When geography professor Altha Cravey heard the University is looking for two full-time “orientation/layoff coordinators,” she was shocked.
“I couldn’t quite believe my ears,” Cravey said. She tweeted out the link to notify others of the positions.
Cravey said she has been worried about the University’s mentality toward its employees for a while now. Seeing the two open positions increased her concerns.
Shannon Brien, Student Action with Workers co-chairperson, said UNC employees have had concerns similar to Cravey’s for a couple of decades. She said their worries include job stability and not feeling valued by the University.
The most recent example of those concerns, Brien said, is the possibility of UNC Student Stores being privatized. Three months ago, Follett, a company that owns more than a thousand student stores nationwide, submitted a proposal to lease Student Stores.
Follett, if it leases the bookstore, says it would pay the University $3 million annually and attempt to save millions of dollars with cheaper books.
Brien said the University’s need to cut back financially often seems to take priority over the intangible value of UNC faculty and staff.
She said the pressure to save money is understandable, since state funding has decreased so drastically in recent years. The North Carolina state legislature cut UNC’s academic affairs budget by more than $22 million from 2014-15 in their final budget deal, released last month.
“There really is this concern that they’re doing it just for the sake of the bottom line,” Brien said. “And not really looking at the University as an academic institution that needs to support faculty research and a place that sustains an entire community.”
Kathy Bryant, spokesperson for human resources at UNC, said the two positions are not new. They both just happened to open up at the same time, she said in an email.
One has been vacant since the summer, Bryant said, when a former employee left for a position at another school. The other position is currently filled, but the employee is leaving soon.
Bryant said the specialist, a position that is required by the Office of State Human Resources policy, manages orientation programs for new employees, assists with recruiting and facilitates the layoff process.
Cravey said she hopes to see a change in the way the University sees its employees, starting with the language it uses.
“We’re constantly bombarded with this language that’s developed in the business world that’s all about efficiency,” Cravey said. “It begins to shape how we view the world and how we view our social relationships and our community.
“We have a responsibility not to just put everything in those very simple, narrow terms.”
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