Minutes of the General Faculty Council Meeting
July 8, 2003, Noon - 1:50 p.m.
Ruffner Hall 200
Members in attendance: Mary Abouzeid, Elaine Attridge, Jennifer
Bauerle, Jean Collier, Nancy Gansneder, Phil Gates, Robbie Greenlee, Bill
Keene, Robin Kuzen, Lotta Lofgren, Chris Milner, Greg Strickland, Prue Thorner,
Lynda White. There were two visitors.
Members not present: Jann Balmer, Donal Day, George Hashisaki,
Discussion with Vice President for Finance Yoke San Reynolds (noon
- 1:30). VP Reynolds brought six people from Human Resources and her
staff to the meeting.
Lotta welcomed Yoke San Reynolds and her group to the Council. After
introductions, VP Reynolds answered the questions presented to her
prior to the meeting.
How can we help Human Resources to disseminate to our constituents accurate
and timely information? How can we best improve customer service from HR?
… 65% of budget of the University goes toward employee salaries and support.
The top priority of the University is to support its biggest asset.
The last two years' budget cuts provided particular challenges. That
and the implementation of Oracle have spurred the University forward to new
ways of doing business.
… VP Reynolds asked for feedback about how to manage mass emails to faculty
regarding important matters of policy. Although this seems to be the
fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to communicate, they are concerned about
over-loading the system and sending people too much email. A suggestion was
made to make the website more interactive, perhaps to add a chat room.
Tom Gausvik explained that with the budget cuts, home mailings were stopped
and the Internet was the preferred way to contact employees. He explained
that HR is planning to redesign the website and that they have also hired
a communication officer. The Council offered to help disseminate information
in any way that it can.
… Another potential way to improve customer service is to let employees make
changes to their accounts on the Web (changing benefits/beneficiaries/addresses,
Question: Bill Keene pointed out that several university policies
(such as General Faculty Staffing Due to Financial Stringency) have been
"incorporated by reference" into the current version of the revised draft
Policy on the General Faculty. Thus, any changes in these "referenced" policies
correspond to revision of the university's Policy on the General Faculty.
Currently, changes in such "referenced" policies simply appear as new versions
on the University's web site and are discovered by the General Faculty in
an ad hoc manner. To our knowledge, no explanation of or rationale
for the changes are posted for review. In the future, the GFC requests
the opportunity review in advance all changes in any policies that directly
impact General Faculty and particularly those that have been "incorporated
by reference" in the revised Policy on the General Faculty. Is this
VP Reynolds responded that Lynn Mitchell in the Office of the Vice
President for Finance will head a new committee that monitors policy matters
across the University. The committee is working on a web site with links
to all these policies.
Chris Milner expressed concern that the use of social security numbers in
the University system might lead to violation of privacy. Tom Gausvik
answered that HR is working on becoming less reliant on social security numbers.
He assured Chris that all "self-service" features on the Web will be password
Regarding coverage of non-sedating antihistamines, the assumption seems to
be that all of these medications work at the same level of efficacy for all
people, and that thus the one or two that are now over-the-counter will suffice
for all allergy sufferers. This is an erroneous assumption. How can we ensure
that coverage for these medications is reinstated?
VP Reynolds said that the drug field is a dynamic one, which HR is watching
closely. She and Tom Gausvik explained that the health insurance plan
cannot sustain coverage for all drugs; for example, it would cost one million
dollars a year to cover non-sedating allergy medicines. Mr. Gausvik
explained further that the University's health plan is about 13% above budgeted
costs this year. The plan does not cover all prescription drugs and
encourages the use of generic drugs wherever possible. When drugs become
available over-the-counter, insurance will no longer cover their cost.
Anne Dawson (health insurance ombudsman) talked about listening to the market
to see what's happening in the industry. For example, it appears that
the FDA is urging drug companies take other drugs over the counter, which
will drive down the costs to consumers, while also saving money for health
insurance plans. Most plans in the US dropped coverage of non-sedating
antihistamines when Claritin went over-the-counter. The reason drug
costs are rising is that we are getting older as a group and are using more
drugs. Additionally, the University has to keep the co-pay low enough
that it doesn't discriminate against lower-paid members. VP Reynolds
said that some costs have to be switched to the user so that everyone isn't
punished for the specific needs of some. Even the state is shifting
more costs to the people who use its services.
Please let us have your thoughts on health benefits for part-time faculty.
Is the University considering hiring a new administrator? If so, would this
be a good time to renegotiate coverage issues? How can the Council have input
in this process?
This has been a concern of the Council for two years. VP Reynolds explained
that the state's health plan provides benefits for full time employees and
benefits other than health care for part-time employees. This is a problem
for part-time employees. The University has asked the state for a re-definition
of 'part-time' (that is, to change the number of hours that qualify as part-time),
but the state has refused. VP Reynolds said that the state put out
an RFP for separate health care coverage for part-time employees and had
no bids. Lotta Lofgren responded that the RFP was some years ago and
that as a separate entity the group is too small to make separate insurance
viable for a provider. Therefore the Council is asking for inclusion in the
current health care package that the University offers its full-time employees.
VP Reynolds answered that the state requires that all institutions of higher
education in Virginia receive comparable coverage, and that a survey of other
institutions in the state revealed little interest in this issue. We have
to follow the state's rules. Southern Health has nothing to do with
decisions about eligibility. They simply administer the plan based
on the rules the university sets up. The obstacle to this change is
the state, according to VP Reynolds. Another concern is the part-time
hourly employee. When HR asked about benefits for part-time faculty
and classified staff, the state raised the issue of whether the hourly employees
should also be covered. The University has considered the salary savings
if health benefits were provided and full time employees could switch to
part time. This would help offset the cost of having more employees and having
more of them enrolled in the health insurance plan.
Question: Lotta Lofgren asked, how do we know the state is not interested
in extending benefits to part-time employees? Tom Gausvik responded
that they have spoken to the state representatives who were concerned about
taking on another cost to the state in a time of budget restrictions.
Question: Prue Thorner asked why we cannot begin to find a way to offer health
insurance as a condition of working here. The premise would be that
if you work here, full or part time, you would be eligible for coverage.
She said that she believed that part time employees would be willing to pay
for their insurance premiums if they could access a group plan that would
have the same benefits as other employees enjoy. (Currently, if they purchase
their own individual health insurance, the coverage is less comprehensive
and the premiums are higher than full time employees' insurance.) She
cited her experience with finding coverage for postdoctoral research associates
- who are not University employees, and who often come here with their own
research funding. Although she was told it was not possible to insure them
when she took on this task for the Office of the VP for Research, she found
that it was possible to start a group plan to cover them, which was subsequently
taken over by the University's Benefits Office. VP Reynolds responded that
the University has 289 part-time employees. When they were surveyed
about this last year, only 24% were interested in accessing health insurance
- possibly because they had coverage under a spouse's plan.
All agreed that Virginia is an outlier among peer institutions on this issue.
Among the 24 national institutions of higher education listed by SCHEV as
peer institutions, only the University of Virginia offers no health insurance
for employees who work half time or more. Reynolds responded that each
year, the University decides 2 or 3 issues key issues to put forward to the
state. These are the issues that they wish to argue for, and so far
health care benefits for part-time employees has not been on that list.
Greg Strickland suggested that one option might be for part-time employees
to choose among benefits, for example to forgo retirement benefits in favor
of health care benefits. Or the University might consider offering only catastrophic
health care to its part-time employees.
Question: Since the University is almost entirely privately funded
(only 8% of the budget comes from the state) could we not create a private
plan for the part-time employees? VP Reynolds called this an indemnity
plan for which the charges would pass to the employee. What has taken
the place of state support for higher education is funding through gifts
and endowment income. The difficulty is that most endowments are restricted.
The Board of Visitors is trying to "harness" unrestricted endowments to supplement
salaries and benefits.
Question: Since graduate student instructors now receive health care benefits,
maybe part-time employees can as well. Tom Gausvik replied that graduate
students are part of student health.
We are concerned that the Benefits Committee was not informed by HR before
changes were made to the faculty retirement plan. Can you tell us why not?
What are the reasons for the current changes to the plan?
VP Reynolds explained that the Board of Visitors has separated out the individual
investment funds that make up our retirement plan. UVIMCO (University of
Virginia Investment Management Corporation) manages the funds. The
University makes recommendations regarding substituting funds for those that
are under-performing. In this review, 7 funds were dropped and 18 added based
on performance results. There is a process in place that ranges from
confidential negotiations with vendors to BOV approval. The Benefits Committee
did not meet during the process. If an employee has one of the funds
that has not been renewed, his/her money is being kept in a money-market
fund until a new selection is made.
Several issues related to paid temporary disability leave for sponsor-supported
(soft-money) general faculty were then discussed. This discussion involved
exchanges among several individuals and, for efficiency, has been consolidated
into a single question and response.
University policy provides paid temporary disability leave of up to 6 months
for General Faculty who are unable to work. For Research Faculty and
others who are supported through sponsored programs the policy specifies
that paid temporary disability leave be billed to sponsored grants and contracts.
However, if salary/benefits are paid from these sources to disabled, non-working
faculty for up to 6 months, inadequate funds would be available to conduct
the sponsored work for which the University and PI have committed.
Consequently, either 1) the contracted work could not be completed because
available funds were exhausted, 2) the disabled faculty member would be required
to work without pay after returning from leave to fulfill contractual obligations,
or 3) additional resources would have to be provided from elsewhere within
the University or from the sponsor to pay salary/benefits to complete the
work. Currently, this matter is handled on a case-by-case basis.
This raises several questions involving the equitable allocation of paid
leave across multiple grants/contracts, the potential for inadequate sponsored
resources to cover all leave, and legal issues involving the Federal Cost
Accounting Standards and other state and federal codes. In addition,
seriously sick members of the University's faculty should not be required
to negotiate a University-guaranteed benefit from a sick bed. We have been
told that the actual number of general faculty facing this circumstance is
quite low and, thus, the associated costs are modest University- wide.
However these costs may be debilitating for individual departments and/or
research groups. We suggest that the most cost-effective and humane
mechanism to provide paid temporary disability for sponsor-supported general
faculty would be to establish a small, University-wide "insurance" pool drawn
from a very modest tax on recovered overhead on all sponsor supported grants/contracts.
Establishing separate pools in multiple University units would ultimately
be more expensive in terms of actual costs, associated administrative costs,
and the well being of faculty.
VP Reynolds assured the Council that no members of the general faculty or
other university employees would be required to work without pay. However,
she noted that current university policy requires that paid temporary disability
leave for sponsor-supported GF be charged to grants and contracts.
The university has a plan to address this issue when the draft of the general
faculty policy document is approved. Money from F & A funds will
be set up in a pool for each Dean to cover the leave. The procedure is in
place. The University wants to deal with this up-front. From the HR
standpoint, according to VP Reynolds, if someone is out on disability, someone
else has to be found to do the work and be paid for that work. Typically
these things are taken care of on a case-by-case basis by the department
chairs and deans. Reynolds explained that HR is currently working with
the Office of Sponsored Programs to develop a policy that will give some
guidance on this issue. VP Reynolds suggested a "cost-overrun"
procedure (from department to school to VP) to find funds to cover work that
needs to be done while the research faculty or staff are disabled.
Tom Gausvik felt that this disability coverage of work is a department/school
issue. If it were a University-wide pool, money would have to be pulled
from other units.
The last question involved ISDS: Integrated Systems Deployment and
Support is the new name for the next stage of Oracle implementation.
VP Reynolds said that Oracle priorities are:
1. Deployment-use the system to its full capability
2. Create a better reporting environment, providing greater access to the
3. Upgrade to the next version by early fall or next spring.
Speakers for Future meetings: Lotta Lofgren resumed chairing
the meeting when VP Reynolds and her group left at 1:30 pm. She asked
that we pick four speakers who would be invited to a General Faculty Council
meeting. Lotta is interested in asking someone from the Health Sciences
Center so that we can become more aware of General Faculty needs there.
Some names that had been suggested were Bob Sweeney, Collette Sheehy, John
Lord, Ed Ayers, Ida Lee Wooten, Ariel Gomez, Anda Webb, and, from the Medical
Center: V.P. and Dean of the School of Medicine Arthur (Tim) Garson,
Edward Howell, Pamela Cipriano. It was decided by the members that
Anda Webb and Ed Ayres would be asked to attend and speak to issues that
are important to the general faculty. Elaine Attridge said she would
come back with a name from the Health Sciences Center. We decided to
invite three speakers this year.
Finalizing the Goals: Lotta asked that everyone once again look
at the list of goals and consider how committees can work together to achieve
these goals. She also asked again for volunteers to help out the communications
and policy committees, which have the most time-consuming goals this year.
A question remained: how and to whom do we disseminate these goals?
Lotta would like to finalize these goals so that we can make them available
to people. She asked for feedback as soon as possible from Council
… Lotta announced that she had sent flowers and condolences from the Council
to Joe Gieck on the deaths of his parents.
… Our budget has received its annual allocation of $2,500. She reported that
the person helping her with the Oracle account thinks that we can roll over
the funds in last year's account; she is looking into this.
… Lotta has communicated with the new Faculty Senate Chair Bob Davis who
suggested forming a new standing subcommittee of both GFC and Senate members
to address common issues.
Committee Reports: A written summary of the results of the health
care benefits survey was distributed.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:50.
The next meeting is September 9th in Room 481 of Newcomb Hall.
There is no August meeting.
Minutes submitted by Mary Abouzeid, Secretary.