Good day, colleagues. This is your regularly scheduled, post-Board meeting, blog update. The full agenda and supporting documentation for the various agenda items from Monday’s meeting can be found at http://www.uky.edu/Trustees/agenda/full/2013/may/welcome.html.
Brief digression – many thank to those who responded about the blog length. The overwhelming sentiment was to keep the content as is. In a nod to those who want a quicker read, however, one staff member offered the suggestion that I offer some bulleted highlights at the top of the blog. It was a great idea, and it begins now ….
· The Executive Committee reviewed for a first reading new language on its responsibilities, as well as approved the questions to be used for the President’s annual evaluation.
· The Athletics Committee and University Relations Committees met jointly and heard information about Athletics’ processes and procedures by which it develops and plans public relations, marketing and media strategies. There was also an update on the academic and athletic accomplishments of our student athletes.
· The Human Resources Committee heard a presentation from the Staff Senate, as well as voted to approve and send to the full Board the creation of a policy statement to guide oversight of the 19 non-managed retirement funds. (Non-managed funds are everything EXCEPT Fidelity and TIAA-CREF funds.)
· The Student Affairs Committee had an agenda that involved presentations on residence hall contracts with students, the mechanism for students to submit complaints, and an update on Student Government Association activities.
· The Finance Committee reviewed and approved a donor bequest, a variety of infrastructure maintenance expenditures, and the purchase the space and facilities of the Lexington Theological Seminary.
· The Board of Trustees meeting at 1 pm included just about everything bulleted above, as well as changes to the following Governing Regulations: Governing Regulations I (“The University of Kentucky: Definition”); Governing Regulations X (“Regulations Affecting Employment”); Governing Regulations XIV (“Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct”) (new GR); and Governing Regulations V (“The Staff Senate”).
The day began at 8 am sharp, with a meeting of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee reviewed for a first reading a proposed change to Governing Regulations I (“The University of Kentucky: Definition”), specifically the charges to the Executive Committee. The new language states that the Executive Committee will “serve in an advisory capacity to the President on regulations and policies, institutional compliance and accountability.” In short, it is a further attempt to drive home the point that ethics and accountability are everyone’s responsibility, all the time, not just when it is convenient. When the item was presented at the full Board meeting at 1 pm, it was for a first reading. Between that time and when the Board meets again in June, it will be vetted with the three representative bodies on campus. (The three bodies are the Student Government Association, University Senate (for faculty) and the Staff Senate.)
The second item of business involved the questions that will comprise the evaluation of the President for 2012-13. The questions were sent out to the three representative bodies on campus for input; all of the suggested edits suggested were incorporated. The evaluation is a long process, and will involve input from 20 to 30 individuals (staff, faculty, students, alumni, donors, elected officials, etc.), that will be solicited, received and collated over the summer. In the late summer/early fall, the Board members will see the de-identified answers and will use that in offering our own evaluation. The final step is for the Executive Committee to render a final decision on the President’s evaluation. The process is long, but it allows for greater participation from a wider variety of individuals. An expanded evaluation in year three or four (of this new evaluation process) will occur, with between 30 and 50 participants.
A joint meeting of the Athletics Committee and the University Relations Committee started at 8:30 am. We heard about the Athletics department’s processes and procedures by which it develops and plans public relations, marketing and media strategies. As one example, student athletes on teams that are subject to extensive scrutiny are given media training, to help ensure that interviews and other such public interactions are handled carefully and respectfully. The intent is to give student athletes some pointers on how to interact with the public – some of our student athletes have never needed to speak to a member of the news media prior to their collegiate career, so the training makes logical sense.
The next item of business was an update on the activities of the student athletes, both academic and athletic. Student athletes who were actively competing, and on scholarship, posted a UK record average 3.14 overall GPA for the spring 2013 semester. We also heard about the many accomplishments of both teams and individual athletes, in terms of regional and tournament play. It was pointed out that Athletics often serves as the “front porch” of the University – interested students and families may want to be involved at UK due to the sporting activities, but once they get in the front door, they see all sorts of educational and academic activities and initiatives in which students participate.
Next, at 9:30 am, was the meeting of the Human Resources Committee. There was one presentation and one action item. The presentation was given by the Chair of the Staff Senate, Mike Adams, in conjunction with the chair of the Staff Issues Committee, Terry Olson. The presentation touched on a variety of Staff Senate accomplishments and initiatives, as well as some current concerns. It was a nice balance of what the Staff Senate has accomplished over the years, what the Staff Senate is currently working on, and the issues that the Staff Senate perceives as being the most critical to/for staff. The critical staff issues mentioned included mandatory training for all new supervisors and refresher training for existing supervisors (standardize enforcement of and adherence to policies as well as foster skills for interpreting University policies); and the need for a much stronger University posture rejecting bullying and harassment of employees. The presentation was well received and I expect the Staff Senate will return in a year to give the Board another update.
The action item pertained to assisting employees who utilize any of the 19 investment funds that are offered separately from Fidelity and TIAA-CREF. Both Fidelity and TIAA-CREF monitor fund activity and fees to ensure appropriate levels of performance. The 19 non-affiliated funds, however, are not monitored. If an employee has put all their retirement funds into a fund that is not actively managed and the employee does not monitor the fund, the employee may not have a very good return on their investment. The action requested was to allow the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration (EVPFA) to create a document that outlines the standards by which the funds will be managed (a policy statement), as well as allow the EVPFA to utilize an appropriate committee(s) and/or consultant(s) to assist in the execution of that policy statement. (That authority is codified in Administrative Regulations 3:1 – “The University of Kentucky Retirement Plans.”) There is no downside for employees, as far as I can tell. I appreciate the efforts to improve the return on our retirement investments!
The Student Affairs Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee met at approximately the same time, at 10:15 and 10:30 am, respectively. I attended the Student Affairs Committee meeting, where we heard an overview of how students are placed into University housing, including information about what students are told from the outset, the restrictions and policies, etc. The Official Guide to Living on Campus has a lot of details for students, from rules and policies to local convenience stores and a list of all the restaurants and retailers in Lexington that take the Plus Account.
This next bit was not a highlight of any presentation, but rather something that just stood out for me. I was skimming the Official Guide to Living on Campus and saw the heading “Feeling Ill? Order a Comfort Meal.” I didn’t know that students had access to this kind of service. The collaboration, between University Health Services and Dining Services, provides students with flu-like symptoms the ability to call and order a meal delivered to their residence hall room. The meal is of clear liquids and/or foods best tolerated based on recommended guidelines for flu-like symptoms. I just thought that was cool. There was also a presentation on how student complaints are handled, as well as an update on Student Government Association activities.
The last committee meeting of the morning was the Finance Committee. There was a slew of Finance Committee Reports (either consent or action items) that ran the gamut from a very generous estate bequest (from an individual who had already donated $5 million to UK), to the request to move forward with Phase II-B of the housing initiative with Education Reality Trust (EdR), to infrastructural repairs, to the approval to purchase the facilities and space currently owned by the Lexington Theological Seminary. All of the agenda items are inherently related to UK, but in the interest of choosing “the” most interesting aspect, I’ll mention more about the Lexington Theological Seminary (LTS) item.
UK has engaged in intermittent discussions with LTS for several years about the purchase of the property. (LTS is located on South Limestone Street, across from the Law Building. Here is a link to a Google map LTS: http://tinyurl.com/nl8zobn) As may be inferred by the duration of negotiations, this is a friendly acquisition – UK’s purchase of the physical space and facilities will allow LTS the opportunity to identify a different, smaller location that better suits their current needs. (LTS has moved aggressively to expand its online delivery of courses and programs. It will continue as an active educational institution in a different, smaller facility and location.) UK will take possession of the space and facilities in January 2014, when it is very likely that UK will use this space as “surge” space for those employees in the Gatton College of Business and Economics Building who will be temporarily displaced due to that building’s renovations.
We broke for lunch at noon and started up again at 1 pm. Since the 1 pm agenda is comprised primarily of committee agenda items, discussed above, I’ll stick to the reports from the President. (Those are the only things that weren’t otherwise discussed in a committee meeting.)
We had a first reading of changes to Governing Regulations I (“The University of Kentucky: Definition”) and Governing Regulations X (“Regulations Affecting Employment”) regarding nepotism. The changes are intended to offer a more concise definition; strengthen the statement that nepotism is prohibited; and codify specific criteria for approval of a situation in which one relative employed by UK is working under the direction/control of another. Previously, there was a list of specific titles/positions that required Board approval for nepotism conflict management plans. Any time a new position was created or removed, however, the regulations would be out of date. The new language simply states (among other things) that anyone who is a direct report of the President and has a nepotistic conflict with a relative working within their area must have the management plan approved by the Board. There have been unwritten standards used for quite some time to manage faculty nepotistic relationships in the workplace, but staff were often told simply that the individual would not be hired. The revised language now includes criteria that must be met for any such conflict for faculty AND staff. Generally, the criteria involve assurance that the conflict can be managed and that the employment of both individuals is in the best interest of the University.
The next Governing Regulation change we heard also pertained to Governing Regulations I (“The University of Kentucky: Definition”) and a new Governing Regulations XIV (“Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct”). This involved moving the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct from GR I to the new GR XIV, so that the language is strengthened by being its own section. There were also some editorial and structural changes. This was a second and final reading – the changes were approved.
Following that was a second reading for a proposed change to Governing Regulations V (“The Staff Senate”). There were a handful of changes, including allowing the President to delegate appropriate administrative or managerial functions to the Staff Senate; clarifying that senators are expected to attend a variety of meetings as a part of senatorial duties; and stating unequivocally that supervisors “shall make reasonable accommodations” to facilitate a senator’s participation in the Staff Senate.
There were, of course, additional items for discussion or voting at the meeting, but I covered the vast majority of them in the committee summaries. If you have a question about something I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to ask me. I have been here for almost 20 years and I learn something new at every Board meeting.
It is an honor to represent staff – we are the largest, hardest working group around. Our personal and departmental initiatives welcome students, comfort patients and families, and inform our communities on too many topics to mention. If you have any questions, complaints, concerns or suggestions, please contact me and let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / 257-5872).