Feb. 27-March 11, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 4
Back Issues
IN THIS ISSUE
Think About It
Straight talk on classified staff concerns
Greenberg: Brown Helped break segregationist South
Medical Center operating in black
Headlines @ U.Va.
‘Homegrown’ administrator credits mentoring in career success
Faculty Senate turns its attention to matters of honor, money
He’s no dummy
Online master’s program trains nurse leaders from underserved rural areas
What About the Children?
Discovering new life at the bottom of the sea
Leap year has U.Va.’s zip code
Francesca Fuchs
Research yields benefits, mankind, marketplace

Straight talk on classified staff concerns
Sandridge discusses salaries, retirement, health insurance

By Carol Wood

On a recent chilly February morning, Leonard W. Sandridge blew into an Employee Council meeting like a March wind and proceeded to deliver some straight talk in response to 50 questions that had been posed in advance by the representatives of the Provost’s Employee Communications Council. What follows are highlights from Sandridge’s remarks:

What is the new partnership with the state?

The new partnership was designed to reduce pressure on the state budget and to ensure the quality of higher education in the Commonwealth.

To that end, the University of Virginia, William & Mary, and Virginia Tech, over the next year, will ask the General Assembly to enact the “Commonwealth Chartered Universities and Colleges Act.” The legislation would create a process for chartering state-assisted, public universities and colleges.

Under the new model, the state would limit its financial appropriations to the universities to less than what would traditionally be expected. In exchange, the universities would no longer be subject to certain state personnel, procurement and capital-project regulations.

I know many people are concerned that the new partnership will sever all ties to the state. This is not so.

Each university will remain a public institution with boards appointed by the Governor, confirmed by the General Assembly and accountable to the state’s citizens for, among other things, performance measures, audit reports and a strong commitment to undergraduate financial aid.
Why do we need this?

Representing You

There are five Employee Communication Councils representing the University’s nonfaculty workforce of nearly 9,000.

They include:

• Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Employee Communication Council
(20 representatives)
Chairman: Jon Rice
jgr9a@virginia.edu, 243-8731

• Health System Academic and Research
Employee Communication Council
(34 representatives)

Co-chairpersons:
Helen Norfleet-Shiflett, hn6u@virginia.edu,
924-1667
Johanna Podraza, jp5q@virginia.edu, 924-8411

• Medical Center Employee Communication Council (45 representatives)
Chairwoman: Gloria Smith
gvs@virginia.edu, 982-1666

• Provost Employee Communication Council
(25 representatives)
Chairwoman: Jo Ann Addison
jfp@virginia.edu, 982-2753

• Student Affairs Employee Communication Council (16 representatives)
Chairwoman: Maizie Jackson
mhj7v@virginia.edu, 924-3736

For more details on the work of the councils, visit www.hrs.virginia.edu/facstfcoun.html.

Over the past decade, the University has been working to increase its flexibility and local authority through numerous decentralization measures. This most recent step — through chartered legislation — is not revolutionary, but is the logical next step given the fact that the state now contributes only 8.1 percent of our budget — down from 27 percent in the early 1990s.

What we’re proposing is that the state allow us to build on our strengths and to expect more of Virginia Tech, William & Mary and U.Va. than it does of other schools that don’t have the infrastructure to handle making important business decisions at the local level.

Basically, what we’re asking for is the authority to increase revenues.
There are three things we need to do to keep the University healthy: 1) become more of a tuition-based institution; 2) become second to none when it comes to raising private funds; and 3) forge a new relationship with the Commonwealth of Virginia that allows us to take advantage of No.1 and No. 2.

What will the impact of the new partnership be on employees?

Salaries? Well, for one, the Board of Visitors will have the authority to implement salary increases for classified employees. In October, the board would have liked to give pay raises to all University employees, but was not allowed to. But it looked for other ways to reward classified employees, earmarking $250,000 for targeted increases based on market studies and another $200,000 to help fund the rewards and recognition program that the state created but was never able to fund.
Procurement? Nothing will change. All audit and compliance regulations will remain the same, and we’ll continue to report to the state auditor of public accounts.

In an aside, Sandridge recounted how a recent visit by the state auditor resulted in a report to the board that strongly endorsed the state’s confidence in how well the University is managed. He noted that such news is a credit to the good work of all University employees.  

Tuition? The board plans to hold itself and the University accountable for responsible tuition. Also, we never talk about tuition without talking about access, and the University has a firm commitment to making the University affordable for all students [such as through Access UVa, a groundbreaking financial aid initiative to ensure a U.Va. undergraduate education to any student accepted, regardless of economic circumstance].

Retirement benefits? We will not take away the opportunity to invest in the VRS from any employee, and we may provide additional retirement options for employees.

Health Insurance? The University already is the only state institution in the Commonwealth that has its own health insurance plan. And it is committed to making it of a higher quality and better cost than the state plan.

In an effort to keep costs reasonable for employees, in the past year, the University’s contribution to employee health care increased by 30 percent, while the employee contribution increased by only 5 percent.
Grievance procedures? This seems to crop up as a big issue with many people, but there is no reason to change the system that is now in place because it is working.

Layoffs? All you need to do is look around the state to see where layoffs were made during recent tough economic times. Not one state employee was laid off at the University of Virginia. Layoffs are not part of our institutional culture. In fact, one of our highest priorities is to avoid laying people off.

The University’s Board of Visitors strongly believes that it’s good business to invest in its employees.

What is the University plan for enrollment growth?

We have no plans for large enrollment growth, although the rumor persists. Our plan is to grow by some 500 students between now and the next six to seven years. The board has made it clear that it is not eager to become a larger university.

Further out, I could see us adding 1,500 students in targeted areas like the sciences, business and the arts. To become truly world class, we might need to look at growth there.

Would the University ever consider granting benefits to domestic partners of employees?

This is an increasingly important issue, and we have been involved in these discussions. Right now, these benefits break into two categories: some are the function of state oversight, and the Attorney General has ruled to prohibit health insurance to those other than couples married under Virginia law; others are what are called soft benefits, like memberships to intramural facilities.

A lot of private institutions have dealt with these questions, and public universities are in a period of change. We are looking at institutions that have addressed the issue. We need to recognize that this is both an emotional and a practical issue for some members of our community. 

NEW Partnership with state:
To learn more about the proposed partnership between U.Va. and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to follow future developments, visit
www.virginia.edu/chartereduniversities.


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