Annual Report to the Staff Council
Ben Ide, Chair
Looking back over the past year and a half, I am reminded of the challenges we faced heading into the first year of our newly reorganized Staff Council. The last annual report to Staff Association was April 19, 2019, thereby beginning the first day of new era in the creation of a new name going forward as “Staff Council”.
By unanimous vote, the newly renamed “Staff Council” was created on April 19, 2019 along to ratify changes that aligned to our Constitution and Bylaws. As a collective group of individuals, we knew then that it would be an uphill climb to solidify our new charge - the representation of all non-bargaining unit staff at the University of Hartford - and to leverage our new position in the University’s structure. But how could we have known what was to come? And, having somehow known, how could we have prepared? The answer to both of these questions is, of course, we couldn’t....
At the April 19 annual meeting of the Staff Association, a quorum of 25 members voted to ratify changes to the organization’s Constitution and Bylaws. These changes - restructuring the groups to whom Community Representative report, enlarging the scope of their representative duties, and dropping the membership requirement for representation - culminate in a new representative body for University staff not already represented by collective bargaining: the Staff Council.
In his address to the Staff Council’s general meeting, President Woodward presents his plans for campus projects, new buildings and landscaping space, and building renovations. The goal for revitalizing the University is to expand enrollment to 5000 undergrads and 2000 grads, and work to increase retention.
After the culmination of a delayed election, the results are announced: Ben Ide as Chair, Christina Lapierre as Vice Chair, Lauren Goldman as Secretary, Linda Zigmont as Treasurer, Stephanie Fengler as Communications Director, Linda Zigmont and Cindy Oppenheimer as Non-Exempt Community Representatives At-Large. Tom Nyman and Kate Hohenthal volunteer to be Exempt Community Representatives At-Large.
Jason Ferrell speaks with the Staff Council about Facilities initiatives and new construction on campus: the new Center for Student Success addition to GSU, the Barney School addition, and the initial stages of planning for a new academic building supporting the growth of emerging academic programs. A water tank in the sports center broke, and there is also $10 million to spend over 3 years for improvements to athletics/recreation areas and residential halls, creating access to the river, and upgrading general purpose classrooms in every academic building. He also talked about general cleanliness on campus and stated that 90% of the waste that comes off campus is recycled.
Discussions start for the Staff Spotlight program, and attendees at the general meeting discuss the role of Community Representatives. Staff Council committees are reviewed, and the Wellness Committee is struck for the time being. The possibility of creating a Staff Council committee on the status of women is tabled until the executive board can talk with Jane Horvath, the head of the Presidential Committee on the Status of Women. A Ways & Means Committee is established to evaluate the way the new Staff Council operates and to look at its Constitution and Bylaws for possible improvements.
Christine Grant, the Special Assistant to the President for Diversity & Community Engagement, speaks about ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion across the campus.
Using information gathered by Community Reps, the executive board begins compiling names of community members represented by the Staff Council. The vacation rollover survey that went out in July is extended to September. A new Hospitality Committee is created. A request is made to invite Laura Whitney, Vice President for Finance and Operations, and David Gordon, chair of the Board of Regents, to speak to the Staff Council about the University’s budget. Ms. Whitney speaks at a special session, open to all staff, on September 26.
At the general meeting, Chris Monroe, the University’s benefits consultant from USI Insurance Services, speaks about changes to the University’s benefits, particularly CVS and Aetna.
Later in the month, Laura Whitney speaks at a special session, open to all staff. She gives a broad overview of the budget and the University’s fiscal challenges before answering questions.
President Woodward addresses the Staff Council and answers questions about staff salaries and morale. He also talks about the budget shortfall and goals for increasing enrollment. The Staff Council promotes a set of retirement/Medicare workshops for all University employees who are considering retirement in the future.
Jen Conley, Associate Director of Human Resources Development, speaks about vacation, and short- term disability benefits for staff and answers questions about vacation rollover. She states that if you get to the end of the year and you have run out of vacation days, HR can work with employees and their supervisors to borrow vacation time from the next year if necessary.
At the request of President Woodward, Ben Ide presents the preliminary Strategic Action Plan and asks for Staff Council input. The decision is made to review the plan with the executive board.
The Ways & Means Committee proposes having elections for Staff Council delegates to University groups and committees. This would require changes to the Constitution and Bylaws.
David Gordon, chair of the Board of Regents, speaks to the Staff Council. He outlines the purposes of the Board in approving the University’s budget and delegating authority to the President to oversee and execute the budget. He also outlines the membership of the Board, talking about the recent reduction in the number of members and about its goal to bring together key community members to advise on the success of the University. Mr. Gordon proposes that he attend Staff Council meetings rather than having a delegate from Staff Council attend Board of Regent meeting.
Several cases of a pneumonia of unknown cause are first reported in the city of Wuhan, China. This new (or “novel”) coronavirus bears similarities to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus of 2003 so it is dubbed “SARS-CoV-2”. Later, the common name changed to include the year of its discovery and an abbreviation for a coronavirus disease: COVID-19.
The executive board leads a discussion about the proposed goals for Staff Council in 2020, including improving communication about the budgeting process, inviting upper level administrators to general meetings more often, and improving the HRD on-boarding process for new staff with training across departments. Staff Council Community Representatives are encouraged to share announcements about news from their areas.
Despite a complete quarantine of 11 million people in Wuhan, the first cases of COVID-19 outside of China are reported in Thailand and Japan. By the end of the month, the infection has spread from Asia to Europe and the United States.
After an eight-year tenure, Ben Ide steps down as Staff Council delegate to the Faculty Senate. Christina Lapierre takes his place.
The plans for the monthly Staff Spotlight are announced. Recipients will be interviewed for a UNotes article, featuring their answers to three questions: “What is your role at the University?” “What do you like about working here?” “What’s something that people don’t know about you?” Recipients will receive a certificate of recognition from HRD, and their names will go into a drawing for one of two free parking permits for the next academic year. Nominations will be received and reviewed by the Hospitality Committee on a rolling basis.
Though it will not be officially recognized as a pandemic until March, the World Health Organization and the US government declare a public health emergency. All non-essential University-sponsored travel is suspended. Personal reusable cups are disallowed at campus dining facilities.
Constitution and Bylaw changes are unanimously approved that allow for the election of Staff Council delegates to University committees. These elections will follow the pattern of the election of at-large Community Reps and executive board members and take place in alternating years.
The Staff Council has its last in-person meeting on March 11 in GSU 335. Jerry Katrichis, Chair of the Faculty Senate, becomes the Faculty Senate delegate to Staff Council. James Brino, President of the Student Government Association, becomes the delegate from the SGA.
As the United States closes its borders to non-US citizens traveling from Asia and continental Europe, Aetna provides Coronavirus testing at no cost for participating University of Hartford employees. The University announces the extension of spring break by an extra week (March 15-29) and that it will not reopen for in-person classes afterwards. The campus closes to all personnel at 1 p.m. on March 16. Although no timeline is set for reopening at that time, the campus will not completely reopen for employees and students until August.
The Staff Council forgoes its annual April meeting (including the presentation of this annual report) to host a webinar with President Woodward. He discusses the financial impact on the University, primarily from the loss of housing revenue and the departure of international students, but also including the projected loss of income from dropouts and canceled summer programs. The University halts retirement contributions for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 and half of the next.
Thirty-five people opt for a voluntary furlough, saving the University approximately $350,000. The University will consider involuntary furloughs, if necessary, to meet the budget shortfall. President Woodward states his desire to address redundancies in internal workflows but does not want to announce layoffs - as so many of our peer institutions have already done. Connecticut unemployment benefits pay for half the salary of those on furlough, and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provides an additional $600 a week.
Employees age 65 and older with 10 years of service as of January 1, 2020, are eligible for early retirement and will receive a credit to a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) equal to two weeks of pay for each full year of service up to a maximum of 52 weeks of pay, as well as a tuition benefit if the opt in. Employees under the age of 65 but over 62 who have 20 years of service would get an HRA credit equal to one week of pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 26 weeks of pay, plus the University’s medical plan coverage until the age 65, and a tuition benefit. Employees must opt in before June 1, 2020. At the time of President Woodward’s address, 15 people have signed on for early retirement.
Those still actively employed by the University begin the monumental task of creating and supporting a 100% distance education program for the rest of the academic year. All future Staff Council meetings will be hosted virtually until further notice.
President Woodward again addresses University staff at the scheduled Staff Council meeting. He announces that we will close out the fiscal year with an additional $3 million budget shortfall due to the pandemic. The Board of Regents ask for a zero-balance budget for FY2021, and the administration starts planning scenarios for budget cuts, using a projected fall enrollments of either 70% or 85%, and taking into consideration that we may not have in-person classes starting in September. Cuts are not across-the-board, but instead tailored to individual departments’ needs and ability to generate income.
At this point, 120 people are either voluntarily or involuntarily furloughed, but there have been no University-wide layoffs. Construction on the new health sciences and engineering building continues, as does planning for new academic programs. The funding for the new building is unrelated to operating expenses, and our future success depends on securing new revenue streams.
President Woodward announces that the work-from-home plan will continue until at least July 1, 2020. Afterwards, supervisors should consider in-building staffing needs, staggering workers’ shifts, or allowing the continuation of doing work from home to lower the risk of infection.
The CDC reports that the US has surpassed 100,000 deaths. Earlier in the month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, states that the number of reported US deaths due to COVID-19 is, in all likelihood, an underestimation.
Jane Horvath, University professor and Senior Advisor to the President, and Christine Grant discuss updates to the President’s Steering Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which they co-chair. The present an overview of the work of the Steering Committee and its structure before answering question.
Connecticut maintains one of the lowest rates of infection in the US. Although the final phase of its reopening plan has been postponed indefinitely, Connecticut allows offices and university research to open. Restaurants, hotels, and gyms begin to reopen. More than 16 million Americans are unemployed.
Ben Ide, Chair
August 28, 2020
Constitution (As of January 6, 2021)
The University of Hartford Staff Council (UHSC) is an organization that promotes and supports the overall interests and general welfare of all staff employees who are not represented by a bargaining unit.
The University of Hartford Staff Council is dedicated to:
- Furthering the University of Hartford’s mission
- Advocating for staff rights and needs
- Formulating recommendations on matters of concern
- Fostering fairness and respect in a quality work environment, and
- Acting as a liaison to the University community.
The Staff Council represents all full-time and part-time staff employees of the University of Hartford who are not University administrators at the Assistant Vice President level or greater, full-time students, or members of bargaining units whose unions are certified to represent employees of the University of Hartford.
The officers of the UHSC, hereafter referred to as the Executive Board (Eboard), shall consist of the Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and Communications Director.
UHSC Community Representatives shall consist of one volunteer per representative group and four (4) At-Large Representatives (two (2) Non-Exempt, two (2) Exempt).
The Staff Council shall meet the second Wednesday of every month at a time and place to be determined by the Chair. These meetings are open to all constituent staff and are conducted in accordance with Robert's Rules of Order, except as modified by this Constitution and the Bylaws. Non-constituent University employees may submit a request to the Executive Board to attend these meetings. Only Community Representatives and Eboard members shall have voting privileges.
An annual meeting shall be held the second Wednesday in April for the purpose of presenting annual reports by the Executive Board and any other business on the agenda. Every other year during this meeting, Executive Board officers and Community Representatives shall be installed. Due notice of the annual meeting will be published, at a minimum, in the University Notes (UNotes) and posted on the UHSC website.
The UHSC Executive Board shall meet at least once monthly at a time and place to be determined by the Chair. Additional attendees, including but not limited to the previous Chair, may be invited at the discretion of the Executive Board.
Executive Board officers, At-Large Representatives, and delegates shall be elected for a term of two (2) years, as outlined in the Bylaws, Article 5.
A Nominating Committee shall consist of at least three (3) constituent staff members whose duties and procedures are outlined in the Bylaws, Article 5.
This Constitution may be amended. Proposed amendments must be introduced for discussion at a regular meeting of the Staff Council. A vote can take place only after staff constituents have been notified at least two (2) weeks in advance of the pending vote. The announcement will be posted, at a minimum, in the University Notes (UNotes) and posted on the UHSC website. Additionally, it can be communicated by other means that will be equally effective. A two-thirds majority vote of the Community Representatives who are present at this UHSC meeting is required for ratification.
Any Executive Board officer(s) or Community Representative(s) may be subject to dismissal from their position(s). Procedures for this are outlined in the Bylaws, Article 6.
By-Laws (As of January 6, 2021)
For Staff Council representational eligibility, please see “Constituency” as defined in the Staff Council Constitution.
The Chair shall preside over all general meetings and direct and administer the business of the Staff Council consistent with its Bylaws. The Chair may appoint ad hoc committees and chairpersons of said committees. When the Chair is called upon to represent the University of Hartford Staff Council (UHSC) at various University functions, the chair may choose to serve that function or delegate responsibility to another Executive Board member. The Chair acts as the representative of the Staff Council to the University Board of Regents and may appoint one or more additional SC constituents to attend Board of Regents meetings at the Board’s request and functions in addition to or in lieu of the Chair.
The Vice Chair shall preside over Executive Board meetings. The Vice Chair shall perform duties assigned by the Chair. In the absence of the Chair, he/she shall preside over meetings and assume the Chair's duties. The Vice Chair shall coordinate fund raising activities.
The Secretary shall record and distribute official Staff Council meeting minutes. He/she shall also keep a record of all meetings of the Executive Board. Additionally, the Secretary shall be responsible for distribution of notices and the preservation of all official documents, papers, and letters.
The Treasurer shall receive all revenues of the UHSC and give proper receipt for the same. All funds shall be deposited in a University of Hartford financial fund under the name of the University of Hartford Staff Council. The Treasurer shall pay all due invoices after approval by the Chair. The Treasurer shall keep a detailed account of all monies received and disbursed, and keep vouchers of all expenditures, and render a current report at each meeting of the Staff Council. The Treasurer shall assist in all fundraising activities.
The Communications Director shall oversee all communications of the Staff Council, and welcome all new represented staff with information about the Staff Council. He or she will also communicate annually to the University at large, reminding them of the activities and purpose of the Staff Council and encourage active participation.
Community representatives shall be selected or elected by the one of 19 areas which they represent (see Section 2 for areas).
Community representatives will hold their positions for two (2) years and can be renewed. The constituents of each representative’s area determine how they choose their respective representatives.
Community representatives are responsible to represent their constituents within their respective area as identified in Section 2 of Article 3.
Community representatives should have formal in-person meetings with their respective constituents once a month if they so choose or they should email their constituents with monthly minutes/agenda for communication purposes.
Community representatives will listen to all staff in their respective area and bring the concerns and questions back to staff council meetings for discussion and further review.
It is the responsibility of each community representative to communicate feedback in a timely manner to his/her constituents for resolution purposes if concerns were brought to the community representative’s attention from the staff council meeting.
A community representative must attend all staff council meetings or he/she must send a proxy on their behalf. There is 1 meeting per month.
Community representatives must solicit their respective constituents’ feedback on upcoming votes prior to a vote.
If a community representative is not selected by a designated area, the Staff Council can select a willing constituent from that area to fulfill these outlined duties.
If a community representative fails to fulfill the minimum requirements listed, he/she will be replaced by a selected or elected community member from within his/her designated area.
In the event of a failed election/selection process, the Executive Board will select a new community representative who can fulfill the duties for that assigned community area.
Each of the following areas shall have one Community Representative:
- Asylum Avenue Campus
- Barney School of Business
- Bates House
- Beatrice Auerbach Computer and Administration Building
- College of Arts and Sciences
- College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions
- College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture
- Finance and Administrative Services Building
- Gengras Student Union
- Harrison Libraries
- Hartford Art School
- The Hartt School
- Hillyer College
- Institutional Advancement
- Office of Marketing and Communication
- Public Safety
- Residential Life
Four At-Large Community Representatives, two Non-Exempt, two Exempt, shall represent the UHSC constituency respective to their employment status. At-Large Community Representatives are elected every two years (as defined in Article 5).
The Staff Council may meet monthly, as outlined in the UHSC Constitution. The day and time of a meeting may be changed on an emergency basis upon adequate notice to the Staff Council Community Representatives (with no less than two University of Hartford business days’ notice) by the Executive Board if deemed necessary.
All Staff Council Officers and Community Representatives have an equal voice and vote in the proceedings. The Chair shall cast the deciding vote at a meeting in case of a tie.
Quorum will constitute a minimum of 50% of Community Representatives. Voting will be decided by the majority of members present at the meeting, provided quorum is met. Voting will be determined by a show of hands.
Community Representatives and UHSC represented staff must be notified at least two weeks in advance of a pending vote, subject to Section 1. If an issue cannot wait for the allotted time to be voted on, the Executive Board may suspend the rules to allow for a vote to be taken at a regular or special meeting.
A Nominating Committee (NC) shall be formed every two (2) years at the January meeting to oversee the nomination and election of the Officers and At-Large Community Representatives. It shall consist of a minimum of three (3) volunteer UHSC represented staff, one of whom shall act as Chairperson. No more than one Executive Officer is eligible to serve on the Nominating Committee. An Executive Officer may not act as Chairperson of the NC.
Likewise, a Nominating Committee shall be formed on alternating years to oversee the nomination and election of Staff Council delegates to University committees and Faculty Senate.
The NC shall proceed with the nominations of Officers, At-Large Community Representatives, and delegates as follows:
- The NC shall solicit from all UHSC represented staff nominations for each of the officers of the Executive Board and the four (4) At-Large Community Representatives and, in alternate years, SC delegates, and will investigate eligibility (meet conditions of Staff Council representation) of all nominees by the second week of February.
- No later than the second week of March, all nominees will be contacted by the NC to ask if they would like to be on the ballot. Self-nomination is acceptable. If no person is nominated for a position, the NC may solicit volunteers.
- All accepted nominees will be put on the ballot. The ballot will be provided all to UHSC represented staff for voting by the end of the second week of March.
- The NC shall tabulate counts to determine the winners and shall notify the newly elected officers by March 30th.
- The newly elected Executive Board members and At-Large Community Representatives shall be installed in their positions at the April annual UHSC meeting. SC delegates will take their positions in April or at the start of the next University committee or Faculty Senate annual session.
Vacancies of Officers, At-Large Community Representatives, and delegates shall be filled as in accordance with the following:
- Should the Office of Chair be vacated prior to the end of the term of office, the Vice Chair shall assume that Office for the remainder of the term.
- Should any other Executive Board, At-Large Community Representative, or delegate position be vacant, the Staff Council Executive Board shall meet and select a replacement from the UHSC represented staff for the remainder of the term. First consideration may be given to the list of nominees from the most recent election.
- No person shall occupy two Executive Offices concurrently. Executive Officers are allowed to hold Staff Council delegate positions, but should be encouraged to only hold one delegate position at a time.
If charges are brought against an officer, that officer will step aside until said charges are resolved. The Executive Board shall assume the officer’s duties and responsibilities during this time; if the officer stepping aside is the Chair then Article 2, Section 2 will apply. Chargeable offenses are outlined in Section 3 of this Article.
- The recall of an Officer shall be initiated by Community Representative(s) filing charges in writing to the Executive Board.
- The Officer shall be served (given a copy of the written charges) within seven (7) days. He or she may file a written defense with the Executive Board within fourteen (14) days of being served.
- A meeting of the Executive Board shall be held within thirty (30) days from the date of serving the officer for the purpose of airing the written charges and a written defense.
- Should the Executive Board deem it necessary, a committee shall be appointed by the Chair to investigate; if the Chair has stepped aside, then the Vice-Chair shall appoint the committee to investigate the said charges. A committee is automatically appointed if the charged Officer denies allegations. The Committee is charged with investigating allegations and making recommendations to the Staff Council. Recommendations are due within thirty (30) days after the Committee is appointed.
- At the next monthly UHSC meeting after the airing and/or investigation, voting members shall ballot on the charges, excepting the accused Officer and accuser(s). Three-fourths (75%) of the eligible voting members present (provided quorum is met) are necessary to dismiss the accused Officer. If quorum is not met, the item will continue on the agenda for the next meeting. If quorum is not met a second time, the issue will be closed and the Officer will be fully reinstated. If acquitted, the Officer shall be fully reinstated.
- If dismissed, the Officer shall have the right to appeal in writing to the Executive Board within 10 days of the decision. A meeting of the Executive Board and the accuser(s) must be held within 14 days of the appeal request.
- Having heard the appeal of the dismissed Officer, the Staff Council shall ballot as in the Subsection (e) of this Article (6). This decision shall be considered final.
- Should the dismissed Officer not appeal within ten (10) days of his dismissal, the office shall be vacated and filled in accordance with Article 5, Section 3 of the bylaws. This individual shall be permanently excluded from holding any elected position or appointment within the UHSC.
Procedures for the recall of Community Representatives follow:
- The recall of a Representative shall be initiated by member(s) of his or her jurisdiction by filing charges in writing to the Executive Board.
- The Representative shall be served (given a copy of the written charges) within 7 days. He or she may file a written defense with the Executive Board within 14 days of being served.
- A meeting of the Executive Board shall be held within thirty (30) days from the date of serving the Representative for the purpose of airing the written charges and a written defense.
- Should the Executive Board deem it necessary, a committee shall be appointed by the Chair to investigate the said charges. A committee is automatically appointed if the charged Representative denies allegations. The Committee is charged with investigating allegations and making recommendations to the Staff Council. Recommendations are due within thirty (30) days after the Committee is appointed.
- At the next monthly UHSC meeting after the airing and/or investigation, members shall ballot on the charges, excepting the accused Representative and accuser(s). Three-fourths (75%) of the eligible voting members present (provided quorum is met) are necessary to dismiss the accused Representative. If acquitted, the Representative shall be fully reinstated.
- If dismissed, the Representative shall have the right to appeal in writing to the Executive Board within 10 days of the decision. A meeting of the Executive Board and the accuser(s) must be held within 14 days of the appeal request.
- Having heard the appeal of the dismissed Representative, the Staff Council shall ballot as in the Subsection (e) of this Article (6). This decision shall be considered final.
Should the dismissed Representative not appeal within ten (10) days of his dismissal, the office shall be vacated and filled in accordance with Article 5, Section 3 of the bylaws. This individual shall be permanently excluded from holding any elected position or appointment within the UHSC.
- Violation of any provision of the Constitution and/or Bylaws of the UHSC.
- Illegal or improper use, misappropriation, or embezzlement of UHSC funds.
- Refusal or deliberate failure to carry out authorized decisions of the Executive Board.
- Using the name of the UHSC in an unauthorized manner or for an unauthorized purpose.
- Failure to act in good faith on behalf of the UHSC.
The Staff Council may, on an annual basis each April, appoint or reappoint a Grievance Officer. In the event that the Grievance Officer's position is vacant, a volunteer will be sought and appointed by the Executive Board.
The Grievance Officer must be meet Staff Council representational eligibility.
The Grievance Officer will be available to all staff represented by the UHSC.
The Grievance Officer is available to speak with UHSC represented staff prior to the filing of an official grievance with the University. Upon request, the Grievance Officer can assist represented staff members in the actual grievance process as outlined in the University of Hartford Staff Employment Manual.