Administrators spoke April 3 at the Staff Open Forum on campus race relations, career paths, parking issues, the budget, restructuring the Division of Information Technology and other topics of concern to MU staff.
Taking part were Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin; Beth Chancellor, associate chief information officer; Gary Ward, vice chancellor for operations and chief operating officer; Jatha Sadowski, associate vice chancellor for human resources; Rhonda Gibler, vice chancellor for finance and chief financial officer; and Kelley Stuck, University of Missouri System associate vice president of human resources.
Becky Stafford, head of the Staff Advisory Council, also took part in the discussion.
Loftin began with his favorite metaphor for the people structure at the University of Missouri: a three-legged stool, in which one leg is faculty, another leg is student body and another leg is staff. All three are needed for MU to work.
“Your role is absolutely necessary for us to function,” Loftin told about 170 people attending in Memorial Union’s Jesse Wrench Auditorium.
IT TRANSITION PROJECT
MU is working on restructuring the Division of Information Technology so that campus needs for IT services are better met. The effort is called the IT Transition Project. Beth Chancellor explained that some of the goals are to provide training and career opportunities for IT staff and improve the process of evaluating, selecting and delivering IT services.
At the IT Transition Project website, six priorities are listed.
• ensure that investments in information technologies (and associated support structures) are necessary, resilient, sustainable and reliable
• reduce or eliminate duplicative technologies and services
• establish a broad set of technology and process standards, thereby gaining efficiencies in spending and support cost
• provide consistency in the support of IT staff through training, job growth and career opportunities
• improve information security
• leverage distributed IT staff to improve the process of evaluating, selecting and delivering the IT services
A subset within four campus units will be the first to transition, Chancellor said. The units are the College of Arts and Science, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the health academic units (health professions, medicine and nursing), and MU Operations.
An open forum on the transition will be held May 7 in Memorial Union.
Representatives of human resources discussed the restructuring of job titles and the desire to offer a clear career path for staff.
Recently 4,000 different job titles used across the four campuses of the UM System were winnowed to an estimated 750 titles. Trimming job titles and creating classifications help create a better structure for upward mobility, Kelley Stuck said.
“We have not correctly aligned people,” Loftin added. “Over the next several years, we want to move everyone into the right classification and pay level.”
Staffers deserve to be in positions that utilize their skills and financially compensate them appropriately, Loftin said. The goal is “the right person at the right pay in the right job,” he said.
RACE RELATIONS COMMITTEE
Though the situation has improved over the decades, American university campuses continue to have instances of racial bias. To help address concerns at MU, the university has formed the Race Relations Committee, Loftin said.
The committee will be composed of 12 members, according to a March 26 document by Faculty Council Chair Craig Roberts and Race Relations Committee Chair Berkley Hudson. The racially diverse committee will be made up of one staff member, eight or nine faculty members and two students, all of whom will be advised by other MU community members.
The committee’s purpose is to “address widespread unawareness of racial insensitivity on campus,” the document says. Committee members will be chosen this month.
Rhonda Gibler was asked about the purpose of the Budget Allocation Advisory Council, formed during the fall semester and announced by Loftin Nov. 12 via an MU employee email.
She said the council advises on all aspects of the campus budgeting process in support of the university’s core missions of teaching, research, public service and economic development. The council will be involved in budget priorities and reallocations as they relate to the MU Strategic Operating Plan.
Gibler said budgetary decisions are made thoughtfully and with a lot of input.
For fiscal 2016, state funding for higher education might increase 3 percent in performance funding under a budget plan approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, Loftin said.
The Senate completed work on the state’s spending bills on April 2 and was scheduled to send the bills to the Senate floor for debate this week, Marty Oetting, the University of Missouri System director of government relations, said in an email. Lawmakers are hoping to send the budget bills to Gov. Jay Nixon before the end of April.
The cost of surface lot ($18 a month) and garage parking ($21 a month) also came up. An employee submitted a question prior to the forum asking if the cost could be reduced. Ward and Loftin both said that, when compared to other parking fees at other institutions, MU’s were a bargain.
“All our parking fees have gone to pay debt on parking structures,” Ward said. But he added that, as MU’s parking structures age and need repair, administrators might have to revisit the parking fee structure.
Loftin closed the forum.
“Thank you for all you do, especially for our students,” he said. “They are why we are all here.”