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BUCC discusses staff climate survey

Council members meet to address staff environment, receive update on Corporation meeting

The Brown University Community Council discussed the results of a staff climate survey and University concerns about President Donald Trump’s administration at its meeting Tuesday.

The staff climate survey, conducted spring 2016, found that about 50 percent of staff members felt they were not respected by faculty members and do not believe the administration is interested in hearing their ideas and opinions, said Karen Davis, vice president for human resources. The survey otherwise proved generally positive, though there is “no doubt … a cultural issue” with respect, she added.

The results of the survey, broken down by department, were shared with departmental heads, who are working to address concerns, Davis said.

Plans are underway to begin additional qualitative studies, she added. Departmental Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans will also include a response to the survey results.

The survey asked eight questions about the University overall and six similar questions specific to staff members’ individual departments, Davis said. Questions addressed the University work and community environment, specifically asking whether respondents would recommend Brown as an employer.

The response rate for all union and non-union employees was about 52 percent. There was a low response rate from the approximately 600 staff members with union contracts, Davis said. It can be difficult to reach staff paid on an hourly basis because their jobs do not allow for the necessary down-time to respond to a survey, she added.

Challenges facing the human resources department include recruitment and retention of top talent, creation of manageable staff workloads and allotment of time for professional development, Davis said.

Current initiatives to address these challenges include leadership certification programs and a new performance review program, she added.

Before the discussion of staff climate, President Christina Paxson P’19 briefed the BUCC on discussions about the FY18 budget, the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan annual report, progress on the new performing arts center and the new Trump administration’s effect on the University.

Offering a preview of the upcoming release of the DIAP annual report, Paxson said that about 30 percent of new faculty hired last year came from historically underrepresented groups.

More work is needed to address disability, collect additional qualitative data on campus climate and develop consistency in departmental DIAP plans, Paxson added.

Risks posed by the new Trump administration include potentially limited access to research funding for the humanities, arts, climate change and women’s reproductive health, Paxson said. Other related concerns include potential limits to academic freedom and government “regulations that would restrict people’s ability to do their research.”

“I’m just reading the tea leaves,” Paxson said. “No one knows for sure what higher education policy will be under the new administration.”

Briefly discussing the FY18 budget approved at the recent Corporation meeting, Paxson said the decision to allow a $4.8 million budget deficit was made deliberately to allow for increased funds for research and infrastructure while reducing the endowment payout.

Paxson and BUCC members also discussed ensuring high environmental standards for the new performing arts center, as it will replace the Urban Environmental Lab, a space currently known for its sustainable design.

Upcoming renovations for Wilson Hall will begin over the summer, Paxson added. The building will be “gutted completely” and restored with highly-functional classroom spaces and complete accessibility from two entrances, she said.

The next BUCC meeting will occur Mar. 14 in the Kasper Multipurpose Room and is open to the Brown community.


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