The President was upbeat and attentive throughout our discussions, and seemed eager to share what he billed as very positive directions for the College—to be revealed. Naturally, Dr. Kim is very excited about the new Student Center being almost ready for prime time. He expressed appreciation for the consistent staff support for the project! Watch for the soft launch in the summer.
There seemed to be some deeper appreciation for what staff actually adds to the student experience and success potential on a day-to-day basis. Problems with providing needed services at our below skeleton crew levels of staffing were noted—on at least one occasion, Mr. Pernot jotted down notes on the problem for future action.
One of our questions related to this idea of emphasizing “access to success” rather than just getting more students enrolled. (Check out the Enrollment strategy that was rolled out at last week’s College-wide Forum.) Money Matters is a student financial literacy program that Flor Carabez, Union Membership Chair, has implemented and explored through outside conferences and networking in the field. None of her valuable activities has been compensated or supported by the College. Dr. Kim was impressed with the program she described, and it demonstrated in a concrete way that staff are intellectual and creative too—not just the faculty. Yet staff is not well-supported with professional development opportunities, a lack we emphasized. Dr. Kim also acknowledged that training is needed for new managers, citing Apple’s research on indicators of partner success. Top indicator is that a company provides professional development up front.
Staff is also knowledgeable about the challenges at hand, from a frontline perspective. This is generally not acknowledged nor do we yet have a good way to provide crucial input to administrators; USofCC gave examples of mistakes that could have been avoided. Dr. Kim recognized that it’s an ongoing issue, but indicated that Academic Affairs would take the lead rather than HR. HR asserted that they have worked with academic leadership in the past to re-instate positions. The issue of gaining input from staff expertise on issues of importance to the College was not fully addressed.
Obviously “chop from the top” is not quite embraced as an approach, though the President acknowledged that there is some bloat. However, administration does appear to realize that further cutting would be straight through the bone, and that there is no more fat. In fact essentials are being diminished, causing deterioration of the students’ experience, and damaging the perception of the College by potential students when they visit. We stressed that empty “welcome” centers do not give the message we want.
While Dr. Kim spoke at length about his hopes for the new Provost, and has done so in the past, he also expressed a caveat that none of us should place too much on their shoulders. That said, he aims to correct what he termed “overbuilding” of rules and policies in order to integrate new systems better. Dr. Kim emphasized that a student and USofCC rep were included in the Provost search committee. He’s looking for someone who is expert at communications, who can talk and listen to people and engage in ongoing discussions.
Serendipitously, I have been reading Alliance: Talent Management in a Networked World which highlights these two things, among others:
- The importance of leveraging the knowledge and experience of ALL employees for problem-solving and innovation, not just the same handful of higher level administrators around the same tables and,
- The value of supporting employees to expand their professional networks, contacts, and participation in external professional associations to grow their expertise and understanding of ways to creatively address issues and offer better services. Both the “company” and the employee benefit.
These ideas were amply outlined and illustrated by your Union Executive Board members and colleagues, and were well received. Your Union will work to make these approaches, and more, a matter of policy and practice.
See you on February 7th and 14th at the Provost candidate Forums! (@Film Row, 3pm)
—Laurie Moses, Union VP