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November 20, 2008

SAC retains term limits

Following a lively discussion last week, the Staff Association Council (SAC) voted on three proposed bylaws changes, endorsed two proposals directed at Human Resources, affirmed standing committee chairs and co-chairs and heard a report on Pitt’s contingency plans in the event of a Port Authority work stoppage.

Council members at the Nov. 12 meeting voted down a proposal from the governance committee and supported by the steering committee, which comprises officers and committee chairs, to extend officers’ terms of service beyond the current restrictions. Under the bylaws, officers may serve a maximum of three consecutive two-year terms.

Supporters of the bylaws term-limit amendment argued that continuity of leadership is desirable and that SAC has had problems attracting members who are willing to serve as officers.

Detractors of the change maintained that “new blood” is healthy for the council leadership, and that it is the responsibility of the membership to see that qualified members seek SAC office.

SAC President Rich Colwell and treasurer Carol Hodgkiss will complete their third consecutive terms in June 2009 and will be ineligible to run for their current positions. Gwen Watkins, vice president of steering, and Angie Coldren, vice president of marketing and communications, are completing their second full terms in June. Officers’ terms begin July 1.

A vote on the bylaws change had been postponed in September for lack of a voting quorum. At the Nov. 12 meeting, 36 of the 53 full members were present to vote (associate members are ineligible to vote). Vote totals are kept confidential under the organization’s bylaws.

SAC also defeated a proposal that would have empowered officers to restrict a member’s choice of committees to join. Members are required to join at least one of SAC’s standing committees, but because the selection is up to the member, there has been an imbalance in the committees’ rolls, governance committee chair Peggy McNeil noted.

Those who opposed the change argued that the restriction would dissuade staff from joining SAC and would inhibit retention efforts.

SAC did approve an amendment to its attendance requirements to include committee meetings. Members who are absent from four committee meetings a year without prior notification will be asked to resign from SAC under the bylaws change.

In other action, SAC members endorsed two proposals that originated in the benefits committee: a proposal that Pitt promote flex time, and a proposal that Human Resources conduct a survey on health benefits.

“There has been some confusion in the past about whether these proposals had been approved by SAC,” said Steve Zupcic, co-chair of the benefits committee. “Our committee had a working group that was meeting with [Pitt director of Benefits] John Kozar to discuss these proposals, but now we’re asking for the endorsement of the full SAC in order to go forward.”

One proposal asks the University to promote the use of flex time and/or a compressed work week. Currently, flex time is available only at the discretion of the unit supervisor. SAC had requested previously that Pitt promote the use of flex time, a request that HR officials refused. (See Sept. 25 University Times.)

However, the new proposal includes supporting documentation that the availability of flex time tends to lower health care costs, Zupcic noted.

“Additionally, with the possible impending Port Authority work stoppage there may be even more value for flex time in helping [Pitt staff] cope with getting in and out of Oakland,” he said. Zupcic noted that there is precedent for adopting the proposal since at least one department with more than 100 employees has a flex-time program in place.

SAC unanimously endorsed the proposal, which now goes to Ron Frisch, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources, for response.

A second proposal, endorsed unanimously with one abstention, calls for Human Resources to launch a web-based survey on staff satisfaction with Pitt’s employee benefits package. That proposal also will be forwarded to Frisch for review.

At the Nov. 12 meeting, SAC also affirmed standing committee chairs and co-chairs, who are determined by each committee. They are:

• Sherry Shrum, chair, and Steve Zupcic, co-chair, benefits.

• Annabelle Clippinger, chair, elections.

• Peggy McNeil, chair, governance.

• Libby Hilf, chair, marketing and communications.

• Marissa Arlet, chair, and Anna Sangl, co-chair, program and planning.

• Jennifer Welton, chair, research and information.

• Fred Schiffer, chair, and Ken Doty, co-chair, safety and security.

• Monika Losagio, chair, and Barbara Adelman, co-chair, salary and job classification.

Brittany Guthrie, SAC’s representative on the University-wide parking and transportation committee, reported on Pitt’s contingency plans in the event of a Port Authority service shutdown. (See related story on page 1.)

She urged all employees, whether they use public transportation or not, “to have a plan because the possible Port Authority work stoppage will affect all of us.”

Guthrie directed SAC members to Pitt’s web site,, where contingency plans are posted. “The University cannot replace the Port Authority, but we’re doing all we can with the resources we have,” Guthrie said.

Those plans include increased car pooling, expansion of the campus shuttle system, introduction of neighborhood buses for gathering locations close to Oakland, creation of park-and-ride shuttle locations outside Oakland and enhancements to the current on-campus parking system, she said.

There are more than 700 transient parking spaces on the Oakland campus, which will be restricted to Pitt I.D. holders and cost a flat fee of $5 per day, Guthrie noted.

In other SAC developments:

• Pamela Weid reported that the salary and job classification committee is investigating what steps staff members should take if they are dissatisfied with their salary increase. Her committee is expected to meet with an HR representative in the near future.

• SAC is accepting applications for new members until Dec. 12. For more information, contact the SAC office at 4-4236.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 41 Issue 7

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