The following questions were submitted by staff to the Chancellor at the Staff Assembly picnic in August 2016. The answers below have been provided by staff members who are best able to address the questions on behalf of UCI.
Q.How can office departments and classes promote civility during the current political climate?
A. At the core of any productive exchange of ideas is respect, if not for the position, at least for the person. Civility is rooted in politeness but extends beyond to allow disagreement without being divisive. Engaging in conversation, rather than debate, requires listening and acknowledgement of other perspectives, although that does not mean accepting falsehoods or egregious statements. The Institute for Civility in Government defines it this way:
“Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.”
Q.In what ways do you think our campus supports working parents?
A.There are a number of ways that UCI supports working parents, from policies to resources. For example, PPSM 2.210 (Absence from Work policy) provides a full array of time off polices to help eligible employees integrate work and personal obligations, including the Employee-initiated Reduction in Time (ERIT) Program. Additional policies and resources include: PPSM 84 (Accommodations for Nursing Mothers), childcare services and summer camps, work life benefits, and Employee Assistance Program work life balance support. UCI provides employees access and opportunity to be present in all stages of their children’s lives both at home and at work. UCI continues to cater to working parents by offering workshops on parenting, financial planning and preparing college saving plans as well as developing community partnerships so that employees have the opportunity to enhance their role as providers for their families. New parents will also find ease at utilizing UCI’s disability/pregnancy leave, as well as paternity and adoption leave policies.
Q.What is being done about on-campus sustainability?
A.UCI’s award-winning approach to sustainability has earned accolades from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State of California, Sierra magazine (the official magazine of the Sierra Club), and “The Princeton Review,” among others. As the question seems to pertain to sustainable operations, that will be the focus of this response.
UCI’s energy-management program is recognized nationwide and has enabled the campus to reduce energy use per square foot by half. The campus is a partner in the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative and that agency’s new Smart Labs Accelerator Program, which was inspired by UCI’s Smart Labs Initiative.
With respect to infrastructure, the campus currently has 14 LEED Platinum and 10 LEED Gold buildings, among the most at any university in the U.S. LEED is the acronym for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
UCI staff have been actively involved in the development of UC’s Policy on Sustainable Practices and the campus’s efforts to meet or exceed the goals outlined within. The comprehensive policy addresses the following areas:
For more information about our “green” campus and the stellar sustainability work being done by our research faculty, students, and staff, visit UCI’s Sustainability website.
Q.Why is our trash only picked up once a week?
A.Facilities Management has experienced several budget cuts in recent years and continuously strives to balance staffing and service levels within current budget constraints. Organizations can elect to pay for additional service by contacting the Facilities Management service desk at 949-824-5444. Facilities will work with your organization to get the additional services you require.
Q.How can we, the staff, be eligible for more increases more often? Similar to the faculty merits.
A.For staff represented by a collective bargaining agreement, adjustments to changes in salaries are determined by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Current contracts are located at: http://ucnet.universityofcalifornia.edu/labor/bargaining-units/index.html.
Non-Represented staff participate in a merit-based pay for performance compensation program. Annually, eligible employees are rewarded based upon individual employee effort and contributions. Employees who meet the expectations of their jobs or perform above expectations, according to measurable criteria, receive an adjustment in salary based on that performance. The amount of the adjustment varies with some measure of an individual’s performance. Employees no longer receive automatic across-the-board salary adjustments. Outside of a normal merit cycle, the need for salary adjustment may come from the external pressure of high demand fields, internal salary compression, and/or retention considerations. This type of increase, is termed an “equity” increase. An equity adjustment provides the mechanism for addressing such inequities by granting salary increases to non-probationary employees. The system wide policy guiding all non-represented compensation actions is located at: http://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4010400/PPSM-30. UCI’s local compensation procedure is located at: http://www.policies.uci.edu/personnel/personnel30.html.
Q.Can staff get free membership to the ARC?
1. The ARC was built and is maintained on student referendum fees and generated income. In order to continue to fund the maintenance and operation, Campus Recreation relies on membership income from non-students.
2. Although there are a few universities in the country that are exploring covering the cost of memberships for faculty/staff, the standard practice in both public and private universities is to charge a membership fee.
3. We have worked to keep the cost low, well below similar memberships in the community. Here is the current annual membership price for staff at the UC’s. A note that we have only increased the price for staff once since the ARC opened in Jan 2000.
Q.Why doesn’t UCI offer tuition discounts for UCI staff/employees?
A.The policy resides with UCOP: http://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4010409/PPSM-51
Q.If I waive my medical benefits, I think I should get some money back for saving the university money. When I worked at CSULB, I waived benefits and they put an extra stipend in our checks.
A. Many have asked this question and intuitively, this would make sense. However, we have a sizable population, and around 10+ percent of the University’s population have opted out of their health insurance for various reasons, usually because their spouse covers them on their policy. In order to have this become financially feasible and equitable, we would have to provide this same financial incentive to all opt-outs, and that would represent a large financial burden for the University to absorb.
Q.What can be done to save our pension? The opt-out feature will hurt long-term employees that have paid in for years when future employees can opt-out of paying.
A. All employees hired on or after July 1, 2016 who are eligible for full benefits are required to choose either Pension Choice or Savings Choice. The employee contributions are the same for both plans at 7% of covered compensation. Likewise, the University contribution under both options is the same, currently 14% of covered compensation.
UC’s independent actuary has confirmed that as long as UC continues to make contributions to the UCRP unfunded liability on the same basis, allowing future employees to elect a defined contribution plan (Savings Choice) as an alternative to the UCRP (Pension Choice) will not jeopardize UCRP’s ability to pay pension benefits.
Q.What programs will you put in place for employees who have college aged (or soon to be college aged) dependents? I would like to see a program where my child could get discounted tuition if he/she is accepted to UCI.
A.The issue of discounts for dependents on tuition has been much discussed over the years, particularly by the University wide Committee on Faculty Welfare. Currently, the reduced fee enrollment policy (Regents Policy 7502, and see PPSM 51) only applies to employees. However, recently the University initiated the Employee Tuition Discount Pilot Program for UC Online Education (UCOE) courses. For all of this, see: http://ucnet.universityofcalifornia.edu/compensation-and-benefits/other-benefits/tuition-discounts.html
Q.Why was there no promotional item for giveaway at the staff assembly table?
A. Staff Assembly does its best to offer the best experience possible at the Staff Appreciation Picnic. This year, in considering the available budget for the event, it was decided that the giveaway item that has traditionally been distributed would be foregone in order to prevent cuts in other services such as food variety/quantity, drinking water, and shuttle service. We welcome any feedback about what elements of the picnic our staff most enjoy so that we can be sure to provide the best experience possible. You can send any feedback via the Staff Assembly Contact page.
Q.How is the university preparing students for work? A required career class would be a great start.
A. The UCI Career Center is proud to offer a comprehensive portfolio of career services for freshmen through PhDs, and recent alumni spanning all majors. Our main service areas are career exploration, internships, full-time employment, and graduate and professional school admissions. We also serve the employer community by providing forums, such as fairs, online listings, on-campus interviews, and information sessions, to facilitate access to UCI talent for their internship and full-time roles. More details on our student services can be found here: http://www.career.uci.edu/students/index.html#left-nav.
Currently, there is not a required career class for all UCI students. While the Career Center sees tremendous value in this idea, many partners need to come together to make it a reality. At the same time, UCI’s world class academics, in combination with opportunities for growth
The great news is that many of our students already possess these competencies and there are many ways to develop them in and out of the classroom at UCI. Everyone at UCI is involved in the work of creating career-ready anteaters, and the Career Center invites you to share your ideas on how to collaborate. To learn more, visit NACE’s website or click here to view the Career Center’s Career Readiness Quick Tips.
Q.Is there a plan to staff the counseling center to reduce wait and better meet student needs? Students are waiting 2+ weeks for services.
A.Our goal remains to do an initial evaluation (IA) of students within 10 business days. System-wide, UC Counseling Center Directors agreed this is a reasonable aspirational goal, and we have been able to achieve this for the past 2 years.
Over the last couple of years, we have increased our staffing and streamlined our process to access counseling services. We continue to offer walk-in Urgent Care services daily for those who need to be seen same day and do not have an appointment. In addition, we have added a limited number of same day initial evaluation appointments to help those who cannot wait for the first routinely scheduled appointment to be seen sooner.
As of Fall 2016, we increased our staffing even further and have offered 12% more initial evaluation appointments; however, the service demand growth that is outpacing our service expansion, so our wait time is slightly longer this year. We have still been able to meet the 10 business day goal to date. We plan to add three more this year as budget and space permit.
For the 2015-2016 year, 5.3 business day’s was average wait for Initial appointments for full year; 6.5 for academic terms (when demand is higher.)
This year, we generally we have a slightly higher wait time as compared to last year, based on YTD comparisons. We have had a 12% increase in the number of IA’s completed this year and have same day IA’s. The same day IA time has helped us keep our average down to slightly above last year’s wait time. But this means that the demand for IA’s is higher than the number of slots we have grown.
Q.What plans are there for staffing support services (counseling, social work) to support our students, faculty and staff to meet rising demand while ensuring a work/life balance for those staff?
A.In July 2016, UCI added a new position intended to assist faculty and staff resolve behavioral health issues and coordinate resources, including time-limited case management. Dr. Negar Shekarabi, who is the coordinator of faculty & staff mental health care and respondent services, can play a role in supporting those staff who may feel “compassion fatigue” as a result of the work that they do on a daily basis with students, faculty, and staff. Additionally, we encourage staff to take advantage of HR wellness offerings (parenting programs, smoking cessation, stress resilience training), cooking and fitness programs at Campus Recreation, and other campus wellness activities. We have been very fortunate to receive funding for new counselors, psychiatrists, and social workers from a variety of sources, and we are hopeful that adding to our staff in this way will help balance some of the workload.
Q.Will the Anteater Express go to University Research Park in the future?
A.It is not on the table as of now, but we can definitely keep that as an idea for the future if enough undergraduate students request that route and there is a need/funding for it. Since Anteater Express is funded by undergraduates, they would have to approve the route through their Bus Love oversight committee.