Campus (see Attachment I). The President asked for some time to address the issues with all of Staff Council.
The President began by remarking that she does read our minutes and she perceived a frustration with her by Staff Council. Starting with actions needed to balance the 2009-10 budget, the President explained that the college plans to draw as little as possible from the endowment next year. The college is contacting donors of endowed funds and asking that the College be allowed to access the principal of those funds. Dr. Drugovich reminded us that with the steep drop in the market value of the endowment, many funds have lost so much value that they now have a lower market value than the amount of the original gift, thus considered "underwater" and which, in normal economic times, we would not be allowed to spend. An example she gave is that Honor's Day awards are normally paid from restricted gifts and as we cannot spend those funds this year the president's office is contributing $15,000 from her budget to cover those costs. Additionally, the 09-10 budget will need to be reduced $5 million.
The college has prepared 5 budget models to present to the Board of Trustees at the May meetings. The budget models range from normal retention numbers to the lowest historic retention numbers and freshmen class sizes of 440, 410, 400, 380, and 360 and these models will be sent to the Board's Finance Committee this month for review. After release of the budget models to the Finance Committee, the President will release the models to the campus. Additionally, recommendations from the Dollar Up and Dollar Down committees and whether the college has enacted any of their recommendations will be released.
As the President mentioned in her Conversations with the Campus, the possibility exists for the college either to suspend in full their contribution to the retirement plan or reduce the amount contributed and these remain a possibility; and the President stated that she prefers a suspension of retirement plan contribution to a suspension of an annual pay increase.
Dr. Drugovich informed Council that she and Cabinet have continued to look at savings by reducing staffing and she has instructed supervisors to identify positions where reduction in work hours would not affect program effectiveness. She expects to announce additional furloughs in a couple of weeks.
The session was opened to questions:
Q. Can you update us on the status of the incoming class?
A. For paid deposits, we are at 28% of last year's numbers for year over year comparison. We don't know if students are delaying paying the enrollment deposit or if they are not attending college this year. Other private colleges seem to be experiencing similar drops in "Paids." If we could reach a class of 400 or 410, it would be wonderful and we could then preserve much of the retirement plan contributions. New York State enacted a loan program for their fiscal year called NYHELP Loan which requires a buy-in amount by the college of 1% of the loans awarded by us to our students through that program and we will have to participate to some degree in that program.
Q. Will the projected cuts in the 2009-10 budget affect programming?
A. We haven't cut any programs. We have $150,000 to cut from the Operating Fund but it won't be an across the board cut since some areas cannot absorb additional cuts. One of the suggestions is to not print a campus directory which would save $4,500 and another suggestion is to have all offices use Hartwick stationary and not to order office-imprinted stationary. By cutting the Interim Director of Challenge Programs and then bringing a Director of Challenge Programs back as a temporary position, we saved $15,000. Recommendations from the Dollar Down committee will produce savings in Operations.
Q. Will you release to campus the recommendations from Dollar Up and Dollar Down and which suggestions have been used?
A. I'll consider attaching those documents when I release budget information later this month.
Q. Do you know what increase to the health insurance costs are planned for 2009-10?
A. I don't know. Both Vice President Elsbeck and I believe that health insurance costs incurred by the employees are high. Hartwick's rate is based on experience-rating (claim history). I don't know if there is anything we can do to lower rates for the 2009-10 cycle but we hope to discuss options next year as we plan for the 2010-11 insurance coverage.
Q. Are we still operating under a position classification system?
A. I don't know the answer to that.
The President did comment that the Visiting Team recommended that Human Resources incorporate policies and procedures found in HR offices following best practices and that any salary policies would be a part of such an office.
Q. Going back to harassment, will there be further discussion at Cabinet on that policy?
A. Yes, we will have to as I now see there is an issue.
Q. Several campus committees have been formed but have not met, for instance, the Environmental Issues and the Emergency Notification committees.
A. Perhaps you misunderstood the committee charge. The Emergency Notification committee was charged to decide if we would use NY Alert as our means of notifying campus members of an emergency and the committee made that decision. [When reminded that the Emergency Notification committee
would also release a handbook of procedures to use during an emergency, the President promised to follow-up on that question with Tom Kelly, chair of the committee (see Attachment II).]
George Elsbeck is chair of the Environmental Issues committee and the President did not know why he had not called any meetings but she affirmed her commitment to the issue and she is considering signing the Presidents Climate Commitment so the Environmental Issues committee will be valuable.
Budget Advisory Committee will be meeting again soon. The sharp decline in the economy and its effect on our budgets required attention from financial experts which left less time for George Elsbeck to work with this committee.
Q. The retention consultants were back on campus recently, will the campus see a report of their observations?
A. I would release a report if it was not specific in mentioning personnel. I did receive their written report last Friday but I have not had time to read it.
The President spent a few minutes commenting on the proposed Employee Manual which is in draft form and which has been reviewed by Council. The manual in its current form will have small changes made by Cabinet and will be posted to the web but Dr. Drugovich said that additional tweaking of the wording will take place after it's published.
Dr. Drugovich expressed her surprise that Council indicated to the accreditation Visiting Team that Hartwick needed a Staff grievance process and which resulted in the development of such a procedure being recommended by the Team. She was informed that the suggestion did not arise out of Council but was developed out of the Governance and People Working Groups of Self-Study.
Staff Council had proposed a statement in the Manual that addressed Hartwick's commitment to a "civil workplace" and while the President and Cabinet do not believe such disrespect exists here they will discuss it further.
The President has offered the position of Vice-President for Enrollment Management to a candidate and she awaits a signed acceptance from him.
Dr. Drugovich reported the positive impression of campus on the Middle State Visiting Team. The college met all fourteen standards established by our accrediting agency. The Team expressed their view that the campus constituencies were dedicated to improving the college and worked in a very collegial manner. The Team will submit a written report to her and in several weeks time the final report from the Visiting Team will be available to the campus. In looking at our history with the Middle States accreditation, three issues: retention, enrollment, and finances, repeat almost every ten years and the President would like to break that trend for the next accreditation review.
The President was thanked for her time and she excused herself at 10:07 a.m.
5. New Business: The Chair announced that the President would like to sponsor a picnic for Staff and Faculty at Noon on June 5th. Please check with your offices to see if this is a good date for such an event.
6. Adjournment. Chair Haehnel adjourned the meeting at 10:10 a.m. and the next meeting will be May 5, 2009.
In our March 3, 2009 meeting of Staff Council, we discussed staff response to our current financial situation and to the items brought up in the Conversation with the President of February 23, 2009.
The main theme of the discussion was communication. Staff members as a whole recognize the difficult times that we are in on all levels, personally, locally, nationally and worldwide. We hear what our leaders are telling us and we recognize the need for forthright action to ensure the long-term viability of Hartwick College. Staff members are ready and willing to work hard to weather the current circumstances, increase efficiencies, and unite behind the organizing principle of making Hartwick "the best at melding liberal education with experiential learning." We are also cognizant of and grateful for the interest and trust that that our leaders at the college have placed in us. We appreciate the provisions that have been made on our behalf in terms of wages, benefits and a supportive workplace environment.
In the interest of ensuring that the work ahead of us proceed as smoothly and effectively as possible, we have identified the following specific communication issues that we feel should be addressed. These were brought up either during our meeting of March 3 or in feedback that came to the attention of Staff Council members shortly after the meeting:
-The idea of suspending the college contribution to retirement plans gives rise to a number of questions such as, "How long would the suspension be?" "Would the college contribution, once taken away, ever be restored?" "What about those nearing retirement?" "Will services be provided to employees to help decide how to best manage their retirement funds should the college contribution be suspended?" "If the match is suspended, can employees take their money out of the plan?" The idea of suspending the college contribution was floated perhaps to prevent people from being broadsided later, but the lack of detail surrounding the idea has given rise to anxiety.
-The idea of reducing the vacation accrual, while straightforward in and of itself, gives rise to many questions as to how that will come about and what provision will be made for those whose current accrual exceeds the proposed new limit.
-With respect to both the college contribution toward retirement and the accrual limit on vacation plans, it makes sense to think that some demographic study has taken place to assess the current state of affairs, the costs associated, and the impact that changes would bring about. There is a question as to why this information isn't being shared in a general way that would not disclose information about individuals but would help the community understand the importance of the ideas being advanced.
-The discussion of future salary increases was unclear to many who participated in the President's Conversation.
-The Budget Advisory Committee was introduced as a means to lend transparency to the budget decision-making process. But the meetings of that committee are currently on hold pending feed back from the Dollar Up and Dollar Down committees. However, while suggestions were solicited from staff and faculty for the Dollar Up and Dollar Down committees, no feedback has been given to the Hartwick Community as to what suggestions were forwarded to Cabinet and the President's Office for consideration or where the work of those committees now stands. While the solicitation of ideas was a welcome opportunity for employees, the lack of communication as to how those ideas are being handled suggests a decrease, rather than an increase, in the empowerment of employees.
-We as Staff Council feel the obligation to not only give feedback but also to suggest options. But we have no sense of what has been suggested or considered already, and therefore we do not know how to proceed in offering options.
-Even current benefits that are in place are eroding without any announcement or communication from Human Resources or any other office. For instance, some people have cited changes in health benefit coverage that have taken place mid-year (e.g. how lab work is covered), and the computer purchase plan has apparently been discontinued.
-Staff Council has asked for the opportunity to be involved early on in the consideration of health plan benefits for the next fiscal year. We have been told that if a group is convened to discuss this, we would be invited. This does not seem encouraging since to our knowledge no group has been convened in recent years, unlike in the past when there was an advisory group for HR. Recent decisions about health plans have been announced without any opportunity for input that we have been aware of.
-No representative from Human Resources currently attends the regularly scheduled Staff Council meetings. When HR decided last fall not to attend meetings, Staff Council expressed concern that this would diminish communication on issues of vital importance to staff. Now in particular, at this time when changes are taking place or are being contemplated that have an impact on staff, the presence of HR at Staff Council meetings is all the more important.
-We understand that the heat has been turned down on campus. While this would have been a perfect situation in which to invite campus participation in cutting costs (and to warn them to dress appropriately) the campus was not informed. The way this was implemented has been disheartening at best.
-With regard to the employees who experienced reduced contracts, the question in general has arisen as to why there was no provision for negotiating the way in which the time was reduced. Both the employees whose time was reduced and those who work closely with them feel the impact of the reductions, and a process of mutually working out the terms of the reduced time could well have minimized the impact to the college as a whole.
-In a prior time of financial crisis at the college, the President's Office issued regular updates as to how we were doing in relation to key indicators: endowment, enrollment, etc. We have been told that we need to save a certain amount of money (2.5 million, 3.5 million, 3.75 million-there was disparity as to what people understood the number to be) but we have no indication if any progress is being made on that. With the lack of official barometers, general anxiety is increasing.
-In the past the pattern of compensation increases has not been consistent across the board for all employees, contributing to high sensitivity on this issue. The question arises as to whether proposed compensation/benefits changes on the table will be effective for all employees: faculty, staff and all senior level administration?
-The need was cited for forums where issues could be openly discussed. Employee forums could include the following:
o Fidelity and TIAA CREF representatives could clarify details concerning our current plans and options for employees, especially if the college contribution is cut. Projections could be displayed showing what may happen if people stay with the plan versus discontinuing.
o Cabinet members could do presentations on how they and their areas are responding to our financial situation. The cabinet presenter could also listen to concerns.
o An in-depth look at the budget could be presented, helping to clarify such things as how dependent we are on tuition revenues, how the endowment factors into the budget, what are and are not options for areas where expenses can be cut, etc.-basically demystify the budget and the kinds of decisions that need to be made relative to the budget.
-The example was cited of another college where a secure "Ask Charlotte" style online Q&A service was set up to help employees voice concerns and receive answers to specific questions. In the instance cited, the president of the college was providing the answers to the employees' questions.
-While it is understood that attendance at Conversations with the President is the preferred way for employees to be "in the know," there are a number of circumstances that limit employee participation from time to time. Summaries or access to the Power-Point presentations continue to be requested as ways that employees can stay abreast of what is being discussed when they are otherwise unable to attend.
We as Staff Council respectfully assert that more open communication needs to take place so that anxiety is alleviated as much as possible, and so that staff feel further empowered to respond to the current needs of the college. The regular "Conversation with the President" is an important means of communication, but it needs to be complemented with
-commensurate openness on the part of all administrative staff,
-more opportunities for Q&A,
-more transparency with respect to committee and task force work,
-proactive engagement on the part of Human Resources.
We as staff want to be proactive participants in ensuring the ongoing strength of Hartwick College. We hope that these comments are seen in that light and that they help bring about constructive measures to augment this important work.
From: Margaret Drugovich, Hartwick College President
Tuesday, April 07, 2009 5:18 PM
Haehnel, Michael; Walsh, Judith
FW: Emergency Communications committee
Dr. Margaret L. Drugovich
From: Kelly, Thomas P. (Director of Security)
Tuesday, April 07, 2009 4:29 PM
Margaret Drugovich, Hartwick College President
RE: Emergency Communications committee
Yes. The committee work is continuing. A sub-committee has been meeting (meets again this Thursday), which will be followed by a full committee meeting in the next week or two.
The NY-Alert piece was one of the remaining components of the process. Now that it's soon to be up and running, we can start to bring closure to the manual.
From: Margaret Drugovich, Hartwick College President
Tuesday, April 07, 2009 3:45 PM
Kelly, Thomas P. (Director of Security)
Emergency Communications committee
A member of staff council queried me this morning about the emergency communications committee and why it is no longer meeting, given what she reported to be unfinished work re: an emergency manual and plans in the event of a campus based emergency.
This is a hangover from Dick Miller's administration. I assume that there is work that has been started but is unfinished. True? Are you planning to continue your work with this committee?
Dr. Margaret L. Drugovich
One Hartwick Drive
Oneonta, NY 13820