U senates support displaced workers

JP Leider

Come July 1 of next year, six colleges will become three.

While no estimates yet exist as to how many employees will be displaced because of the University’s realignment, administrators already are planning for the imminent dislocation of employees from the six colleges.

At Thursday’s University and Student Senate meetings, both bodies voted to support a resolution encouraging the priority hiring of employees who are displaced by the University’s realignment.

The College of Human Ecology, the College of Natural Resources and the General College will be dissolved and integrated into three other schools by July 2006 as part of the University’s effort to become one of the world’s top three public research institutions.

To promote the hiring of displaced employees, the resolution calls for creating financial incentives for departments who rehire them.

The resolution proposes “emphasizing the advantages of hiring current University employees,” creating a policy or process giving University employees priority for establishing a policy and/or extending the time in which employees may decide whether to accept severance packages.

The Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators brought the resolution to University Senate to acknowledge the good the Office of Human Resources is doing and to empower them to be more creative in upcoming months, said Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators Chairwoman Jacki Cottingham-Zierdt.

“These are extraordinary times, and sometimes during extraordinary times we need to rethink what we’re doing,” she said. “(We need to) continue to be as creative as possible and committed as possible to existing employees who stand the risk of losing their positions through no fault of their own.”

Cottingham-Zierdt said the resolution is not about the University “forever wanting to guarantee people jobs.”

“We’re saying if there are needs departments have, we want to encourage them to look at the internal talent pool.”

She said an issue has arisen recently because people are leaving in anticipation of their job being eliminated.

However, she said, work still needs to get done.

Carol Carrier, vice president of the Office of Human Resources, said her office has been discussing the ramifications of the University’s realignment with the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators and other employee groups over the past several months. The office has had forums and has created programs to help employees faced with transition.

The University also has a policy allowing for movement of a current employee into a new or vacant position without the normally required search, which Carrier said she wants to use “liberally” when it makes sense.

“We’re hoping that we can find everybody positions somewhere in the “U’ if they want to stay here, even if they might not be going into one of the new colleges,” she said. “I don’t know that will happen, but that’s certainly our goal.”

Carrier said turnover from other colleges will allow for the retention of more University employees after the realignment.

Dolly Britzman, a principal administrative specialist in the dean’s office in the College of Human Ecology, said the University Senate’s resolution “sounds pretty hopeful.”

Britzman, who said her job likely won’t exist come summer, is using the Office of Human Resources to explore opportunities inside the University.

“I see that there are jobs available ” I might not get exactly the job I want, but I’m not feeling insecure; I’m feeling as though I should be able to find a job before the deadline,” she said.

“No one can guarantee what will happen or can guarantee that everybody’s going to have a job, but I do feel as though there are steps being taken to help those of us who probably will be losing a job.”

Fran Stark, a General College program specialist, said she’s seeing more change now than in most of her 20 years at the University.

“The unknown is out there. Things are going to change, that’s a given,” she said. “I see some of my colleagues are taking new jobs where they might not have in the past, so that gives you that little feeling of uncertainty about the future.”

However, Stark said, she feels secure in her job, most days.

Although it’s an “up-and-down” situation, Stark said she tries to treat each day as normal.