Council of UC Staff Assemblies (CUCSA) focuses on the needs of UC staff
This quarter’s Council of UC Staff Assemblies (CUCSA) meeting was held at UCOP on June 1 – 3, bringing more than 25 staff representatives from all the UC campuses to Oakland. With many members leaving this July after the next staff assembly elections are held, the meeting also served as a year-end wrap-up, with workgroups giving final presentations and a new CUCSA chairperson and secretary being elected.
Thanks to the efforts of many in OP, including Karla Wood, Matthew Leet, Kay Coelho, Barbara Heilmann and Candace Jones, the three-day meeting smoothly combined a productive agenda of work sessions with a rejuvenating sprinkling of social breaks and an impressive roster of guest speakers.
Executive Director of Operations Thera Kalmijn gave a talk about “How Things Work at OP,” explaining UCOP’s structure and four-part role as academic leader of the institution, chief executive officer, primary external advocate and guardian of the public trust. Noting that UCOP must justify its budget to all UC campuses in order to be funded by them, she underlined the need for OP to be “service-focused” in its support of the entire UC system.
Chief Risk Officer Cheryl Lloyd spoke about “How UC Manages Risk,” a responsibility which involves all UC staff and runs the gamut from laboratory safety to crisis management to insuring fine art. Associate Chief Investment Officer and Chief Operating Officer Arthur Guimaraes gave an enlightening and engaging presentation on a subject dear to every employee’s heart, the UC retirement savings plan, including how it’s managed for both security and profitability.
Faculty Representatives to the Regents and Chair and Vice Chair (respectively) of the UC Academic Senate Dan Hare and Jim Chalfant spoke frankly about the impact of significantly increasing student populations on all campuses, advocating for additional staff to support this growth. This “cathartic and stimulating talk” (as one attendee characterized it) was followed by the publication of a June 8 op-ed that Hare and Chalfant wrote for the S.F. Chronicle on the same topic.
On the closing day, President Napolitano took a moment to express sadness about the tragic June 1 shooting of Professor William Klug at UCLA before speaking to the group about a variety of staff-related issues. Beginning with the shift to merit-based pay increases, she noted that it was a “morale killer for people not to be recognized” for exceptional work. To help staff seize career development opportunities, she announced the establishment of an annual presidential staff scholarship of $4,000 for each campus and UCOP for ongoing education/training, as well as an upcoming move to increase flexibility for taking leave time and making leave time donations. She has also appointed a workgroup to review outdated employee classifications in order to remove hurdles to career progress. In addition, she spoke about the need to prevent abusive conduct and bullying of staff, an issue being pursued by a separate workgroup she has appointed.
Expressing appreciation for the past input from CUCSA members that has helped guide these developments, she invited the meeting attendees to raise any new issues for her attention. These included the need for more staff as campuses increase enrollment and faculty, a request that supervisory training be made mandatory, a suggestion that work/life programs be better leveraged at all UC locations, and a polite plea that campus leaders receive encouragement to be more flexible on telecommuting. Napolitano promised to follow up on all of these requests and noted that CUCSA plays a crucial role by surfacing issues that she might not otherwise hear about.
When one attendee asked about the future of UC, including negative prognostications from some quarters, Napolitano stated that “we have the biggest collection of bright minds and we will work our way through this and create the model for higher education.” She linked her confidence to the fact that “we’ve already survived the worst financial crisis in the history of the system.” Contrary to those who think we’re heading down, she said that “we are on a mountain and hiking up.”
Which might also describe the dedicated CUCSA members who do all this work on top of their regular jobs, as Napolitano had thanked them for earlier. They adjourned the packed three-day meeting with a charge to prioritize the issues that had been raised into action items for the coming year, all in service of making UC a better place for its staff.