President James Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz recently approved several recommendations designed to improve the campus climate. They weren’t random recommendations, but those that came specifically from the Great Places to Work initiative Willihnganz started last year.

Five committees began work in September 2009 to look at key issues that affect UofL’s work environment and to make recommendations for changes that would improve conditions for faculty and staff. The GPTW steering committee forwarded their suggestions to Willihnganz for consideration in early 2010.

More than 100 faculty and staff from throughout the university served on GPTW committees which focus on rewards, campus climate, health and wellness, family friendly policies and professional development.

The committee proposals will, in some cases, have a substantial impact on the work environment for our faculty and staff, Willihnganz said. Others will give our employees more information about benefits, a stronger voice in university issues and opportunities to improve their health and lifestyles.

Our faculty, staff and students are so important to the university, and we owe it to them to look for ways to make their lives better, particularly in tough economic times, she said. We are not stopping with these recommendations. We will continue to look for ways to improve the campus environment for all our faculty and staff.

Kim Maffet, director of the GPTW initiative, said she was pleased with the administration’s response to the committee recommendations.

The committees presented several very strong proposals, she said. The administration took those recommendations seriously and has acted to implement them. That commitment to making positive changes will really make a difference for our faculty and staff.

As committees continue to meet and look for ways to improve the work place at UofL, they are looking for volunteers. Anyone who is interested should e-mail Maffet.

I am very pleased at the time and efforts that the university is committing to making UofL a great place to work, said Brent Fryrear, director of Partnership for a Green City. As one of the GPTW Steering Committee members and as chair of Staff Senate, I especially appreciate the hours people have spent vetting and presenting ideas.

Approved recommendations

Stopping the tenure clock. This recommendation expands language in a Redbook policy that grants faculty a six-month to one-year extension of the probationary period prior to tenure review. The policy allows the extension if a faculty member faces extenuating circumstances that do not require a leave of absence but result in a significant reduction in ability to perform normal duties. The new language lists examples of those circumstances: personal illness, the birth or adoption of a child or care of an ill family member. It also allows for a second extension of the probationary period for a second extenuating circumstance.

Status: The language and policy change have been approved and are in place.

Parental leave time. Under this recommendation, full-time faculty and staff will receive up to six weeks of paid parental leave to allow time to welcome the new addition and focus on the family transition.

Status: Details still are being worked out.

Creation of a total rewards website. This will consolidate and make easier to access information that exists on the Human Resources website about university benefits, discounts and opportunities available strictly to UofL employees. This site also will feature a benefits calculator to help employees quantify the value of the benefits they receive.

Status: The provost allocated $10,000 to fund site implementation. Planning for the site has begun.

Eight efforts to promote the health and well being of employees. Recommendations include establishing year-round fruit and vegetable kiosks on campus; improving the health and wellness website; developing a healthy eating café (with Sodexo); promoting and partnering with area organizations on issues that improve health; and promoting walking, bicycle commuting and increased stair usage to help improve employees’ health. There also are plans for more on-site wellness and fitness programs; a health educator as part of the Get Healthy Now Team; and introduction of a university policy to allow employees paid time during the workday to participate in fitness and wellness opportunities.

Status: The improved wellness website and more on-site health and wellness program and fitness classes are coming in January.

Town Hall meetings each semester on Belknap and Health Sciences campuses. Ramsey, Willihnganz and Larry Cook, executive vice president for health affairs, will be hosts to these meetings. They will give faculty and staff a chance to hear directly from the administration and to ask questions and raise concerns with appropriate university officials.

Status: The first of these meetings will be this fall on Belknap Campus and at the Health Sciences Center.

Annual faculty-staff celebration. This campus-wide event will recognize faculty and staff for their contributions to campus. The first celebration currently is planned for the end of the spring semester.

Status: A committee has been appointed to oversee the event and work out details.

Campus climate surveys. The administration endorsed biannual campus climate surveys to complement the findings of such outside surveys as the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For survey. The first campus climate survey, which combined questions addressing campus climate in general, diversity and gender issues, was conducted last spring.

Status: Results of the first survey will be released in October.

Recommendations still pending more information or further development

Development of a leadership academy. This academy would prepare faculty and staff for higher-level posts.

Status: Willihnganz gave this an enthusiastic response and sent it to Human Resources for further exploration.

Reinvigoration of the employee suggestion program. The employee suggestion program rewards faculty and staff for ideas that save money or improve processes. It has been almost idle for several years.

Status: Willihnganz returned the proposal to the steering committee for more development, particularly for answers on program implementation and funding.  Meanwhile, suggestions still can be submitted.

Standardized employee recognition programs. This suggestion would lead to development of annual recognition programs in each major unit to ensure that faculty and staff throughout campus are honored for their work.

Status: Willihnganz referred this recommendation to HR. HR will develop and present a plan to the steering committee, which will forward it to the provost.

Scheduling fall and winter breaks to coincide with those at Jefferson County Public Schools. This suggestion is problematic because UofL’s schedule is not compatible with that of JCPS. The public schools’ spring break is not until April, less than a month from the end of the UofL semester. In addition, UofL plans its schedule two years in advance to accommodate the Big East Conference schedule, so any changes would take some time to implement.

Status: The administration has agreed to continue to look at this.