The Fall Danforth Staff Council town hall was held October 14 in Edison Theatre.
The speakers in order:
- Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor and chief administrative officer
- Legail Chandler, vice chancellor for human resources
- Rebecca Brown, chief of staff to Chancellor Andrew Martin
- Dedric Carter, vice chancellor for operations and technology transfer
Webber started his remarks by saying that the staff council has been “an invaluable bridge between the administration and the staff” and an important advocate for staff issues such as leave policies and the minimum hourly wage. He then made presentations about campus safety and the MyDay project:
A series of recent crimes in the neighborhoods surrounding the Danforth Campus prompted Chancellor Martin to convene a public safety working group.
That group’s work coincides with the university hiring an outside consultant, Margolis-Healy, that specializes in public safety in higher education. Its data is helpful as the group drafts a report on short-term steps the university could take to improve safety as well as long-term solutions that extend beyond the campus and nearby neighborhoods. The short-term recommendations are due by the end of October and the long-term report by December 31.
The analysis will look at where and how the university is spending money and resources on public safety and whether more is needed or whether it should be spent in other ways.
The problem is larger than the university or even the area around campus, he noted. But he said the issue is important to WashU for a few reasons. First, because the physical safety of faculty, staff and students is important; next, because a negative reputation as a dangerous area affects the university’s ability to recruit and keep talented faculty, students and staff; and finally, because WashU is a major institution and employer in the region and needs to play a role in broad conversations about challenging issues in the city and region. Broader efforts to prevent violence and address its root causes in the city and region will take long-term, coordinated investments in law enforcement, social services, and economic opportunity.
The MyDay project will create a new cloud-based platform for major university administrative systems including human resources, finance and student. The HR and finance systems will go live July 1, 2020. Training will begin in March. The overhaul of the university’s student administrative system will come after the HR and finance project.
Myday.wustl.edu is a good resource for people to understand how business processes will change under the new system. It is supposed to be more self-service for tasks such as expense reporting. Job grades and pay ranges for both one’s current job and for open positions at the university will be more transparent, he said. The new system will also be mobile-friendly so those who wish to can easily perform tasks on their phones.
Human resources update
Legail Chandler gave an overview of some of the changes that have taken place regarding benefits. For example, the university now contracts with Unum for administration of its short-term medical disability leave. The new, additional benefit provides 60% of one’s pay during such an absence, and people can use sick or vacation leave to make up the other 40%. Unum pays benefits weekly, while WashU’s share remains biweekly or monthly, she noted, so some people may be confused about when and how much they receive in payments.
People can learn more at unum.com/claims or through the WashU HR website under Policies and “leaves of absence.” The university’s benefits services team is also available if staff run into problems, she said. If initial phone calls don’t resolve the issue, she said, people can reach out to Kim Nash, Cara Walter or Peggy Heck.
Chandler also announced that HR is close to launching a web-based confidential reporting tool that’s not housed on the university server for people to report problems they see in the workplace. More details will be shared in November. She said she knows that employees sometimes want to report concerns but are leery that their bosses will be told about the complaint without employees being aware.
Chancellor’s vision update
Rebecca Brown shared thanks from the chancellor for all who worked on the inauguration as well as his thoughts for setting a new strategic plan.
She also aimed to reassure staff not to be anxious about change but to know that the chancellor will be clear about what he expects.
She reiterated the themes that Martin outlined in his inaugural address and said they will help shape the strategic plan, the crafting of which will begin in earnest in January, when the chancellor hopes to have a new provost in place to lead the effort. The themes are academic distinction; access to education (as seen in the WashU Pledge) and St. Louis (particularly WashU’s role and impact in the region, as seen in the WashU Compact).
The strategic planning process will get underway from April through June with a goal that by summer 2021, the committee will pull specific plans together into one overarching plan, she said. The chancellor will bring the plan to the Board of Trustees and then to the broader community that October to December. But she noted that this process won’t override unit-specific plans. Rather, both should work together.
Dedric Carter provided an update on campus parking. He noted that as part of the east end project, campus parking was overhauled, with a goal to prioritize parking availability; reduce time spent hunting for a space; and meet 90% of visitor parking demand.
He said parking is always a lightning rod issue on college campuses and no one else has figured it out any better.
Recent changes include a new pavilion on Forsyth, better traffic around Throop Drive, a refreshed DUC garage and improved pedestrian walkways from the biology and psychology buildings to the DUC, he said. Parking officials also added a North Campus shuttle and a 560 Music Center shuttle, as well as expanded hours and neighborhoods served by the Campus2Home shuttle, to ensure the campus community has a safe way home at night, he said.
Also, the Danforth Campus implemented a ban on e-scooters within campus to promote rider and walker safety.
On the horizon, he said, is WashURides, a ride-sharing and mapping service for those who want to find a carpool. On a broader scale, WashU is concerned that a federal law inadvertently created a tax on transportation benefits that nonprofit employers provide. It hasn’t impacted us yet because the university has been absorbing the cost of the taxes. This can’t last forever though, but university leaders are hopeful the measure will be repealed in Washington.
Also, parking officials are studying if there is a way to make parking permit pricing more equitable, offering lower rates to lower-paid workers, but they haven’t found a solution yet. They hope to announce the results of that work in spring 2021.
Staff members asked if ID cards could be replaced with a digital version so they don’t wear out. Carter said he would take that back to his group for consideration.
Another asked for an update on the parking lot at the corner of Skinker and Delmar, where the gas station had been, near North Campus.
Carter responded that a CVS is being built and the private contractor said there should be enough parking but that WashU is keeping a close eye on that.
Another staff member asked about Chancellor Martin’s directive to his team that they not call or email staff after-hours about work.
Brown said his note encouraged – but didn’t require — other department leaders to follow that example. But she reiterated that Martin does believe that people should do good work while at work but be able to set it aside and have normal lives and rest outside of work.
Another person asked about a reduction in handicapped parking spaces outside buildings and in garages. Carter replied that the university had a full ADA assessment completed as part of the east end project and found that many of those spots in the plaza along Forsyth were often open and were more than needed there. Parking officials redesigned that area but added other ADA spots elsewhere, he said.