The sum of the May 4 Employee Forum meeting held via Zoom was truly greater than its agenda items, each of which provided many useful updates for University workers.
Chancellor’s Round Table
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz began by saying that from his office window he saw graduates wearing Carolina blue caps and gowns at the Old Well, and thanking all of “our incredibly talented staff,” without which the beginning could not take place.
Among the highlights from the past month, Guskiewicz mentioned:
He also said that:
- The board approving a balanced budget of all funds allows Carolina “to reinvest in our people and our mission” and helps campus units be transparent about fundraising sources and expenditures.
- The 58,000 applications for 4,600 places in the undergraduate class of 2026 set a record.
- The Carolina campaign hit its $4.25 billion goal in January, a year ahead of schedule, creating support for faculty, staff and students for generations to come.
Christi Hurt, who became Guskiewicz’s chief of staff in February, spoke next. She listed her previous jobs at Carolina, including as senior prevention strategy officer, acting vice chancellor for student affairs, Title IX coordinator, and director of the Carolina Women’s Center.
“I’d like to think I know this place inside and out, but I also know it’s wide and deep and full of surprises,” she said. “One of the things I bring to the role is an endless curiosity about this place and working on fantastic things and learning new surprises every day.”
Hurt said she tries to make processes and collaboration easier for everyone. “There is no problem too small to try to solve. I want to serve as a connector and communicator across the University.
Guskiewicz added that Hurt’s abilities will help move forward some initiatives slowed by the pandemic and responses to requests from the forum, faculty council and student groups.
In another discussion, Guskiewicz said that:
- The work of the Operational Excellence team and the Future of Work initiative continues.
- Deferred building maintenance of $880 million is concerning, and his administration is prioritizing the legislated $110 million for maintenance.
- A balanced budget helps her advocate with the UNC system to rethink policies governing pay bands.
A delegate asked if the University’s study on faculty pay equity will be expanded to include staff salaries. Becci Menghini, vice-chancellor for human resources and equal opportunities and compliance, said: “Yes, but it will not be the same format or the same timetable. It’s more complicated because of the way the personnel system is structured. She explained that institutional research studies rotating faculty salaries over a long period because faculty turnover is slower than staff turnover and in smaller numbers.
Delegate Rebecca Howell suggested being transparent and avoiding the “invisibility” of staff pay equity work. “Knowing how this is handled could have a positive impact on morale,” Howell said.
Progress in sustainability
Michael Piehler, Director of Sustainability, focused on the progress made over the past year. He encouraged everyone to visit the Sustainable Carolina website to access reports and data.
He said that:
- Carbon emissions have fallen by 40% since 2007. “We have incredible data and understand exactly why this is happening. We know the proportion that is attributable to the pandemic and the proportion that is not. We expect some of that to bounce back and maybe be down somewhere in the 30% range. »
- Coal use has fallen by 52% since 2007, with consecutive reductions of 18% and 17% over the past two years.
- A body of water reflects high aspirations that range from conventional efficiency improvements to better connecting water to natural systems, which is part of Piehler’s research.
Piehler addressed recurring inaccuracies and themes in media coverage, including:
- Criticisms of Carolina changing its commitment to be coal-free from 2020 to 2040. The University originally committed to carbon neutrality by 2050 and moved it to 2040. “Our commitments, if any, accelerated.”
- The climate action plan contains numerous TBDs, to be determined according to the net impact of each activity. “We know what we are going to do. We’re not sure exactly what the benefits will be, so we’re cleaning up that language. »
- Asks for details on a 100% reduction in coal by 2040. Piehler said real-time reporting on progress is better than a timeline with estimates of what might happen. Piehler also answered questions, including one on:
- Expand the work of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Facilities Services Office. Piehler praised the office’s “incredible” work. He said that instead of redundantly creating a waste management group, Sustainable Carolina would work with OWRR.
Human Resources Update
Menghini began his usual candid exchange by thanking all employees for their work over the past year. She said this:
- Turnover rates are higher than they have been in the past and are not decreasing. “We are doing all we can at the central HR level and working with HR managers in the units to identify opportunities to help those here.
- “Every institution in the system and every industry in the country faces this challenge.” Menghini is part of a state task force that is considering recruitment and retention incentives, particularly for SHRE employees, such as vacation time workers can use immediately. Such solutions alone, she said, will not solve the problem, but collectively they can help.
- Among efforts to speed up hiring and build deeper candidate pools, a vendor background check now takes one day and the University’s comprehensive background check typically takes four and a half days.
In response to a delegate’s question, Menghini talked about using “stay” interviews to determine how to retain employees. She said some units conduct formal residency interviews. Human resources, she says, ask during annual performance reviews, “Why are you staying? Why did you stay?
She said people leave for higher pay, but they also leave for many reasons — flexibility, different supervisor, caring for family, moving to another state. “Money alone will not solve our problem. We have to look at this holistically and we have to understand what motivates people.”
With May as Mental Health Awareness Month, Jessica Pyjas, Work/Life and Wellness Program Manager, recommended resources and events such as Virtual Mindful Monday sessions and Wellness Wednesday webinars on work attendance. and in life, bouncing back from a setback, using humor to reduce stress and other topics.
The forum reviews more than 40 applications for professional development grants and Carolina Family Scholarships.
The Kay Wijnberg Hovious Outstanding Employee Forum delegates are Stephanie Forman, Executive Assistant and Special Projects, Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health; Matthew Teal, Academic Policy Analyst, Office of Ethics and Policy; and Jacob Womack, Classroom Layout Coordinator, School of Government.