Staff Association Executive Committee: 9/9/20 Meeting Minutes
Minutes of the Staff Association Executive Committee meeting held on 9/9/2020
Attending via Zoom: Sherrie Borowsky, Joanne Brown, Bruce Bumbarger, Noemi Fernández, Sara Goddard, Bob Harper, Dave Harrower, Erin Haughee, Julie Miller, Karen Pedano, Ben Roma, Schaf Schafsnitz, Kelly Wilcox, Louis Wilson, Elana Wolff
Reports on semester opening activities
In general, things are going relatively smoothly – extremely busy
Much work for all departments, but different mix for most; e.g., IITS facing a high workload connected with various forms of electronic communication needed for remote work, but less on-campus traffic than usual; facilities overseeing setup of outdoor spaces, necessitating extended wi-fi coverage; lots of work for academic support staff involved with shift to on-line classes and labs; heavy workload for those involved with student life/health/advising; heavy load for Disability Services coordinating renovations to accommodate new student; lots of virtual programming work in Institutional Advancement, preparation for search for a new VP of Advancement, difficult economic environment for fundraising.
Committee and representative searches
- The idea was raised of maintaining a pool of individuals who have expressed interest in service on SAEC, in filling representative positions, &c—SAEC could draw from the pool when positions need to be filled. We currently need to nominate one non-exempt staff for the Safety committee; 2 individuals for the Sustainability committee; 1 for Wellness; and 4 nominees each for the search committees for the Vice-President for Institutional Advancement, and Dean of the College (we provide 4 nominees—2 will be selected).
- Having a pool of interested staff could perhaps streamline the process of filling positions—put out a call at the beginning of the academic year—maintain volunteer names in the pool for the following year.
- Some folks may only be interested in specific positions, so we would probably need to use both the pool approach as well as calls for volunteers when a particular need arises.
- We’d want to be sure we maintain diverse representation if we adopt this approach.
- Volunteers would need to understand that at times they may not be chosen for a role; we’d need to work so as to avoid discouragement on the part of potential volunteers.
All staff meeting followup
- Discussion of how best to address questions* that weren’t answered at the September 2 meeting—consensus seemed to be that we should approach Jesse Lyttle, Vice President and Chief of Staff, to see when answers will be forthcoming. We recognize the importance of making sure these questions are addressed and that staff members who submitted questions to us receive an answer in a timely fashion.
- There was some dissatisfaction with President Raymond's response to the specifics of coordination between BMC and Haverford around question of operating under different Covid mitigation levels; her response seemed to some to be dismissive. Anecdotal reporting seems to indicate that BMC staff morale is low.
- We discussed the ongoing lack of clarity around support for staff service on campus committees. The general message put forth is that there is strong support for staff service, but we’ve not been able to get an answer as to whether time spent on service assignments is compensated. There is no formal policy, although in some instances the availability of compensation is indicated as part of the call for volunteers. It’s unclear as to who determines how this is handled. The lack of clarity makes it difficult when we are seeking volunteers for committee representatives (6 or so needed this fall). The consensus seemed to be that this is a question that should be raised at our fall meeting with the president.
*Questions appended below.
- Sara reported on a series of meetings held over the summer by a small group of staff and faculty who share overlapping concerns about the need for support for employees who are faced with caring for dependents while meeting their work responsibilities. At the close of the spring semester, a faculty member had reached out to H.R. and the Provost, hoping to explain the scope of the problem and the lack of support for working families. It was one thing when we moved to work-from-home in the spring, for what seemed like a few months. It’s quite a different situation when we are faced with the prospect of a changed work and home environment for the foreseeable future.
- The administration responded with a request for specific examples of the sorts of problems being faced and ideas of ways the issues could be addressed. Collecting this sort of information can be difficult, in that people do not want to expose their personal problems. Sara suggested that members of the SAEC share their experiences, while reaching out to colleagues to solicit information. The administration seems to be willing to look at the issue, but is largely leaving the work to those affected.
- The administration points to the fact that there have been no furloughs, and expresses the idea that supervisors are given the latitude to “exercise flexibility,” but it is unclear what exactly this means. Leaving it to the discretion of supervisors, rather than having a consistent campus-wide policy, is also problematic. Much work has been done to prepare the campus for a safe opening, but supervisors have apparently not been given much guidance on how to respond to staff needs in this area.
- Sara and Sherrie will collect any information that SAEC members can gather, and share it with the combined staff/faculty group.
Staff questions submitted by SAEC for 9/2/2020 all-staff meeting
How will sick time/ leave be approved for:
- An employee who is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a healthcare provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- An employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual (including a spouse or other dependent) who is subject to quarantine
How will these approvals (or not) work for exempt employees who don't earn sick time or and non-exempt staff who don't have sick time to use?
- What if dependent care facility closures or lack of dependent care and school options continue for weeks or months? Are there options for taking FMLA? Does one need to use all PTO prior to getting FMLA or are they concurrent?
Policy and guidance for supervisors and employees on flexible scheduling/ downshifting work output
- Many people have expressed deep concern and ongoing struggles with providing dependent care support and balancing increased workloads/ output expectations and scheduling.
- What guidance has been given to supervisors about supporting employees who have dependent care needs?
- What measures are in place to request departmental or HR support for an employee who is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for a child or dependent whose school or care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19?
- What, if any, HR policies are in place to make sure departmental and supervisory decisions about flexible hours and/ or reduced workload hours are being equitably applied across campus?
- If someone is not comfortable going to their supervisor for questions related to reduced workload or flexible hours or has concerns about navigating these questions, who in HR can they contact privately for guidance?
Privacy for people getting tested—reporting to both HR and supervisor (protected by HIPPA)
- Can you clarify the privacy measures in place about sharing personal health information both from the employee to the College and from the College to others due to contract tracing, public health reporting, etc?
- Who is responsible for notifying supervisors about COVID positive test results?
Payroll Tax Suspension
- How is the College handling the payroll tax “holiday”? And can staff opt-out of it?
In anticipation of two major searches this year, how will the College support non-exempt employees' service to the College?
- If there are departmental concerns about coverage or overtime, who is the point person for working out schedules and pay for employees serving on committees?
- Is there a clear understanding and communication that all are welcome to attend All Staff meetings and other open meetings (like for searches) virtually even if on shift on campus?
- And for those who truly cannot be away from their posts, is there an arrangement for watching a recording of All Staff meetings while still on paid time?
- Is there a method for joining meetings other than on a personal phone or device outdoors for folks who do not have computer terminals? Where will folks be directed in case of inclement weather?
BiCo Mitigation Plan
- Can someone walk through the Mitigation plan’s leveled responses, and specifically the infection rate numbers that would force a move to all remote learning? Who would issue this guidance shifting from one level to another, and how would that information be disseminated to employees on or off campus?
- There are health and safety concerns among employees who work in closed door spaces such as the Dining Center about exposure risks as more people come to campus. Is it possible to pause indoor dining and other indoor activities in communal, non-residential spaces before getting to level 2 mitigation?
- If the College reduces staffing and/ or goes to life-sustaining activities only (level 3 or 4), will employees continue to be paid their base pay throughout that period regardless of whether they are able to come to campus to complete their work as was the case in the spring?
What is the Covid-19 Symptom Checking Confirmation questionnaire, and who is supposed to be completing it?
Comment board questions
The following comments were received from 6/2/–9/2/2020 through the anonymous comment board accessible from the Staff Association webpage (https://www.haverford.edu/staff-association).
- Working parents are in a very tough position as most schools have announced virtual instruction for at least the start of the school year. Will the college offer any programs or policies to aid working parents during this time? The FFCRA provides some supports to working parents, but it does not apply at Haverford because we are too large. Many working parents I know are considering leaving their positions - though they would prefer to continue working.
- I just wanted to ask if there are any discussions happening about specific accommodations for working parents for the semester? I know all of the local school districts are only doing virtual instruction for at least the next month and possibly for the entire 1st half of the school year and likely into next semester. There is no way for me to do my job at 100% while also shepherding a kid through first grade and caring for a toddler. I have seen other fellow employees who are similarly struggling and looking for solutions on the various parenting and local community facebook groups, so I know I'm not alone on this. Because the College has more than 600 employees, we don't qualify for the relief offered in the FFCRA pertaining to accessing additional leave time through FMLA. I think there are a lot of us who are hoping to hear something from the College about expectations going into this semester. Both of my supervisors have said they would be "flexible" with me since I have 2 small children, but my workload has significantly increased since March... so while I appreciate their intentions about flexibility, I'm not seeing that translate to anything useful for me during my day-today work. I think it's safe to say that a lot of us have been burning the candle at both ends with the expectation that this unsustainable situation was temporary, but as it is becoming more long-term, it would be nice to see the College support us with more concrete solutions.
- Wendy will you please reconsider stopping your weekly emails? Working remotely, I rely on these emails to give me an idea of what is happening on campus from the President's perspective and to feel connected and part of the the higher vision of helping Haverford College move forward. These emails also bring me comfort during this uncertain time because of their upbeat, positive, realistic, transparent view of how we are going to get through COVID 19. So please don't stop these email communications. If weekly communications are too much of a burden, how about bi-weekly or monthly (in the middle of the month following monthly staff meetings). People who are working remotely especially need these communications. Thank you for listening to these suggestions.
- According to the Bi-Co COVID Risk Mitigation Plan that was shared this Monday, BMC is not requiring faculty and staff to get COVID tests in order to work on campus. Because the BiCo is allowing people to move back and forth between BMC's campus and HC's, the lack of required testing for BMC faculty and staff puts all folks on HC's campus at greater risk. Is HC going to urge BMC to adjust their policy?
- What is our current FTE enrollment (on campus + remote) and how much revenue has been lost as a result?
- Are departments allowed to set stricter COVID-19 policies for their staff? For example, the College allows staff to not wear their mask if they are alone in their office with a closed door, and to eat their lunch in their office. Can a department mandate that their staff must wear masks even in those instances, and may not eat alone in their own office?
- I hope the college isn’t participating in the payroll tax deferral option. Can someone confirm this for us? If so can individual employees opt out?
- Does the COVID-19 Daily Symptom Check Reminder only need to be completed on workdays for which employees will be on campus? For example, if an employee is working remotely 3 days a week and on campus 2 days a week, do they need to fill out the survey on the days that they are working remotely?
- When Bryn Mawr and Haverford are at different risk levels of campus operations (currently Bryn Mawr is at level 2 and Haverford is at level 1), how does that affect baseline operations that are BiCo (for example, Blue Bus, visitor policy, classes)? Does the school that is at the lower level default to the school that is at the higher level?
- Can the College Ave gate be re-opened on one side and have the security company posted there so staff does not have to go in and out of the Lancaster Ave gate? The Lancaster Ave gate backs up with construction traffic and delivery trucks, you also can't make a left turn at the end of the day when leaving campus. Thanks.
- If we have two employee positives when testing is required for HC, isn't this enormously worrying with BMC not requiring employee testing? And if BMC students are already not following the safety requirements, isn't this endangering the HC community if BMC students are coming to the HC campus by bus? This worries me that all of Haverford's hard work may be without point if BMC community members bring the virus to HC.
- Now that more people are allowed on campus, when will the entrance on College Ave. be opened?
Submitted by Bruce Bumbarger