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University's Housekeeping Services faces imminent changes

After a consultant’s report unveiled problems of discrimination and inadequate management in Housekeeping Services, University administrators are starting efforts to reform the department immediately.

Brenda Malone, vice chancellor for human resources, said the University will begin moving forward on an action plan this week.

“In using the term ‘immediate,’ that’s the kind of term you don’t use unless you mean it,” she said.

“For us, it’s critically important to move quickly.”

Malone said creating an advisory committee composed of housekeepers of different ethnicities is one of the first items on the agenda. Administrators will begin forming the committee this week, she said, though the process for doing so has not yet been established.

Dick Mann, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the action plan might take months to execute.

“Some of those things are going to take a while because there are so many people involved,” he said. The housekeeping department has more than 400 employees.

Though administrators are not bound to follow any of PRM Consulting Group’s recommendations, Mann said UNC will attempt to use all 45.

“I think we’re going to try to pursue all of them,” he said. “Some we may be more successful in getting to completion.”

He said the University might find it cannot legally or feasibly use all of the recommendations.

Some costs associated with implementing action plan steps might prove too large, he said.

“Some things that may have costs with them may be pushed out of the way until the budget situation allows it,” Mann said.

Mann said his department’s budget covered the “costly” consultant’s report. PRM cost the University $104,000, UNC spokesman Mike McFarland said.

Mann said administrators are dedicated to changing the culture in housekeeping.

“This is the beginning of really a whole sea change,” he said.

James Holman, a housekeeper and Employee Forum delegate, said he is optimistic but remembers the administration’s past shortcomings.

“By their past track record, they haven’t proven anything to us,” Holman said. “When we bring them issues, they brush it off like it doesn’t mean anything.”

Holman said the advisory committee is a good idea but said the University should not hand pick housekeepers who will not admit problems for fear of retaliation.

“They didn’t tell us how they’re going to make that selection, and I would like to know, who’s going to choose these people to be on the committee?”

Malone said the University is taking the recommendations very seriously.

“This is not at all lip service, and we are moving quickly with great service and direction to get this thing done,” she said.

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