In planning for the CWC staff needs assessment, I have been trying to learn more about staff issues and needs at UNC. So, last Wednesday, my supervisor and I attended the Employee Forum’s community meeting, which occurs at least once every year. The Employee Forum is a group of UNC staff who are elected by their peers to address staff concerns and communicate recommendations to UNC’s administration. The meeting was an opportunity for employees to express their concerns about issues impacting staff and to hear responses from panelists including UNC President Tom Ross and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp.
A major point of discussion was the Senate’s budget proposal, which was released Sunday, May 19th. The Senate’s proposal allocates more funding to UNC than Governor McCrory’s proposal, but this still represents a significant cut from last year’s budget. This cut coupled with obligated funds and no pay raises for state employees will make it difficult for UNC to implement its five-year strategic plan. Coming at the issue from a student perspective, I couldn’t help but think about the possibility of tuition increases, so it was really interesting to hear staff raise different questions about potential layoffs and possible tax cuts, shared services among campuses in the UNC system, and the authority of the NC Office of State Personnel.
What was particularly interesting about this meeting was that President Ross and Chancellor Thorp had to field questions about state budget decisions that they seemed to disagree with and that could negatively affect staff or the overall university. Employees asked about a variety of hot-button issues including the current national perspective on the value of higher education, gender-neutral housing, the concealed carry bill, and sexual harassment and assault. During this discussion, I became more aware of the difficulty of supporting and answering to so many constituents. Both Chancellor Thorp and President Ross did an excellent job of making clear the importance of UNC staff to the university’s functioning as well as the importance they personally place on staff issues and concerns. A podcast of the meeting will be up on the Employee Forum’s website later this week, and highlights from the meeting are available here. Check it out!
For my purposes, listening to staff discuss their needs is putting me in the frame of mind for conducting focus groups and considering potential CWC programming for next year. I’m looking forward to the learning experience of planning, recruiting, and moderating focus groups as well as hearing more about UNC staff needs and perspectives in the coming weeks!