On Nov. 20, the Employee Assembly (EA) met with President David Skorton and Vice President for Human Resources and Safety Services Mary Opperman to talk about participation in the self-governance process, government funding, and diversity and inclusion. Each year the EA sits down with David and Mary to discuss issues that affect the staff and Cornell community, keeping the administration informed about matters important to staff.
The first issue of concern was improving employee engagement in the self-governance process. David and Mary support the shared governing process and listened to the difficulties the EA has had engaging the staff to not only run for EA positions but to also participate in committees that directly help Cornell staff, because it is hard for new members to commit the amount of time needed. To help overcome these difficulties, David and Mary will support two communications – one addressing the leadership support of deans, directors and supervisors for staff assuming shared governance roles across the university and one to the entire staff regarding the importance of shared governance. The EA also pointed out that recording time for serving on the EA complicates the volunteering of nonexempt staff; while a policy is in place for how staff should record time spent on shared governance matters, that process needs to be clarified and made more visible.
The next topic of discussion was government funding and how Cornell staff could be affected if a federal budget deal is not made before additional sequestration takes place. David and Mary acknowledged that the sequestration could have an effect here at Cornell with certain NIH or medical grants, funding or some student aid. They could not give a clear-cut answer, because of the uncertainty of whether a budget deal is reached and the indirect impact the sequestration would have. Everyone agreed, however, that they hope the funding will remain intact.
The last point of discussion was diversity and Inclusion for staff. As part of the Toward New Destinations initiative, individual divisions are creating robust goals and reporting their progress to the University Diversity Council. The EA asked how the administration ensures that these goals are sufficiently robust. David noted that this will be the first year since implementation that they will have a chance to review how divisions have progressed and how the initiative is working across campus. Mary said that the attention to diversity is now shifting to inclusiveness and the campus climate as a whole. Also noted: the class of 2017 is the most diverse student body Cornell has had.
The EA always has a productive meeting with David and Mary. Keeping everyone informed is an important part of the shared governance function and always helps to improve the tone and the pace at which things improve in the Cornell community.
Eric Lee is a medical technologist for the College of Veterinary Medicine and chair of the Communications Committee of the EA.