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Sunday January 17th

Staff Advisory Committee shared concerns about UNC's communication at first meeting

<p>Members of UNC's staff advisory committee meet over Zoom on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020.</p>
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Members of UNC's staff advisory committee meet over Zoom on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020.

Many UNC staff members shared concerns and feelings of stress with the University amid the semester's changes and uncertainty. Following these concerns, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz created a Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor. 

Guskiewicz announced committee members in a campus email Tuesday. The committee’s purpose is to give UNC staff opportunities to collaborate with and advise Guskiewicz and the leadership team, he said in the announcement. 

The first Staff Advisory Committee meeting took place Wednesday. 

What's happened?

  • Shayna Hill, chairperson of the Employee Forum, opened the meeting by acknowledging the challenges that 2020 has presented, as well as the necessity for collaboration among different areas of the UNC community. 
  • Guskiewicz thanked the staff for their tireless work to ensure that campus operates. 
    • “I appreciate all of the sacrifices many of you have made and how you continue to serve in so many different ways,” Guskiewicz said. 
  • Guskiewicz said the Employee Forum’s recent report led him to believe that there must be more of an opportunity for more voices to be heard. He said he hopes the committee can be a place where staff can express concerns with transparency and provide regular feedback. 
  • Guskiewicz said his primary focus is on plans for the spring semester, but he will also be focusing on budgetary concerns about the University’s structural deficit and deferred maintenance of old buildings. 
    • “I know that people want answers, and I promise that we’ll provide those answers as we learn more,” Guskiewicz said.
  • Following Guskiewicz’s statement, members took turns introducing themselves. 
    • Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, a human resources specialist, said she is looking to advocate for staff who feel they don’t have a voice. 
    • “I want to be an advocate for all the maintenance technicians, the construction trades,” Mike Hodge, a support services supervisor, said. “I’m a good listener that can effect positive change. I want to be an advocate for everybody that I work with.” 
    • James Holman, a crew leader in housekeeping services, hopes to advocate for his coworkers and wants to make sure they have a safe work environment. 
    • Phillip Edwards, an instructional consultant at the Center for Faculty Excellence, and Jennifer DeNeal, associate director of the Ethics and Policy Office, said they hope to see some structural changes in terms of how the University functions. 
  • Becci Menghini, vice chancellor for human resources and equal opportunity and compliance, responded to comments regarding structural inequity. 
    • “It’s important to understand that our structure sometimes makes an appearance of inequity that is not intentional in any way and sometimes there are systems outside of us that drive some of that,” Menghini said. “I think it’s important to talk about it and to know what that means.” 
  • The committee then discussed how it would progress over the upcoming months. 
  • Stephanie Forman, executive assistant at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, said a big complaint among staff was feeling lost, information-wise. She said it’s important for staff to feel like they’re in the loop, and for employees across the University to hear similar messages on a regular basis. 
  • Maria Estorino, associate University librarian for special collections, added to the concerns in communication. She questioned the ability for employees whose first language is not English and who aren’t as strong in English to receive information from the University. 
  • Holman added that the housekeeping department at the University has a Burmese community, of which many members cannot read English or speak fluently. 
  • Aye Aye Mon, zone manager in housekeeping services, said that in her department, at least 85 percent of employees do not read English. Because of this, there have been discrepancies in communication to the staff. She said there must be better communication with staff who cannot speak English. 
  • The meeting closed with final remarks from Chancellor Guskiewicz. 
    • “I think there’s a common theme here throughout a lot of what we’ve heard today in our very first meeting and it’s around communication. I think that’s an error, we have to get better and I’m committed to making sure that happens," Guskiewicz said. 

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