CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEE PERSONNEL ADVISORY COMMITTEE


MINUTES
December 12, 2003


Roll Call

It was noted that, with the imminent arrival of President Gamble to the meeting, the Committee would likely not address all the agenda items of the day. It was agreed that any matters not addressed would be deferred to the next meeting's agenda.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Nancy Topel moved that the minutes of the November 12, 2003 meeting be approved. Sharon Pielaet seconded and the motion passed.

OLD BUSINESS

Kerry Evans reported that ballots for the election of the replacement CEPAC members have been issued and the election will be completed in time for the new members to attend the January meeting.

NEW BUSINESS

Bonnie White reported having been asked by Roger Barber to nominate classified staff to serve on a task force, requested by Regent John Mercer, to evaluate "what is the quality of the Montana educational system". Bonnie is coordinating with the Chairs of CEPAC-equivalent organizations within MUS to obtain nominations from the university system as a whole. Bonnie asked for interested parties to contact her.

Dan Wise asked to address the meeting. He said that he saw CEPAC as the only really credible voice for the classified staff, and thanked the Committee for making so much information available. He was pleased to see the efforts the present Committee has made to reach the staff but recognized that communication is limited by the fact that not everyone uses e-mail. The Committee thanked Dan for his support and hoped that periodic hard copy mailings would be possible with the advent of a budget for CEPAC. Diane Wyn said that used, limited capability computers (adequate for email use) could be provided to departments free of charge from ITC. CEPAC will include this information in its proposed mailing regarding email for everyone (see "conversation with President Gamble, #2, below).

CONVERSATION WITH PRESIDENT GAMBLE

  1. Bonnie White asked the President to confirm the status of CEPAC's budget allocation request (the request had been presented to him on November 18, 2003). President Gamble agreed to fund CEPAC's expenses (travel to Board of Regents meetings, mailings to staff, etc) to a maximum of $2,000 per fiscal year. CEPAC will be notified, next week, of the person he has appointed to administer the money, claims against it, etc. CEPAC is to submit a financial report to Dr. Gamble at the end of each fiscal year.
  2. CEPAC wishes to reiterate President Rourke's Fall, 2000 commitment to provide email resources to all classified staff. A copy of President Rourke's communication with the campus in this regard cannot be located, either by CEPAC or the President's Office. President Gamble, at this meeting, was asked for his support of the principle of "email for everyone" as the basis from which CEPAC might send the proposed mailing, and in the absence of President Rourke's original communique. President Gamble assured the meeting that he is supportive of the policy but requested that the conditions of the original agreement be re-established (from memory, if necessary) in order that nothing be altered or omitted in CEPAC's new mailing. He asked Carol Shannon, CEPAC Chair in 2000, to coordinate this process.
  3. President Gamble raised the issue of the recent Board of Regents meeting on campus. He was aware of several complaints regarding how the Regents conducted business: keeping people waiting, being inattentive during presentations, allowing significant amounts of time to matters of less importance and only short periods to those requiring more discussion. Dr. Gamble reported that Commissioner Stearns was committed to improving communications in order to avoid repeating the situation in future.
  4. Bonnie White informed President Gamble of CEPAC's intention to survey the classified staff regarding MAP. She explained that the Board of Regents had asked the CEPAC representatives from Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula) about their perception of the staff's opinion of MAP. MSU-Bozeman's CEPAC offered to write to the Board after canvassing its campus. Bonnie gave Dr Gamble a copy of the survey (to be issued on-line later today). Dr Gamble expressed his appreciation at being kept informed.
  5. A discussion ensued regarding fee waivers.
    • President Gamble agreed with several people present that the establishment of the up-coming pilot year for a fee waiver for dependents had come as a complete surprise. It appears that no-one is clear about how it came about. Dr Gamble had perceived concern among the Regents about being insufficiently prepared for their role in evaluating the benefit, and granting or denying it. MSU-Bozeman was the only campus to have had time to conduct any kind of feasibility study or cost evaluation to present to the Board. Dr Gamble said he plans to ask, at the next Board of Regents meeting, for clarification of how they anticipate the policy will work and be administered. President Gamble said he wondered about the overall fairness of the benefit, and stated that he would have liked to have had time to investigate whether or not the equivalent cost of funding the waiver could have instead been offered as salary.
    • Sara France asked Dr Gamble's advice about how, or if, CEPAC should pursue the findings of its Fee Waiver Survey in light of recent events. Dr Gamble thought it important to advance the concerns resulting from the survey (for the waiver to be transferable to family members; to make a pro-rated waiver available to part time staff; to include Extended Studies/Continuing Education classes in the waiver policy). He suggested that CEPAC obtain input from Personnel and himself in writing to the Board of Regents in this regard. Diane Wyn later requested that the feasibility of including a request for the waiver to be extended to retirees be considered.
  6. Dr Gamble emphasized MSU's obvious commitment to education, and the value of the waiver benefit, but reiterated that we must remain committed to bettering salaries. He is pushing the Board of Regents to form a long-promised task force to establish ways of dealing with salary shortfalls. Dr Gamble perceives a reluctance on the part of the Board to pursue investigation of the degree to which university employees are underpaid, in comparison to community jobs. He thinks this is because the Board has no solution to the problem which will inevitably be identified. His aim is to provide a workable solution in advance and thus remove the stumbling block.
  7. Dan Wise raised the issue of low staff morale and hoped that Dr Gamble realized how desperate was the situation. He cited pay freezes, promises of bonuses through MAP that haven't materialized for everyone who has applied, reductions in benefits, etc. The Committee hoped that problems relating to MAP would be identified via CEPAC's survey. Dr Gamble acknowledged the problem and was sympathetic. He reiterated that we must keep pushing on every level for breakthroughs for change. He knew that staff, faculty and administrators were leaving MSU for better paid jobs in the private sector. He acknowledged that MSU is no longer the local employer of choice. Dr Gamble pointed out that when the State approves salary increases, the university system is only given 50% of the required funding for its employees. Further, that only 48% of the costs of education are State funded. He explained that the university system must work with the State to find a resolution that will satisfy everyone, starting with the Board of Regents. To this end, Dr Gamble is compiling a book of salary comparisons. He is collecting data, such as local recruitment ads, demonstrating that university employees are underpaid compared to the private sector. He stated that the Board of Regents quotes the "Montana Factor" in this regard: excusing low salaries on the assumption that everyone in Montana is lowly paid. Dr Gamble hopes to dispell this idea, and prove that some university employees are paid even less than the Board's perceived notion of Montana's "lowest salary", although he won't address the "Montana Factor" per se. He further pointed out that MSU runs on about 68% of the funding used by similar institutions because our salaries and personnel numbers are so low. He said, however, that he had been careful to stress to the Appropriations Committee that MSU had reached the threshold below which we cannot pass. Dr Gamble acknowledged that benefits and insurance were another issue entirely! He was asked whether MSU employees could "opt out" of the State and be employed privately by MSU, but Dr Gamble explained that the solution is not to opt out, rather to work with the State to achieve resolution of the issues.
  8. Bonnie White asked whether the question of twice-monthly pay checks was advancing. Dawn Watkins said that a proposal was being prepared but had not yet been submitted to the President. Dr Gamble said that if it is proven that sufficient benefit would result from this change it could be made.
  9. Bonnie White asked about the feasibility of a campus parking garage.
    • Dr Gamble explained that the average construction comprises 500 spaces at an approximate cost of $15,000 per space. The cost of parking permits would consequently be very high in order to service the debt of the construction loan. If a proposal could be made showing that a benefit would result, and including feasible ways to fund the project, such a proposal would receive serious consideration by UPBAC.
    • Dr Gamble went on to say that the City of Bozeman is in discussion with the MSU Student Government regarding proposed expansion of the bus service. A discussion then ensued on the pros, cons, and physical and demographical issues involved with local public transportation.
  10. Bonnie White asked whether the President would consider making access to gymnasium facilities free to all employees. Dawn Watkins was asked to research which facilities are available now, and what are the existing costs. It was felt that access to much of the facility was already free.
  11. Sara France asked the President if he had any specific expectations or requirements of CEPAC. He said he would like data for his book of salary comparisons, and feedback on the university's proposed five year plan (http://www.montana.edu/upba/). In connection with the latter, he stressed the importance of establishing a dynamic plan which is open to review and adjustment as time passes.
  12. Bonnie White commended Sara France for her work on improving communications between the Committee and the staff, and also in setting up a listserv connecting all the CEPAC-equivalent organizations within the Montana University System.
  13. Carol Shannon asked whether CEPAC's input would be more highly valued by the administration were the Committee to be given Counsel status. Dr Gamble said he thought the label was irrelevant. His policy is to receive input and ideas from any level.
  14. President Gamble said that he and Mrs Gamble are both committed to finding ways to adequately recognize employees. He asked that CEPAC invite him back to discuss ways to celebrate classified staff. Diane Wyn is the classified staff representative on UPBAC. She reported the beginnings of a change in UPBAC's handling of classified issues. She said the committee members now take her input more seriously and are more willing to focus on classified salaries. The five year plan includes ways to improve staff salaries.
CEPAC thanked President Gamble for attending the meeting (and for bringing a generous supply of cookies!) and looked forward to meeting with him again.

Time having run out, the meeting was adjourned.


NEXT MEETING JANUARY 14, 2004 IN THE BRADLEY CONFERENCE CENTER AT 9:00AM


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