STAFF SENATE MEETING MINUTES
March 16, 2016
President Tammy Millican presided over the March 16, 2016, Staff Senate meeting held at the LSU Student Union in Career Center Classroom (256J) at 10:30 a.m.
P - Matkovic, Igor (’17)
P - Cherry, Aaron (‘17)
P - Craddock, Jacquelyn (’16)
P - Hale, Robert (’16)
P - Hart, M.E. (’16)
P - Hendricks, Kendra (’16)
P - Perkins, Julie (’16)
P - DeRoche, Jon (’17)
P - Godfrey, Nikki (’17)
P - Kucharchuk, Kayla (’17)
P - Lemoine, Nathan ('17)
P - Lopez, Ramon (’17)
Pr - Lowery, Michelle (’17)
P - Millican, Tammy (’17)
P - Reonas, Barbara (’17)
P - Spurlock, Maggi (’17)
P - Steib, Summer (’17)
P - Truitt, Trey (’17)
P - Villien, Douglas (’17)
P - Dufrene, Robert (’18)
P - Eldredge, George (’18)
P - Gomez, Jennifer (’18)
P - Ortiz, Shelly (’18)
P - Poret, Elizabeth (’18)
P - Springstead, Jennifer (’18)
Pr - Waguespack, Darcy (’18)
P - Adedeji, Funmilayo (’16)
P - Owens, Kevin (’18)
P - Corbitt, Brent (’17)
P - Arnold, Nancy (’16)
A - Indicates Absent
P - Indicates Present
Pr - Indicates Proxy
Provost Rick Koubek, Academic Affairs
Jade Ethridge, Strategic Initiatives
Zack Faircloth, Student Government
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by President Tammy Millican at 10:30 a.m.
There was a no quorum with two proxies noted.
SENATOR IGOR MATKOVIC PRESENTATION
President Tammy Millican announced that in February of 2000, one of our Senators came, from a refugee camp in Bosnia with his family, He came to LSU in a custodian position, not knowing one single word of English, and in his career since he has arrived, he has been made a supervisor and has served on Staff Senate for many years. He also works very hard to help our staff members earn their high school diplomas, and volunteers at the Catholic Dioceses Community Service Center as a translator, helping refugees find employment. Millican is telling the full Senate this today because as of March 9th, 2016, Senator Igor Matkovic became our latest United States Citizen. So this morning, Millican would like to ask Senator Igor Matkovic if he would do us the honor as our newest citizen, to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Senator Igor Matkovic led the Pledge of Allegiance.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES – February 17th, 2016, Staff Senate Meetings
A motion to accept the minutes was made by President-Elect Trey Truitt. The motion, seconded by Past-President Julie Perkins, carried.
GUEST SPEAKER – PROVOST RICK KOUBEK, ACADEMIC AFFAIRS
In her introduction of Provost Koubek, President Tammy Millican pointed to the recent email sent to the full Senate, announcing his open office hours for all of the University community as evidence of his advocacy, not only for the University administration, but also for students, faculty and staff. She really appreciates listening to him talk about his vision for the University. She is also appreciative for the amount of hard work that he, President Alexander, and Jason Droddy have put in at the Legislature during the special session. She heard a lot of people commenting that this was the most LSU Administrative Members they’ve seen there, for the longest amount of time. So they really did LSU proud during that session.
Provost Koubek thanked President Millican for the nice welcome. He indicated that since Staff Senate represents a large part of our constituency here at LSU and that you have to make decisions, and guide our staff with regards to the direction of the University, he wanted to be sure that the full Senate had a good overview of four big things that are moving through our system right now, and how these link to one another. The first is the work being done with the Strategic Plan, second is the Master Plan, third is the budget situation and the subsequent planning, and the fourth is on the Capital Campaign.
From his viewpoint, what is interesting, is that these committees that are working on campus have Staff Senate representation, through President Millican’s participation. The Strategic Plan which will drive everything else. The President talks a lot about the value of LSU. In other words, during this budget crisis, the thing we can’t do is open our doors to more students than we can support, or lower our quality, and bring 40,000 students to fill a budget hole. Because in the State of Louisiana, there is only one school that can fulfill the role of being the premier research flagship institution in our state. We many regional schools and they are very important, and many technology and community colleges, and they are very important, but you only have one flagship.
Our commitment has been that we will protect the flagship at all costs. Whatever may come between budget up and downs, if we give up that high ground, it takes forever to get it back. Provost Koubek was with President Alexander this morning as he prepared to testify during the Education Committee Meeting and they spoke about how a university you can lose its reputation in as little as 5 years, but will take 20 years to rebuild it. We are not going to do that. So one theme, he wants to make sure everyone knows is, when we come out on the other side of these budgetary changes, LSU may look a little different. LSU may be smaller and it may more competitive admissions, but it is all for the singular purpose of fulfilling our role as the flagship university. This will not come at the expense of access, which is the other part he would like to balance, because the rhetoric he hears if you do that, then you basically become a private school, which is not LSU’s intention. LSU will work hard to make sure scholarships are in place, and they are also leveraging the relationship that LSU has with LSUE at this time. In fact, one month ago, we no longer send letters from this campus saying you are denied, and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions now recommends the LSUE Pathways Program. So they don’t want to tell anyone no, because what happens is as we move this way, we have to be sure that every student in Louisiana can get an LSU degree. It may not begin here but LSU-BR, but as an organization, can provide access for every student to eventually make a pathway to earn an LSU-BR degree, if they choose.
The balance right now is to continue to be better without excluding people from the experience at our university. This is going to roll out very fast. University Planning Council will meet tomorrow to continue talks about moving forward with the strategic plan. In about 3 to 4 weeks, focus groups will be formed in which Staff Senate needs to be involved. They would like to have this completed by the end of June, with a draft in hand by August. Then have that discussed further and amended to have it in place January 2017. It is really important for the President to be able to differentiate our campus from all the other campuses, with our goal being focused on the quality of excellence.
Provost Koubek then began discussion on the second foci of his talk, which is the Master Plan. The Strategic Plan and the Campus Master Plan work in harmony, with the University needing the facilities to support its overall vision. He announced that the master planners are - ahead of us and on the strategic plan, and are waiting to get a document from us on the draft of the vision for the strategic plan.
The third issue of current relevance for the University is the budget situation. We are still unsure what the impact will be for this campus. There are two budget problems that we face right now: one is the immediate redaction for this year, and we should know that amount by the end of this week; then there is the fiscal year 2017 budget, one that will be permanent, moving forward. The current budget redaction is ranging anywhere from $34 to $64 million dollars as of last night, plus we have to pay our portion of deficient TOPS funding. Our campus’s impact can range anywhere from $13 to $16 million dollars in TOPS funding. These numbers can be completely overridden at any moment right now. But having said that, the reliability of the estimates are getting tighter. All of the Deans, all of the campus operations have been preparing for up to a 5% budget cut, but it is looking more like 2%. He wants to say that we were all in this together. By that he means, everybody who gets a paycheck from LSU, their unit has to pay; an across-the-board cut, versus strategic, so as to avoid lay-offs, or furloughs for the remainder of fiscal year 2015-2016Provost Koubek acknowledged that in times of cuts, the staff are the most vulnerable, in terms of employment. For fiscal year 2017’s budget cuts, the reductions will be strategic. The Budget Committee is starting to work on that now. If it is going to be a reduction of $12-$13 million next year that would amount to the total budgets of two of the four smallest colleges on campus. We are not getting rid of colleges but just to give perspective and a sense of magnitude of the cuts. If we were 5% more efficient in our operations, it would yield a value of $25 million for this campus. If you take our budget of $500 million at 5% that’s $25 million. Surely we can find a way to be 5 more efficient and yield this kind of benefit for the students. That will be our primary focus.
For all of those units who report to Academic Affairs, they are completing position description questionnaires through Human Resource Management. The whole idea is, if two employees are doing a similar job, then let’s have you focus on this and move your job up. We have to run a comb through the system to find out where the overlaps are. That will be a Budget Committee discussion on how to manage that $12 million. We are going to have to think very strategically about that.
The fourth element is the revenue generating side and all of this links into the new CEO of the Foundation, Stephen Moret. They are putting all of the ground work in place for a major fundraising campaign that will launch in about a year, with the basis of that being developed in the strategic and master plans. The moral of the story is long term, let’s plan for zero state funding, then if we get it, its lagniappe. But what we can’t do is worry every year about furloughs, exigency and layoffs. We need to get out of that mode. We need to design our system to survive without state money so that at its baseline we are self-sufficient. Part of that capital campaign will be to put the mechanisms in place to do this. We have the strategic plan going which will be the vision, we’ve got the master plan to support that vision, the budget decisions will be based on accelerating our strategic plan, and then to support that fiscally and financially, we have the capital campaign about to go. We do need to come to terms that fact that LSU is going to be more expensive. We are working very hard to build pathways through which students can go and not be harmed by what is coming.
We invest a lot of time on the quality of the student experience, but be there no mistake, what is driving the student experience primarily are the people providing that experience, which includes the staff, the facilities, and everybody. That’s where we are heading with all the discussions.
President Millican opened the floor for questions.
Q: With the Pathways Program, are there particular programs that the students were more likely suggested to go into? Would it be certain colleges that would have a higher frequency?
A: They started the Pathways Program about a month ago and it is still being developed. Engineering is already going to map their freshman courses that way, Agriculture is in the middle of doing course mapping right now. He does not know about the other majors. They are going to hold 100 door rooms open at LSUE for students in this program.
Q: You mentioned that departments were preparing for a 5% budget cut but it’s looking more like a 2% budget cut.
A: The point is not to quote Provost Koubek on the 2%, but from the numbers he saw last night, it’s not in the 5-7% range. His message there, is not so much the numbers, but that we can’t say – “we can handle it”, which is not good public relations, but to make sure everyone is prepared and there are mechanisms in place to avoid any catastrophe with regards to a cash flow problem.
Q: There previously was a program with Continuing Education called LSU Past 25 which allowed staff to take classes without going through the normal testing admission requirement to be a student. There were requirements while enrolled in that program, after which you would be allowed to become a regular student, which seemed to be successful, but that program went away. We have seen the amount of staff attending school drop significantly, and as salary and benefits have stayed pretty stagnant, we think this would be benefit to bring back to our employees. We would like to get a program like that back. What is your opinion on that? Is that something that you could see LSU doing for staff?
A: Yes, it seems only fair. At LSU Eunice it is open admission and you can go there for 30 credit hours, then show your ability to succeed and transfer to LSU, so it’s not much different. He thinks we can make the case for our staff, if LSUE is doing something similar for our students. Senator Ramon Lopez mentioned this is something FYE is working on and they have been meeting with Admissions to see what can be done, and if the proposal would be something about which the Board of Regents would be open. Senator Lopez thinks that program went away due to the flagship and accreditation. Koubek mentioned that one of the policy statements regarding that process can be amended, then the President can sign a blanket memorandum for full-time staff, and the policy statement can be modified so that he has greater flexibility to do that.
President Tammy MIllican thanked Provost Rick Koubek for speaking today.
President Tammy Millican announced that due to Daniel Nunes’ resignation in the Professional/Non-Faculty Category, the Staff Senate Executive Committee contacted the last eligible runner-up from within his EEO Category, during the last regular general election, as per the Bylaws, to fill the vacancy through 2017. Nathan Lemoine works with Law Enforcement Online and has agreed to fill the vacancy through 2017. He is from Baton Rouge and has been employed with LSU since 2008.
President Millican shared that on February 18th she attended the Campus Communicators meeting, upon which Senator Kendra Hendricks will report later during today’s meeting.
On February 19th, President Millican attended the Budget Committee meeting.
On March 3rd, she attended the Campus Committee on Sustainability meeting. Senator Douglas Villien will report about this later, during today’s meeting.
On March 8th, the Executive Committee met to plan for today’s meeting and set the agenda.
On March 11th, President Millican attended the Governmental Relations/Budget and Finance Committee meeting.
On March 11th, she also attend another Budget Committee meeting, which will be discussed at the end of today’s meeting.
President Millican requested that committee updates be provided.
Staff Benefits, Policies and Development
Senator Nikki Godfrey reported that the committee met with Jennifer Normand from Human Resource Management on March 2nd, to discuss leave time, including crisis leave, maternity leave and a number of issues that impact all of the staff. It was an enlightening meeting, which she noted with bullet points in the committee report included in the meeting packet. The committee spent a lot of time discussing crisis leave, the leave pool, and how decisions and determinations are made with regard to the use of leave. Discussion also occurred about what, if anything, the committee could do to effect change in that policy. Members learned that much of our leave policy is governed by the Civil Service process and Ms. Normand shared what LSU is able and not able to do with regard to this policy, even though it also covers Professional staff members. Positively, the administration is also working on many of the same issues across the board in Human Resource Management. Committee members learned that it’s not as easy as passing a memorandum or sending a document from Staff Senate, suggesting changes; the change process is more complex. Members also discussed some of the more positive things that could help boost morale and sharing activities and initiatives that other departments are doing. The Committee discussed crafting a document of recommendations for Deans and Department Heads of simplistic but effective staff benefits or morale boosters. The committee will continue to build on those brain storming ideas. Members are also looking at ideas for a spring staff member event.
Governmental Relations/Budget & Finance
Senator Ramon Lopez reported that the joint committee met on March 11th, at which the committee heard a lot of the same information that Provost Koubek shared this morning. Jason Droddy and Zach Lemoine were invited to give the committee an update. Members discussed the outcome of the special session and what is anticipated in the regular legislative session. Once LSU knows for sure what the budget cut will actually be from the Budget Estimating Committee, this will be announced. The LSU Day is on hold until more information is released about what role the administration would like for Staff Senate to fill. Some other ways to reach out to people were discussed. President-Elect Trey Truitt mentioned that the committee discussed what we can do to continue the conversation through the current Legislative Session, as well as that we were informed there is a high expectation there will be an additional special session. During the meaning it was clarified that this regular session is a non-budgetary session, meaning legislators can’t do anything that will change revenue generation and definitely fix the budget hole that was not filled. There was a lot of effort communicated internally to keep higher education’s budget as one of the top discussions. President Millican mentioned that the full senate will have an open discussion about the budget during this meeting of things the administration has asked the Executive Committee to do and will request feedback.
SPECIAL AD-HOC COMMITTEES
President Millican requested committee updates be provided.
President-Elect Truitt reported that the committee was unable to meet. He provided an update that the apparel project is done. If you have any problems with your order, please let him know. The vendor wants to make sure everyone is happy with their order. Truitt mentioned that the committee is discussing a spring event and would like to work with the Staff Benefits, Policies and Development Committee in planning. The committee has approached Athletics with regards to hosting a Staff Appreciation Night at Alex Box on Tuesday, May 17th, for LSU vs. Northwestern State. He is waiting to hear back on confirmation. Truitt spoke with representatives from Campus Federal Credit Union who have agreed to provide jambalaya as part of the tailgate before the game. As soon as the date is finalized, the committee will start moving that event forward. One of the recommendations from the committee is to purchase t-shirts as a giveaway for the first 100 staff members. The Executive Committee has discussed the pricing but this has been put on hold due to the budget situation. Jewell Hampton with Strategic Communications confirmed that a seal ribbon is only designed for 25th and 50th year anniversaries. While we can celebrate this year as Staff Senate’s 40th Anniversary, unfortunately no image will be designed. But we can publicize on marketing materials and t-shirts and make that known throughout the year. Millican encouraged those Senators who are creative to come up with an image or graphic that Staff Senate can promote throughout this year.
Senator M.E. Hart reported that the committee met briefly this morning before the full Staff Senate meeting. The Candy Gram Sale will be held from April 4th – 22nd as a “Happy End of the Semester” Candy Gram Sale. The committee will assemble on April 25th and ask Senators to help with delivery by April 29th. There will be the same candy options and will include Snicker Bars. Students will be included as well, as part of Student Appreciation Week before finals.
President Millican reported that the committee is waiting to receive confirmation from Financial Aid and Scholarships for the spring fee support recipients. All of the scholarship recipients for 2015-2016 will be invited to the April Meeting to be recognized.
President Millican asked that liaison committee updates be provided.
There was a Campus Communicators meeting held on February 18th. Senator Kendra Hendricks reported that Jewel Hampton with Strategic Communications gave an overview of the LSU online brand guide, which is now live. Dr. Jonathan Earle spoke about the history of the Ogden Honors College and the updates made to the French House. Jason Droddy with the Division of Strategic Communications and Policy and External Affairs discussed the Louisiana budget situation, and how it will affect LSU. The meeting ended with a tour of the French House.
There was a Faculty Senate meeting held on February 22nd. Senator George Eldredge reported that Provost Koubek spoke with the full Faculty Senate about the budget situation. At that time, the outlook was most dire, so his remarks earlier in this meeting are more positive than what was presented there. The Faculty Senate also discussed two resolutions; one was in support of a statement affirming freedom of expression on campus and passed unanimously. The other resolution was pertaining to students being permitted to walk at the graduation ceremony, even if the student fails to earn his or her degree, provided he/she is within one semester of potential graduation. In other words, students would be allowed to walk with the expectation of actually graduating the following semester, in case family from out-of-town were scheduled to attend, and had already made arrangements at the time of learning the student would not meet degree requirements.
There was a Committee on Campus Sustainability meeting held on March 3rd. The committee is still relatively new. Members are trying to organize sub-committees and if anyone is interested in serving, please let Villien know. The committee invites your input.
There was a Facility Design and Development Committee meeting held in conjunction with the Master Planning Working Group on March 10th. Senator Douglas Villien reported that there was a discussion regarding the signage on the LSU Foundation Building. There was also a discussion regarding the silk screen cleaning room in the basement of Hatcher Hall, where a special filter must be installed so the paint run off does not disperse into regular water drains. The Nicholson Gateway Addendum was discussed and how the remainder of the buildings and housing will be structured. The lay out has changed since it was presented around campus and is scheduled for a vote next month. There will be 22,000 square feet of retail space and a nutrition center.
Staff Senate Gift Fund (Reminder to Please Contribute at the Meeting)
President Millican encouraged senators to contribute to the Gift Fund. Voluntary contributions are $10 per year, per senator.
The guidelines for giving are:
· Death - send flowers ($50) upon death of a current senator or former senator, and for current senator’s immediate family members.
· Wedding - appropriate gift, cost not to exceed $30 (current senators).
· Babies - send flowers or gift - $30 (current senators).
· Retirement – send an acknowledgement for current senators as well as former senators.
Please make checks payable to LSU and memo the Staff Senate Gift Fund.
The Staff Senate acknowledged former Senator Donna Torres’s husband, who passed away earlier this month. There was card circulated for all to sign which will be mailed to her this afternoon.
Staff Senate Election Timeline
President Tammy Millican announced that the Staff Senate General Elections is ongoing. The timeline was mentioned. Unfortunately there have been some candidates who withdrew their nomination. Staff have been honest about why; either it’s time constraints or the fact that some are just worn out with everything going on around campus. There are six staff members running in the Professional/Non-Faculty Category with one candidate who withdrew. There were five staff members who were running in the Clerical/Secretarial Category but three have withdrew their nomination, so the two that are running will be considered unopposed. There were no candidates for the Executive/Administrative/Managerial, Technical/Paraprofessional or Service Maintenance Categories. The Staff Senate will move forward with those elections with vacancies. There may be a special election in the fall once President-Elect Truitt becomes President. Millican encouraged everyone to talk with people whom they think would be a great fit for Staff Senate and let them know of the time commitment. She thinks that the withdrawals are indicative of a bigger problem that’s going on around campus.
Campus Committee on Sustainability Sub-Committee Volunteers
President Millican announced that the Campus Committee on Sustainability has discussed and decided that, based on how excited they were about our strategic plan, they will now create a strategic plan for sustainability on campus. They are reaching out to staff, faculty and students for representation on the following sub-committees: Energy and Carbon Footprint, Grounds and Landscaping, Transportation, Food, Procurement, Recycling and Waste Reduction and Communication. If you are interested in serving, please let Pres. Millican know after the meeting. These sub-committees will meet twice before May to decide what the goals should be. Those goals will be used to create the larger strategic plan for sustainability. LSU is way behind compared to a lot of college campuses with regard to sustainability.
Staff Senate Budget
President-Elect Trey Truitt gave a report on the updated balance sheet for the Staff Senate accounts. A copy was circulated to the full Senate. He reported that:
Bursar Account (Gift Fund) - $215.35
LSU Foundation Accounts:
Fee Support Scholarship - $13,149.16
Holiday on Campus Support Fund - $667.31
Scholarship Award - $3,084.98
Support Fund – $987.59
State Account (Operating Budget) $4,073.02
Total Budget: $22,177.41
President Millican mentioned that the Staff Senate is expecting a 2% budget cut with regard to our state account. As what was announced for all departments on campus.
President Millican congratulated Zack Faircloth who is the new Student Government President and Lindsey Landry who is Vice President for the upcoming academic year. They have met with members of the Executive Committee and would like to continue to work with us. They invited members of Staff Senate to partner with Student Government for Geaux Big Baton Rouge. If you would like to sign-up to volunteer with them, sign-up under the Student Government Executive as the group. It is a worthwhile event, helping people in the community.
Millican announced that there is a Women in STEM breakfast scheduled on April 11th, at 8:00 a.m. The invitation will be forwarded to the full Senate, if anyone would like to attend.
Millican announced that LSU Black Faculty and Staff Caucus is accepting nominations for its Black Scholars Awards 2016 Program. This year’s program will be held on Sunday, April 3rd, at the LSU Student Union Theatre and recognizes African American undergraduate scholars who have achieved academic excellence at LSU. Please see Senator Kendra Hendricks if you have someone in mind to nominate as she can give you more information on that program, if needed.
President Millican wanted to follow-up on the Child Care Center discussion as Senator Ramon Lopez served as a representative for the Staff Senate on the committee. She has reviewed the Board of Supervisors Meeting Agenda on March 18th. There is a request from LSU A&M to authorize the Board of Supervisors to enter into a contract with a private partner to manage the LSU Child Care Center.
Staff Senator Birthdays
President Millican announced that Senator George Eldredge celebrated his birthday on March 1st, Senator Darcy Waguespack celebrated her birthday on March 7th, Senator Dominic Adedeji celebrated his birthday on March 12th, Senator Douglas Villien will celebrate his birthday tomorrow on March 17th, Senator Maggi Spurlock will celebrate her birthday on March 18th and Melonie Milton, the Staff Senate Administrative Coordinator will celebrate her birthday on March 23rd.
President Millican opened the floor to discuss aspects which may be affecting staff and the budget situation. In going to all of the budget meetings, she posted on social media, thanking staff for their passion for LSU and that our hard work does not goes unrecognized or unappreciated. She received so many phone calls and emails of how meaningful that message felt, as they are struggling. One of the questions she often gets asked is, what does staff think? What is going on with this budget situation? Millican mentioned that Provost Koubek may have said a few things which caught our attention. Right now, there is an $800 million deficit for next year which would be about $8 million for LSU. Provost Koubek mentioned that LSU may “look a little smaller.” So some of the things that are being discussed are, do we find what we are excellent at and concentrate on those things, and maybe we can’t be everything for everybody? This immediately makes people think, “What will happen to me?” Millican mentioned the survey that was sent out to some staff inventorying all aspects of their positions at the University, including tasks, job importance, and sharing of job tasks. The survey did cause some alarm about job security within the staff who received it. Through all of the discussions, Tiger Advocates has been pushed for people to join as that group is able to communicate directly and advocate effectively with our legislators. Millican encouraged everyone to sign up and once you do, the group can help you determine who your representatives are, how to contact them, and will even send you an email of what to say, to help with that effort. Please remember to use your private email account from your home computer, as nothing can be done while you are at work. You may also call representatives from your personal phone. If they get 10 phone calls on one subject, they do become very concerned. We have almost 5,000 employees at LSU. Also, we assume that everyone in Louisiana loves LSU but there may be some people in some of the parishes that don’t. If you know staff members who may live here but are from another parish, encourage them and their family and friends to reach out to those representatives and senators from their home parish and let them know how they may be affected.
The biggest issue for Staff Senate is that we have to be careful what we are sending out, unlike Student Government and Faculty Senate, so the perception from employees is that Staff Senate is not doing anything; but everything we do is a grass roots effort. She spoke at the Student Government Town Hall Meeting on the budget. Staff Senate supported the Higher Education Day Rally on the steps of the Capital. We need to be strategic in our effort to help in any way that we can, being productive and where we will be heard.
Senator Jennifer Gomez mentioned that in the LSU Olinde Career Center, their Director, Jesse Downs has been extremely transparent with the budget situation. Everything that she hears from upper administration, she brings back to the employees in the office and it has helped a lot. It would be helpful if more departments were transparent as well, since there are a lot of employees who are worried and stressed out.
Senator Nikki Godfrey mentioned that within her department, there have been a lot of employees who have left the University for other opportunities, but their positions are unable to be filled due to budgetary issues. So the expectation for the staff who remain is to cover the deficit created by the unfilled position, creating a great deal of stress and burn-out, without much reward, such as additional compensation. She has some units that are down 70% in personnel from the past 3 years, which speaks to the remarkable efforts of her staff, that they continue to keep their units running, with no solutions in sight for the immediate future. - Being a Director is equally as challenging, having to manage, supervise and encourage with no real “light at the end of the tunnel.”
A discussion then ensued about the number of areas on campus, represented by Senators, who had lost staff positions, and the additional efforts this requires from employees. Some staff may be receiving additional compensation for this, or ancillary benefits, while others are not. This potentially can cause resentment or disenchantment on the part of staff. It was suggested that perhaps this is a conversation that should be furthered with a representative with Human Resource Management.
Senator Maggi Spurlock mentioned she understands there is a misconception that only LSU sustaining the budget cuts. There are certainly many more students, staff and faculty in other schools that are impacted, and maybe in a more serious situation than LSU. Senator Spurlock wondered how we might share our concern for our peer universities, as well as our own. She loves LSU Athletics, but expressed frustration that we do not see the same reaction from the community about the loss of our academic institution, as when they heard there may be loss of LSU She suggested joining forces with the other Staff Senates throughout the state. Millican mentioned there exists a Council of Staff Advisors, which networks the other Staff Senates within the LSU System. No lawmaker will agree to close any school in their back yard. If you close a university, the debt does not go away. The quality of the university and the morale of the staff are most crucial.
Senator Jacquelyn Craddock mentioned that she is interested to see how this current legislation is going to be with regards to the unfunded accrued liability and if there is going to be any savings from that for our institution that might be used to fill this budget hole. Millican mentioned that there is a Senate Bill 17 for the regular session which reads, in part, for those in the ORP – Optional Retirement Plan, they would be given the option of leaving and moving to the defined benefit plan. The funds in the ORP account would move to a traditional retirement savings account, while as employees begin in the defined benefit plan, they would start at year zero. For those employees who have many years accrued, this would be a difficult decision. If this bill passes, it would not rectify the owed unfunded accrued liability of $83 million, which must be paid by 2028. Still, it could assist those employees who got into ORP without understanding the full ramifications, to offer them participation in a defined benefit plan. LSU is also seeking the autonomy to control our own tuition. It’s difficult to continue to plan for the future every year, when we must sustain a mid-year budget cut.
Secretary Barbara Reonas spoke about how she believes the University failed to effectively communicate to voters in the fall, when a constitutional amendment allowing the State to make budget cuts from places other than higher education and healthcare was on the ballot. Many people did not understand the implications of this amendment, and therefore were reluctant to vote in its favor. Senator Reonas said that it seemed, as a University community, we were fatigued from our fight for funding in the summer, and failed to activate once more to educate the public about our needs. Another concern shared by Senator Reonas is that although President Alexander is a spokesman for higher education, both for our university and a as a larger voice for higher education nationally, she has great concern as to how long he will stay at LSU particularly, with some of the overwhelming challenges faced in this state. If we lose him, where will LSU and Louisiana’s higher education institutions be? The Staff Senate needs to stand behind him to show our support. President Millican suggested the Staff Senate consider a Resolution in support of President Alexander, which could be presented during the May 2016 Staff Senate General Meeting.
Past-President Julie Perkins mentioned, realistically, the University will probably not look like we look today, even as soon as 2 years from now. If the steps to get there include these unfortunate exercises, which make us feel tense and anxious in these moments, ultimately the benefit will be improving processes and structure, getting us to a place - we must be, in order to function. When we interact with others, we need to communicate that these things make sense to do, and actually should have been done years ago, so as to improve ourselves.
MOTION TO ADJOURN – With there being no more business, Member-at-Large Kayla Kucharchuk moved to adjourn. The motion, seconded by Past-President Julie Perkins, carried. The meeting adjourned before noon.
Barbara Reonas, Secretary