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K-State Today

February 22, 2016



University Support Staff Senate special meeting minutes

By Brittany Green

Comments — Janice Taggart, past president, USS Senate:

Janice Taggart expressed appreciation for President Kirk Schulz and Human Capital Vice President Cheryl Johnson's attendance of the meeting but expressed regret that the president would only be able to stay for the first 20 minutes instead of the full hour as the Senate expected when they scheduled the meeting. She mentioned that the Senate had considered rescheduling the meeting, since they felt this meeting was vital to reaching resolutions on several issues regarding Human Capital Services. An additional motivating factor in rescheduling the meeting was the absence of Administration and Finance Vice President Cindy Bontrager. Bontrager was invited to attend as sponsor of USS Senate; however she declined the invitation at the request of Johnson. During Executive Council, she was contacted and asked again by the Senate to attend the meeting, however she again declined. After consideration, senators decided to conduct the meeting as scheduled.

Comments — President Kirk Schulz:

President Schulz expressed appreciation to the Senate for their service to K-State and service as senators of USS Senate. He encouraged working together to advance K-State and making K-State a great place to work. He also requested that the Senate be flexible during the ongoing launch of Human Capital Services. He stated one of the biggest accomplishments of HCS, within the past 18 months, has been the automation of our hiring process, PageUp. He pointed out that with the launching of any new entity there are obstacles to overcome and new procedures to learn/adapt, which can make the process of transition difficult at times. He reminded senators of the launching of marketing and communications. It took three to four years to establish the major components of the marketing and communication of K-State. He expressed a strong commitment for shared governance to continue to work together and the importance for the senior leadership team to be seen as a source of support to all K-State employees. He also expressed a desire for USS Senate to develop a great working relationship with Johnson and HCS and a hope of reaching resolution while continuing to make progress in our respected areas. In conclusion, he stated that he'd like a viable solution to be reached by everyone involved.

University Support Staff Senate president's statement of USS Senate's perceptions. USS Senate President Pam Warren voiced concerns of the USS Senate related to HCS, which included:

1. The absence of an HCS liaison at Senate meetings since November 2015.
Warren stated that on Oct. 21, senate leadership met to discuss their concerns regarding the HCS liaison reports at senate meetings. Discussed in length was the Senate's need for a more comprehensive report from their HCS liaison during senate meetings. So that USS Senate could better serve their constituents, and to be kept abreast of any changes that might possibly affect them, they requested that the HCS liaison provide a short report from each HCS department during senate meetings. At the meeting, both HCS and senate leadership agreed that this was a viable request. At the next USS Senate meeting, Nov. 4, the new reporting format was instituted and all senators agreed that it was very helpful and that the reports should continue to be delivered in this format.

At that same meeting, senators also voted to keep the Division of Administration and Finance as their sponsor rather than transferring this function to the of HCS, as was requested by the of HCS. Senators arrived at this decision after considering which unit could best effectuate change for USS in all areas across the university. The next day, via email, senators were informed by Johnson that they would no longer have a HCS liaison attending their meetings and that they would need to identify a liaison from administration and finance to attend their meetings instead. Within the email, Johnson also stated that the administration and finance liaison would be the point of contact between USS Senate and HCS regarding HR/Human Capital related issues. Because the Senate's vote to retain the of administration and finance as their sponsor coincided with Johnson's decision to pull Senate's HCS liaison, Warren stated that senators felt Johnson's decision appeared to be retaliation.

Warren mentioned the email she sent to Johnson on Nov. 9, in response to Johnson's Nov. 5 email. In her email, Warren asked Johnson to reconsider her decision in light of the fact that Faculty Senate had an HCS liaison attend their monthly meetings.

Warren did not receive a response to her email and at the Dec. 2 senate meeting, there was no HCS liaison in attendance. There also was no HCS liaison at the senate meeting on Jan. 6. On Jan. 13, senators received a letter from Johnson, inviting senate leadership to vet their concerns and establish rules of engagement. Warren mentioned that the term, "rules of engagement," was offensive to the entire Senate, since it refers to battle strategies when dealing with an enemy. Warren said that senators questioned if that was how HCS viewed them, as enemies. If this was the case, she pointed out that this was not in line with K-State's Principles of Community or values.

Warren stated that during the Oct. 21 meeting with HCS, USS Senate and HCS had reached a resolution regarding Senate's HCS liaison and the Senate's request was viable for both parties. Senate feels that when Johnson decided to pull the HCS liaison, she broke that agreement. Afterward, Warren spoke about the response a USS senator received when they sent an email to the director of compensation and classification regarding a constituent's questions about the progress of the job analyses and CBIZ findings, etc. The senator was reminded by the director of compensation and classification, that "USS Senate questions for HCS should be funneled through Tara Pfaff," our administration and finance liaison. Warren asked Johnson if this was the type of response all USS would receive or just the Senate if they emailed HCS.

Warren also addressed Johnson's concern of Senate's closed sessions wasting the time of the HCS liaison. Warren pointed out that, in perspective, each executive session is limited in duration. She stated that Senate had only gone into closed session six times in two years, for a total of 1.5 hours. She also pointed out the fact that, the closed session held at the Oct. 7 Senate meeting did not affect the HCS liaison, because they weren't in attendance. Therefore in total, over the course of two years, only one hour of the HCS liaisons time was "wasted." Warren reminded Johnson that under the open meetings act, USS Senate has the right to go into closed session when discussing certain matters.

2. The changing of the PRC process since the vote to go from classified to university support staff.
Warren stated that in the jury system, decisions are made by a jury of our peers. These peers are not attorneys, and are given the information needed to make sound determinations. If the defendant feels the process was not fair, they can continue the process through an appeal. The appeal is not heard by the same court system but a higher branch of the judicial system outside of the original jurisdiction. She told Johnson that the USS Senate has requested this same consideration for USS. The Senate would like for the PRC to hear all employee grievances. If Employee Relations rendered a different determination or if the employee had significant information not heard at the hearing, the case would be forwarded to an appeals board where the final determination would be from an independent member of upper administration, not from HCS.

Warren stated that there had been no movement regarding the PRC for over a year and that the response given to Senate's request was to "give it time," so HCS could "gather data." Warren stated that the largest user of this service is instructing their members to not use it; therefore HCS will not be able to gather data. Because of this fact, the USS Senate decided to send a letter to President Schulz asking for immediate changes to the PRC process that was put into place after an affirmative vote to leave state civil service.

3. The challenges encountered during the launching of the PageUp applicant tracking system.
Warren posed the question that if Senate was not allowed to have direct communication with HCS staff or without a HCS liaison present Senate meetings, how would they present the issues that have arisen with the new PageUP system? If the HCS liaison had attended USS Senate's February meeting, they would have heard about these issues, some of which involve matters of security. Feedback received from senators regarding PageUp included: the belief that PageUp has increased the amount of information requested of the users — applicants — who are the people we trying to attract; PageUp has increased the workload of USS, primarily the personnel specialists; and eased the workload of hiring managers and staff within HCS. In conclusion, Warren stated that while USS Senate believes that the software may hold the promise of something good, there is plenty of room for improvement.

4. The absence of the USS handbook online.
Warren stated that many senators had spent considerable time trying to locate the USS handbook on the HCS website, which disappeared shortly after it was posted. HCS had taken it down without notifying anyone and then we were told that it was lost. It was finally located early last fall. On Oct. 21, during a meeting between senate leadership and the of HCS, Charlotte, Gina and Derek, Senate expressed their desire to have it restored. According to a follow-up email by the of HCS, the handbook was being reviewed even though university attorneys, Board of Regents attorneys and administration had already approved it, however, it still has not been restored to the website.

5. The lack of USS involvement in the compensation review process and perceived lack of transparency in the process.
Warren mentioned that when we went through the conversion from State Civil Service to USS, the Alternative Service Committee handed over ownership of the compensation review process to Senate. The Senate then organized a group of individuals from the ASC, Senate and other USS, to track and have input in this last phase of the conversion — compensation review. This group attended one meeting in September, believing that it would be the first of many meetings regarding the compensation review of USS. Instead, the meeting was a workshop centered on outlining the duties of Derek's job as director of compensation and classification and the process he uses to reclassify employees. She stated that everyone in attendance was shocked at the purpose of the meeting and at the statement that this would be the only meeting held in regard to CBIZ and USS compensation. Warren asked Johnson how and if input would be solicited from USS with such a plan in place. Warren then turned the floor over to Johnson to respond to the issues presented to her by the Senate.

President Schulz had to leave the meeting after the USS president's remarks and was unable to hear Johnson's response.

HCS Vice President Johnson's response:

Johnson began by apologizing to the Senate for not having a good experience with HCS, acknowledging the fact that it takes two to have a good relationship and expressed a desire to extend an olive branch to the Senate in hopes of finding resolutions to our concerns.

HCS liaison: Johnson stated that it had always been her intent to provide USS Senate with the resources that we need. She mentioned her previous letter to the Senate, in which she stated that she is happy to provide a HCS liaison, but that we would have to have a mutual understanding of what the responsibilities of the liaison would be. She also mentioned that while yes, we did have a right to have closed sessions; she considered it to be disrespectful of the HCS liaison's time if we held them during the middle of our meetings. Because of this, she wanted to define what a mutual understanding of respect would look like between the Senate and HCS. She said that the HCS liaison did not feel her time was respected when she was asked to step out during closed sessions. Therefore, Johnson proposed holding closed sessions at the beginning of a meeting or at the end of a meeting.

USS Senator, Rob Reves, stated that while the Senate could rewrite the USS bylaws to include the holding of closed sessions at the end of their meetings, business dictates that there could be times when the Senate would need to go into closed sessions during a meeting. He stated that this was the way meetings were commonly held from Lyons Club meetings to the U.S. Senate.

USS Vice-President, Carol Marden, pointed out the fact that within the past two years — 24 meetings — Senate had only gone into closed session for a total of one hour.

Johnson countered by saying that it still seemed disproportionate to her and stated that closed sessions didn't typically affect the HCS liaison during Faculty Senate meetings, because Faculty Senate does not hold closed sessions. Johnson stated that she understood there would be times when the Senate may need to go into closed session, however, she asked that the Senate be mindful of the HCS liaison's time when doing so.
Carol Marden said that she felt Johnson's request was a reasonable request; however, there would be times when the Senate would need to discuss a topic with the HCS liaison after a closed session because points would be lost if the Senate waited an entire month to discuss an issue with the HCS liaison. She pointed out to Johnson, that not only the HCS liaison is excused during a closed session, but also anyone at the meeting that is not a USS Senator. Marden again acknowledged Johnson's concern regarding the time of the HCS liaison and said that the Senate would continue in their efforts to be mindful of the HCS liaison's time.

PRC process: Johnson began by stating that she did not come to K-State until after this process had changed, but she has read the white papers. Her understanding from the white papers is that the ASC set up the process with feedback and that they wrote the white papers. Johnson stated that she had always said if the Senate feels that the current PRC and Appeal processes are not fair then we should do our research and come back to HCS with recommendations. She stated that the PRC process is not an issue which she can zone in on right now because HCS has a lot on their plate. She encouraged the Senate to review the process and figure how the process which we designed in our focus groups, white papers, voted on — how is it that it is not what we want and go back and figure out some suggestions for that. She also encouraged us to look at other universities' PRC processes, specifically mentioning KU. She again encouraged the Senate to do research, review the current PRC process and white papers and bring her back suggestions. Afterward, Johnson reviewed the numbers of PRC appeals before the USS shift. There were four cases in 2012 and four cases in 2013. In 2014, as we became USS, there were three cases. In 2015, there were no cases. She suggested determining why whatever we evolved to is not the same as before. She thinks the issue here is that the new structure, Bontrager no longer has responsibility for human resources and that is why things report up to Johnson as the final authority.

Carol Marden mentioned to Johnson that there was one component she may be overlooking regarding the PRC process. Marden said that when we voted to become USS, we did not vote on the white papers, that was what we expected when the conversion happened. If we had voted on the white papers, every time we made a change, we would have to revote. USS showed confidence in the administration, that if they had issues moving forward, the issue could be put back into the hands of upper administration in order to make those changes. They voted on the confidence that they could move the system forward based upon new information. Johnson responded by asking Marden if she was saying that the current process is problematic from the USS standpoint. Marden stated that this was exactly what she was trying to say. Marden also pointed out that this fact should have been obvious to Johnson and all upper administration when at the November USS Open Forum, Lesa Reves stood up and made the statement about all the issues USS have with the current appeals process and everyone in the room applauded her statement. Marden expressed to Johnson that the Senate had already conducted research regarding this issue. She stated that the Senate had met with other universities, including KU, Fort Hays, Pittsburgh State and Emporia State and had done everything else Johnson had requested and that the Senate still believed changes were needed regarding the PRC process. She expressed to Johnson that the Senate had listened to their constituencies and knew their concerns; therefore the Senate outlined in a letter to President Schulz what needed to be done to fix the current system. Johnson responded by saying that Sue Peterson, the director of governmental relations, had weighed in on this issue after reviewing the current process. She also stated that the administration believes that the current system isn't much different from KU's appeals process and is an acceptable process.

Sam Reyer, a past member of the PRC, commented that during the alternative service vote, classified employees voted on moving to USS with the understanding that the PRC process in place at the time, would stay in place. Reyer also stated that many USS have expressed to her that they don't feel supported/valued by K-State as USS and that things are set up in favor of administration and department heads. She said that many USS feel that department head input received more consideration than their own since sometimes they were not even asked to present their sides of the story.

Johnson stated that HCS had conducted several focus groups and with the Employee Relations group they've had over 300 engagements where they have helped people work through conflict. She expressed a desire to know what good support would look like to USS. She also stated that she believes the 300 people that have used the services of Employee Relations have felt heard and that they've received a fair shake, however, if there were ways they could improve, we were encouraged to let her know how.

Carol Marden asked Johnson to expound on her previous statement regarding the administration's perception that the current PRC process is fair. Johnson responded by saying that under the way that the current process is constructed, the administration feels that the current process provides everything outlined within the current policies and procedures.

Marden responded by saying that by law, Johnson and the administration may have fulfilled the policy, but from a human perspective did she feel like she'd fulfilled the policy, if there were 1400 employees expressing discontent with the current PRC process, would we be ignored because they feel like they've fulfilled their obligation. Johnson responded by saying that she wouldn't ignore this, but feels that to say the policy wasn't upheld is not the truth either. She said we could try to work through this and mentioned that previously she had pointed out that summer 2016 would be a good time to address this issue; however, her current focus has been on the improvement of the hiring process and their current project, compensation. They are trying to understand the compensation situation at K-State and how funds will be generated for employees who are not competitively paid.

Another reason given for the fact that this issue isn't a major focus of HCS at this time was that currently, Employee Relations is working with the employees and leaders in a proactive manner to address any issues before it reaches a state where the PRC becomes involved. Consequently, the PRC isn't utilized very much at present.

PageUp: Johnson asked for more information regarding the issues PageUp users were experiencing. Marden stated that because, in her opinion, the launching of PageUp was done prematurely and many don't feel adequately trained in using the new system. Marden also mentioned an intern in her office that was able to apply for a position and view the application materials of all the other applicants applying for that same position. Marden said that when a constituent called over to HCS for help with this issue, she heard frustration in the voices of HCS staff and didn't really receive help or confirmation that the breach would be resolved.
Also mentioned was the quality of training received for the new PageUp system. Senators submitted many suggestions for making the PageUp system better. Johnson also requested that we send any suggestions for improving the PageUp training experience.

Marden reiterated that having a HCS Liaison at the senate meeting where the launching of PageUp was discussed would have been beneficial because HCS would have then been aware of these issues. Johnson responded by saying that had they known PageUp was going to be discussed at our meeting, a PageUp representative could have been sent over to discuss these issues with the Senate because they are more familiar with the PageUp system than Gina, Senate's HCS liaison. Kerry Jennings told Johnson that while this may be true, PageUp was not on Senate's agenda that day. It came up by chance, and had Gina been there, she would have been able to relay our concerns about PageUp to HCS.

Jennings also mentioned an email that was sent to Derek Smith, director of compensation and organizational effectiveness, from a USS Senator. In the email, the senator stated that she had been asked by some of her constituents about the progress regarding the review of the classification and compensation of USS. The response she received to her email was that "USS Senate questions for HCS should be funneled through Tara Pfaff," our administration and finance liaison.

Johnson spoke about the communication sequence for compensation that includes senate leadership and USS Senate, when they report their findings. She said it was never HCS' intent to remove any one entity from this process. She said they were planning to come to the March Senate meeting to report on where they are in this process.

Rob Reves asked Johnson that if a regular, non-Senate related, USS employee would have sent the same email to Derek, would they have received the same response. Johnson said they would not have received the same response, saying that the individual would have been referred to the HCS website. However, Marden pointed out to Johnson that the USS Senator was not directed to any website when Derek responded to her email. Johnson said that in this case, the Senate should have told their administration and finance liaison that they would like to have Derek come to one of their meetings to discuss the progress of the compensation review, the administration and finance liaison would have forwarded the Senate's request to Derek and he would have then came to one of their meetings to give an update on this process.

Warren stated that this would have been "playing telephone," and this isn't how the Senate wanted to operate, reiterating again the need for the Senate to have an HCS liaison present at their meetings. One immediate benefit of having an HCS Liaison present — the Senate could receive direct communication and nothing would be lost in the translation.

Marden mentioned that it was really important for Johnson to understand that when a senator reaches out to an HCS representative soliciting information for a constituent, that the senator sends their findings to the full senate and then we as a Senate share this information with our constituents. Therefore, not only one senator's question is answered, but the questions of 1,400 USS.

Johnson requested that senators organize in such a way where HCS doesn't feel like they are being overwhelmed by questions. Johnson also suggested that when senators emailed HCS representatives, they preface their emails by stating that they are contacting them on behalf of USS Senate.

Compensation: Johnson mentioned that at the March USS Senate meeting, HCS would be sharing their findings regarding compensation and their thoughts about funding possibilities. She requested that USS Senate select several people to participate in a kaizen event, centered on generating additional ideas for funding possibilities. Marden mentioned that USS Senate had already selected individuals to serve on this committee. Johnson said that in addition to Senate's selected individuals, there would be a mixture of stakeholders involved in this process — including deans, Faculty Senate, etc.

Johnson stated that the administration believed USS wanted to evaluate their jobs and that because of this, the JAQ's, or Job Analysis Questionnaires, were distributed. While reviewing the JAQ process, she reiterated that 82 percent of USS completed their questionnaire. Afterward, a third party member was used to evaluate positions based on the market. Based on the findings of the third party, HCS will determine if a position is below, above or at market and then for the positions that are below market, they hope to identify ways to bring them up to market.

Johnson said what bothers her is that there is always the assumption of negative intent perceived of HCS by Senate. She mentioned a rumor that allegedly was going around campus regarding the decrease of salaries. Many senators stated that they had never heard of this rumor. Johnson requested of senators that if they did hear of such rumors, to refute them.

Marden confirmed with Johnson that an HCS liaison would be reinstated to attend University Support Staff Senate meetings and stated that the Senate would be mindful of the HCS liaison's time.

Marden also asked for an update regarding the USS handbook. Johnson mentioned that Gary Leitnaker was still working on it. Because of the changes in the HCS structure, each HCS department was reviewing their sections to make sure their PPM matches with their changes. Johnson expects to be able to review these changes in March and then present them to the Senate shortly after for review before posting the handbook to the HCS website.

Johnson ended by saying that she hoped to have a follow-up meeting with the Senate, giving HCS a chance to convey their needs to the Senate.

Closing statements/summary — USS Senate , Carol Marden

In closing, Marden expressed to Johnson what the Senate hoped she'd take away from the meeting:

She stated that the Senate valued Principles of Community, as well as open, honest and direct communication with all staff with the goal of making K-State a better place to work.

Marden stated that the Senate valued collaboration and transparency.

She reminded Johnson that University Support Staff Senate represented 1400 people, all of which dedicate their time and effort to the K-State community. In light of their dedication to K-State, if these employees express concerns to the Senate, their voices should be heard.

Therefore, the Senate wants their voice heard when it comes to such topics as HCS liaison, the appeals process, the USS handbook and in making PageUP a better system. The Senate wants to be assured that PageUP is a secure system. The senate also wants our voice heard on any other issue that may arise.

Marden expressed that Senate's expectation was to have a place at the table when discussing compensation and when CBIZ releases its findings and that they wanted to trust this would happen in a timely manner.

In conclusion, Marden expressed Senate's wish to restore its relationship with HCS and to regain trust in HCS.