The following are some of the most often-asked questions from the Town Hall meetings regarding Charter that were led by President John T. Casteen III and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge during the Fall semester. For a complete transcript of all the sessions, please visit the Charter Web site at http://www.virginia. edu/chartereduniversities/.
Q If we are considered public employees, will there be realignments of our jobs or pay cuts to our jobs?
A Sandridge: There's nothing that would prohibit or require reorganizations in the academic division any more than there is today. Rather, let's suppose that we had a position that you and I and HR agreed over the last five years had changed dramatically, but the state had not seen fit to conclude that there was a different classification for that position. Under charter, that decision could be made by our own human resource system in Charlottesville. It would not have to be made across the board by the state. So, we would gain increased flexibility and hopefully make a more accurate assessment of the duties expected of the employee.
On the question of whether you would see salary reductions, first of all, I cannot imagine a situation where this institution would be foolish enough to start tinkering with salaries any more after charter than before. I think the more practical way to look at that is that we would be able to come up with a plan for increasing compensation on a much more systematic and rational basis. We are a labor-intensive organization-65 to 67 percent of our budget goes to support people. Without them, we can't teach classes. We can't feed students. We are as good as our people. Part of what we're trying to do here is to make sure that the Board of Visitors has the ability to reward properly, to classify people properly, and to do things without having to follow the strict interpretations of when it's appropriate and when it's not appropriate from the state. If I were a classified employee, I would be asking the questions you are, but I would have more hope for the future under charter than what I see with the limited funding under the current mechanism.
Q My concern is job security. With the state there are some guidelines on how you can be laid off or fired. I'm concerned that U.Va. might just sub out maintenance to some contractor in town.
A Casteen: State officials have been completely bloodless about calling for layoffs of classified personnel when they saw the need to cut expenses. They've done that in fairly large numbers at George Mason. It was done at Virginia Tech at one point. It's been done at VCU and at Old Dominion, so it's important to register that the state's approach to job security with regard to classified employees has really not been all that benign. There have been layoffs. There have been jobs abolished.
Whether you're in favor of contracting out services or not, the chief force behind doing that in Virginia's public colleges has been the state. The university has never chosen to use layoffs to balance a budget cut. It has always taken the approach that our objective is to anticipate budget reductions as soon as we can to try to save vacant positions rather than dealing with the budget cut on the backs of employees. In the Charter agreement itself, we have actually written that the Workforce Transition Act would apply to anybody that's currently employed, so that assurance is still there. However, there's nothing that would preclude the University today from contracting out services and that remains true under Charter.
Q As public employees, will we continue to get our holidays and our days off?
A Sandridge: As a public employer the authority to establish holidays technically would rest with the University of Virginia. However, the plans that we have would not alter the holidays for the academic division. We think that there is an appropriate level of holidays. Also, there would be nothing under charter that would prevent the president of the University from granting a holiday if the governor didn't. Currently, we don't follow the exact schedule that the state provides.
Q A lot of people are worried that you're going to impose a similar PTO system as they have at the hospital, specifically where we have to use our vacation time for state holidays. What is the University's stand on that?
A Casteen: There are a lot of reasons why we're not simply asking that the whole University be under the statute that applies to the hospital. One is that the rest of the University's not a hospital. What happened here was that we went from managing the hospital as though it were a state agency to managing it as though it were a hospital. In managing a hospital, you have to deal with the fact that people get sick on holidays and you simply cannot say we're going to be closed, for example, for two weeks at Christmas. My understanding is that the total number of holidays at the hospital is comparable to what prevails in that industry. There is no issue with regard to prevailing holiday practices in universities generally.
Q Right now, the state or the University — I'm not sure which — matches faculty TIAA-CREF and Vanguard retirement investments with a modest amount. Is that going to be protected under Charter and is there a chance that it could increase?
A Sandridge: The matching rates are protected, and there is a chance that they could be increased. For the Virginia Retirement System the decision to increase or decrease rests in Richmond. However, the Virginia Retirement System, as opposed to TIAA-CREF, is a defined benefit program with a formula and the state determines what those benefits are and how much we contribute. As it relates to other retirement programs, yes, they could be modified; yes, they could be better; yes, they might be more flexible. But for existing employees, the one commitment that we will make is that they will not be required to change their retirement program under any circumstances. But I have to always make the caveat, that if you are in VRS, those decisions are not made in Charlottesville today and they would not be made in Charlottesville in the future.
Q Under charter, can the classified staff have a representative on the Board of Visitors? I think they have a faculty representative now.
A Sandridge: There is no faculty member on the Board of Visitors. There are no employees of the University that serve on the Board of Visitors. There is nothing in charter that would either make that more or less possible than what is there right now. There's nothing prohibiting it and there's nothing requiring it.
Q How do you propose to get projects done 25 percent quicker under
A Sandridge: I will tell you that delays come from the lead time that's necessary to get projects presented to the state, go through a planning process that's specified by the state, then multiple reviews that are required by the state, and every one of those take — I would like to say weeks, but far too many of them take months. I didn't say that every building would be 25 percent faster or we'd save 25 percent of the time. I did say that there are buildings that we could build where we would save 25 percent of the time, and it depends a lot on the complexity of the building, the nature of the building, and the time and the year when they come up.
2005 by the Rector and Visitors