TO: Chancellor Michael Drake
- David Bishop, Director, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center; CACSS Staff Co-Chair, August 2010 - August 2012
- Valerie Jenness, Dean, School of Social Ecology; CACSS Faculty Co-Chair, January 2012 - present
- Vicki Ruiz, Dean, School of Humanities; CACSS Faculty Co-Chair, July 2009 - December 2011
- Natalie Schonfeld, Director, Student Transition Services; CACSS Staff Co-Chair, August 2012 - present
RE: Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of Staff
Established in 2001, the University of California, Irvine Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of Staff is charged with advocating for staff, promoting career development opportunities, mitigating problems and creating a positive work environment. This annual report details the membership and structure, activities and accomplishments, general aspiration and specific goals moving into the future, including two final thoughts about the welfare of staff, and recommendations to guide future work.
Membership and Structure
Members of CACSS are appointed by the chancellor and upon appointment to CACSS are expected to become active in at least one of CACSS subcommittees, the primary mechanisms through which the work of CACSS is accomplished.
Since the last CACSS report was submitted to the chancellor, the following subcommittees and membership anchored the work of CACSS:
- Diversity: Pamela Parham (chair), Ingrid Fahr (co-chair), David Bishop, Gwen Kuhns Black, John Daly, John Mouledoux.
- Employee Development: Nancy Chen Lane (chair), Jennifer Aaron, Francine Jeffrey, Raju Metherate, John Mouledoux, Sose Thomassian, former CACSS members Janai Hendra and Stephanie-Jean Hinojosa, and non-CACSS members Johnathen Bodenschatz, Desiree Fleming, Jennifer Gamble, Dyan Hall, Bob Kumamoto, Chuck Villanueva.
- Outreach & Communication: Victor Becerra (chair), Desiree von Haag (co-chair), David Da Costa, Ingrid Fahr, John Mouledoux, DeeDee Nunez, Sose Thomassian.
- Staff Survey: Gwen Kuhns Black (chair), Nancy Chen Lane, John Mouledoux, Natalie Schonfeld, former CACSS member Brice Kikuchi.
In addition to these standing subcommittees, an ad hoc subcommittee was organized to develop a plan for a staff assistance program. Ingrid Fahr, Francine Jeffrey, Valerie Jenness (chair), John Mouledoux and Sose Thomassian served on this subcommittee.
Activities and AccomplishmentsAs described in detail in the subcommittee reports included in Appendix A, the following constitute significant activities sponsored by CACSS since the last annual report was submitted:
- The Diversity subcommittee organized a town hall with the chancellor to discuss diversity issues at UCI. Held on Aug. 15, 2012, over 30 attendees benefitted from hearing the chancellor's opening comments as well as his answers to questions from the audience. Thereafter, the diversity subcommittee convened a diversity roundtable with other individuals, units and organizations on campus that have a mission that specifically entails supporting diversity efforts at UCI. The purpose of the roundtable is to further research issues and identify actions that can be taken to improve the diversity climate of our campus (for more on the Diversity Roundtable, see Appendix B).
- The Employee Development subcommittee was in abeyance; new leadership will be in place starting in January 2013 to reenergize the work of the committee.
- The Outreach & Communication subcommittee assumed responsibility for the "Question of the Month," which was recently renamed the "Quarterly Question." Initiated by CACSS in early 2012, this venue allows staff to provide input that is used to inform the CACSS, which in turn relays concerns, kudos, and ideas for improvement to the chancellor. Implementing this effort involves a series of steps including sending a question formulated by CACSS membership to staff via ZotMail (for an example, see Appendix C), receiving the incoming responses from staff across campus, summarizing themes contained in the responses, articulating questions derived from the themes contained in staff comments, securing authoritative answers to key questions, and posting those answers on the CACSS website so all staff can benefit from the dissemination of the answers. Additionally, on a quarterly basis CACSS will host a forum to review the responses to the questions with participants, and to engage in dialogue that probes the questions a little more deeply. The feedback gathered at these forums also will be shared with the chancellor. The first installment of this initiative can be found at:http://chancellor.uci.edu/committees/cacs/cacs-question-june-12.html.
- The Staff Survey subcommittee ensured the development and implementation of a staff survey designed to assess "staff engagement" at UCI. A summary of the results was shared with the campus community during a CACSS town hall that took place on May 16, 2012. During this town hall, participants discussed engagement in small groups facilitated by CACSS members. Suggestions from the discussions on how to increase staff engagement at UCI centered around mentorship, recognition, communication, and connections. A summary of the town hall meeting and attendant discussion can be found in Appendix D. The summary results were also shared with the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture & Inclusion on June 16, 2012.
In addition, CACSS recommended the development of a pilot staff assistance program. As described in a memo sent to the chancellor May 2, 2012:
This program is envisioned as distinct from the Holiday "Staff Helping Hands" Program and the Employee Emergency Loan Program already in place at UCI. The staff assistance program we envision, The Emergency Hardship Program, recognizes that staff often struggle financially due to circumstances beyond their control (medical emergencies, catastrophic events, etc.), that such struggles occur outside the holiday season, and that incurring debt during difficult financial times is often counterproductive. Therefore, like programs at other major universities, the program we envision would provide small grants to staff who are experiencing financial difficulties born of unfortunate life circumstances. Staff wishing to access the program would complete a confidential application that is reviewed by a panel comprised of UCI employees, including UCI staff. Funding for the program could come from any of the following sources: the Chancellor's Office, staff and faculty donations, optional payroll deductions, and/or external fundraising efforts. The program would be housed in an administrative unit on campus (e.g., the Chancellor's Office, Human Resources, the Financial Aid Office, etc.). The pilot program would be evaluated after one year of operation.
This recommendation was positively received by the chancellor and is now being reviewed by Human Resources.
Finally, the monthly CACSS meetings continue to provide a forum for members to share staff-related concerns, present ideas for improving the status and welfare of staff, and engage with others from across campus. Ria Carlson, the new associate vice chancellor for strategic communications, attended the Oct. 5, 2012 meeting to discuss the importance of internal and external communications, including how the university does (and does not) communicate with staff. More recently, CACSS meetings include an agenda item called "Around the Table," which provides time during the meeting for CACSS members to share issues, concerns, trends, etc. that have come to their attention by engaging with staff across campus.
General Aspiration and Specific Goals for the Future
As we look to the future of CACSS, we aspire to continue to serve as a vector of communication — in person, via town halls, and by thoughtfully utilizing technology — between staff and the chancellor. This general aspiration requires that we continue to work collaboratively with various entities on campus (e.g., the Chancellor's Office, Staff Assembly, the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture & Inclusion, and the various groups that comprise the Diversity Roundtable) and capitalize on the communication venues we have already institutionalized (as described above) while also developing new ones. With regard to the latter, we have had preliminary discussions about the following:
- Continue to take steps to increase staff's awareness of CACSS.
- Develop future town halls in light of what we learn from the findings derived from the staff engagement survey and the Quarterly Question.
- Make better use of the data generated through the engagement survey as well as available institutional data to more fully examine staff issues. Coordinate future efforts to collect data from staff via surveys such that the response rate is increased. We have been told that a staff survey that focuses on climate issues is coming out in early 2013, and we believe the response rate would be higher if it does not compete with other requests for information from the staff being advanced at the same time.
- Sponsor a forum akin to "Inside the Actor's Studio" that would enable staff to become more familiar with key campus administrators and how their work impacts the work of others.
- Meet more frequently — twice a year rather than once a year — with the chancellor.
Final Thoughts About the Welfare of Staff
As we continue to contemplate how best to encourage staff to provide feedback on staff related issues, hear what they are saying across diverse issues, and provide the chancellor with ideas about ways to improve the welfare of staff, we conclude this report with two final thoughts — one that points to an ongoing concern about the welfare of staff and one that reveals good news about our ability to positively impact staff morale.
- Staff members continue to experience enormous pressures as a result of successive years of budget cuts. In an environment of reduced resources, staff reductions and unfilled positions, UCI staff members are working harder and are more productive than ever in serving the growing number of students, responding to changing staff-faculty ratios, and contributing to the overall success of UCI.
- CACSS members continue to receive feedback from staff about how much they appreciate recognition, appreciation and support of their efforts.
The work of CACSS and the findings reported in this report, including the appendices, leads to the following recommendations for the chancellor:
- Continue to address through multiple mediums the hard work and contributions of UCI staff during these challenging times. Even more, consider a "Pay a Kindness Forward" Campaign. As a staff member reported to a CACSS co-chair:
My observation has been when they are simply acknowledged as being in this situation [a situation that requires doing more with less], and told they are doing a good job with what little resources they have, they are so grateful. In other words, just being kind, encouraging, and empathetic makes a world of difference. It doesn't cost anything, but it certainly goes a long way when it comes across as being sincere. Where I'm going with this is perhaps a campaign of "Pay a kindness forward, take notice of those around you." If you see someone drowning in work, don't describe it to them, ask them how you can make the load lighter or better yet, what can I do to make this situation better and then do it. We all know it makes us feel better about ourselves when we do something for somebody that was unexpected.
- Continue to work collaboratively with CACSS on the "big three" issues: workload, professional development, and civility and respect.
The continued success of CACSS will, no doubt, depend upon the active involvement of the members, the engagement of the chancellor, and the responsiveness of UCI staff when invited to participate in a host of activities sponsored by CACSS.