2016 Town Hall Report (formerly called the Rumor Mill)

Staff Council Town Hall with President’s Cabinet

Question and Answer Session

June 14, 2016

1. Can you be more specific about the workforce planning committee and program?

The Workforce Planning Committee is made up of members of the Cabinet, staff council, HR and select administrative leaders who are designing and implementing a workforce planning process that is aligned with the College’s strategic plan. The Workforce Planning Process is part of the College’s Strategic Planning Priorities focusing on affordability and cost management, and provides an opportunity to repurpose, refocus, and reassess active and inactive staff vacancies, a more disciplined and consistent approach to workforce management, an opportunity to reduce costs through attrition and planned vacancy management, and an opportunity to save the College approximately $2+M in staff salary and benefits expenditures. HR will be communicating more about the Workforce Planning process via the campus bulletin and present an update at a future Staff Council meeting. 

2. We’ve heard that the library is a part of the centerpiece of the annual giving campaign. We are excited and would like to hear a short answer from the cabinet about how we can work together to succeed.

The Library & Learning Commons will be the capstone capital project of the College’s comprehensive campaign. SMC community members can direct personal gifts to the Library & Learning Commons; the stronger participation we have at a staff/faculty/leadership level, the greater respect and consideration we will earn from potential institutional funders. Gifts of all sizes will have great impact. Faculty and staff can also share prospective leads, such as individuals with resources who may be interested in the facility. We encourage community members with leads to connect with the Advancement Office at (925) 631-4328, where they can also become more familiar with the Library & Learning Commons project and our larger campaign efforts. The more you know about our goals and the larger context, the more informed and strategic your support can be.

3. What will be the salary increase for staff this upcoming year?

The staff salary increase will be 2% across the board effective 7/1/2016 for staff that are between the minimum and the maximum of their salary grade. Staff members who exceed the maximum of their grade will receive a 1% lump sum.

4. When will the findings of the campus climate survey be shared and what are some of the initial themes that arise from the findings?

A summary of key themes from the campus climate survey will be shared at staff and faculty day on August 15, with more comprehensive results available later this fall. 

5. How can we get more campus-wide buy-in for Shared Mission events?

The Staff Council and HR are working with the Office of Mission and the President’s Office to ensure supervisors afford staff employees support for mission-related events.

6. What is the purpose of Community Time and where is it in the list of campus priorities?

“Community” is a constitutive element of our Lasallian Catholic heritage. Community Time (CT) is a priority for SMC that was created to help build a more vibrant SMC community. However, the reality of implementing the concept of CT posed a significant challenge—course scheduling had to be completely revamped to free up a common meeting time. It was challenging, but it worked!

Launched in 2007, CT was endorsed by the faculty, staff, and students. Guidelines were created and four CT dates were named shared mission events and one a semester was designated a student-created event. There was agreement that no other meetings, events or activities were to be scheduled during those six specially designated CT dates.

Over time, CT has evolved into a time that is most convenient for departmental and office meetings to take place and for make-up classes to be held. The Academic Senate now meets during CT.

The Deans and Directors Committee studied the purpose and use of CT and found that the students were the most enthusiastic about CT. The Deans and Directors recommended that we should take a deeper look into the purposes and use of CT.

The Office of Mission accepted the invitation and responsibility for naming and convening a Community Time Steering Committee in AY 2016-17. The CT Steering Committee will be charged with creating a CT proposal to include guidelines and policies that will govern CT. Staff Council, Academic Senate, Associated Students and the Cabinet will vet the proposal. Upon final endorsement, the purpose and policies governing CT will be widely disseminated.

Community Time is an SMC priority and has potential of strengthening our academic, social, aesthetic, spiritual and inclusive community.

7. Will the one-way traffic scenario be implemented in the fall?

Striping for parallel parking using a one-way traffic scenario has been studied, sampled, and priced. Implementation will require approval from local agencies; e.g. Fire Department, in addition to our own Public Safety. Sizing and use of the roadway will factor into the amount of spaces that can be garnered; initial calculations yield a maximum of 70 spaces. A traffic engineering study will be needed to determine whether we have sufficient space to accomplish all uses safely: vehicular, emergency access, pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Given these requirements, fall implementation is unlikely. In the meantime, we will continue to leverage options which are less invasive to ensure that all possible parking is unencumbered and striped for maximum efficiency. This activity should yield over 50 spaces, and does not require permit application/approval.

8. What is the status of the 60-day hold for hiring a new employee? How long will this be enacted for?

The 60-day hold period for staff vacancies was recommended by the Workforce Planning Taskforce and approved by the Cabinet January 1, 2016. The goal of the hold period is to save the College $2.0 million dollars in staff vacancy salary and benefit expenditures in FY15-16 and in FY16-17. We are not sure how much longer the hold period will be in place, but likely for several more years.

9. With enrollment fluctuations, how are salary changes determined among the various groups across campus: faculty, staff, etc?

The College Budget Committee reviews ongoing enrollment, revenue, and expense projections and actuals on a regular basis. Recommendations on faculty and staff salaries along with other college expenses are determined based on the overall revenue and expense projections.

10. How is the college planning to respond to the changes in educational technology?

Our plans moving forward build on our emphasis to provide a stable technology infrastructure while encouraging and supporting faculty use of the most appropriate and effective pedagogies for our students. This includes classroom upgrades, such as the ones that are happening this summer, new faculty driven course development and greater support of individual faculty technology needs. Though we don’t anticipate developing completely online degrees at the graduate or undergraduate level, we do consider student success in completing online instruction to be an important part of digital literacy.

11. How do we shift from being primarily tuition-driven for funding to having other major funding sources?  

Being a tuition-driven institution is certainly typical for the great majority of private colleges and universities. Providing additional funding sources requires a significant growth in our endowment while also increasing annual unrestricted support. We’ve made solid progress in growing unrestricted donor support this past year and are committed to growing our endowment through outright gifts as well as through our planned giving efforts. Legacy gifts derived from planned giving efforts are typically directed to endowment and can have a significant impact over time.

12. What should the staff be aware of this upcoming year in terms of parking? Are there going to be fees for parking?

Fee-based parking was a condition of the Town of Moraga’s Planning Commission approval to build the Rec Center. While the original goal was to implement fee-based parking in 2015, the conditions for which the fees would be levied (e.g. construction of a new parking structure) were not met, and the program has not yet been implemented. Increased scrutiny and regulatory controls will continue to be implemented by the Town until this condition is satisfied.

Saint Mary’s will need to demonstrate its ability to accomplish this goal in 2017. To this end, an engagement process was initiated with Walker Parking Consultants in 2015-16, to examine the costs of supporting parking, alternative methods of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) and supplemental parking options. The result was published in the Campus Bulletin on May 12, 2016 and it communicated the CFPC consensus to focus on and support alternative ways travel to and from the campus and to make alternative transportation programs and parking a campus auxiliary, fully funding itself with user fees. Fee-based parking programs and alternative transportation programs will go into effect beginning July, 2017; and only to those who use the parking resource. Continued engagement, survey, and proposals for implementation will resume in September, 2016.

13. Will there be changes to the pension plan in regard to the College's contributions?

There are currently no plans to change the College’s retirement contributions.

14. What updates do you have regarding the status of the Chief Diversity Officer position and our progress on addressing diversity and inclusion?

This question really asked about the status of the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) as part-time rather than full-time and whether we have plans to make this a permanent, full-time position for which we have launched a national search. We continue to seek budgetary support to build this position into a full-time one while being sensitive to concerns about the creation of new administrative positions. We are fortunate to be able to draw on the interest and expertise of SEBA Professor Tomas Gomez Arias to serve as the inaugural CDO, while also performing other duties for the College. The speed at which we can convert this position to a full-time one will depend on our ability to secure funding for it and related strategic plan priorities.

The College Committee for Inclusive Excellence (CCIE) under the leadership of our Provost and CDO has put an aggressive plan in place to assist the College improve inclusive excellence programs. In addition the President has outlined several key goals for FY16-17 in this critically important area.

15. Can you speak to the recent change by Moody’s in its rating of the College?

The College’s Moody's rating remains at “Baa1.” However, Moody’s did change its outlook for the College from “stable” to “negative,” due to challenges that include a high level of dependency on student revenue, a modest decline in total enrollment levels over the last three years, slowing growth in total net tuition revenue, operating performance margins that are narrowing, shrinking levels of liquidity, and the College’s debt structure, that includes variable rate bonds that are hedged with an interest rate swap agreement. Moody’s did not change the College’s “Baa1” rating as it recognizes the College’s solid cash and investments position, its proactive budget and debt management, its established regional reputation, and its attractive San Francisco Bay Area location.

It is significant to note that Moody’s has invited the College to address its challenges and to regain a positive outlook; which would entail meeting or exceeding short and long-term enrollment, net tuition revenue, and financial management objectives. It is also significant to note that the challenges outlined by Moody’s were anticipated in the College’s strategic plan and will therefore continue to be addressed as the plan is implemented in the year and years to ahead.

16. What is the five-year enrollment plan for the College? 

The five-year enrollment plan is a deliverable under Goal 6 of the College’s new strategic plan. The purpose of the five-year enrollment plan is to develop goals, strategies and action plans in order to meet the College’s new student enrollment, retention and graduation targets for traditional undergraduate, graduate and professional studies students.

17. In light of ongoing positions being placed on hold, and increased attrition, what are we doing to ensure staff are not being asked to do more with less resources?

Thankfully, we haven’t lost many positions due to attrition, and ideally the hold periods enable us to take the time to consider the most important functions of positions that have been vacated. Obviously we can’t ask people to always add to their duties; sometimes we need to refocus priorities based on the changing needs of the College. So, ideally, we’ve been having some meaningful conversations between employees and their supervisors about both their essential duties and other things we might be able to stop doing.

One suggested process for staff supervisors is to engage their staff in a start, stop and continue facilitated dialogue exercise. This is usually performed best as part of a staff meeting or staff retreat. By engaging in this conversation we can help staff focus their work on the top 5-7 key priorities and align staff resources to support what is truly important. Recommend agreements on what to focus on (start and continue) is documented and shared with staff. It is also important to document what the staff has agreed to stop doing as well.

During the 60-day hold period, supervisors are encouraged to look to staff who may have some bandwidth and assign some appropriate duties to help facilitate professional development. This is also a way to consider alternatives like outsourcing and or repositioning/repurposing staff vacancies. 

18. What is the College doing to ensure Saint Mary’s is a destination of choice (24/7 campus) for students?

This summer, we launched an app called Guidebook, which provides the student with information and announcements from key offices of Student Life. As an example, New Student and Family Programs has one guidebook that provides first-year students with timely information on FYE programs, locations of resources and push notifications for events.

IT Services is developing a College app that will extend for students their portal functions to a mobile device. 

Student organizations now have access to an expanded online tool that will allow students to see program calendars and allow student organizations to push out notifications about upcoming events.

Dryden Hall is currently being reviewed for a renovation that will create a more student-friendly space. The planned renovation will offer a living room feel, comfortable seating and an entertainment space, featuring a stage with improved lighting and sound. The new design includes spaces for retail opportunities. The reboot is intended to make Dryden Hall a 24/7 destination.

Student Life is also planning to pilot Saturday food trucks that would be attractive to undergraduates and graduate/professional students who spend time on campus during reduced hours of Oliver Hall and Café Louis.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is continuing to explore having Saturday hours available for student sessions. Last year, they expanded their services to graduate and professional students. Saturday hours will provide additional opportunities for grad students when they are typically on campus.

19. What is the College doing with our newly formed Office of Research?

The mission of the Office of Research is to promote, fund, and recognize research, scholarship, and creative activity at the College. To support this mission, the OR plans in 2016-2017 to collaborate with other campus units to expand and promote awareness of resources that support faculty scholarship, with the following goals: 

  • Increase production of applications by faculty for external funding.
  • Increase the number of external funding awards.
  • Increase self-reporting by faculty of their scholarship and its products.
  • Increase external recognition of faculty scholarship. 
  • More effectively manage and report data related to research activities, funding applications, and awards.

To reach these goals, the OR is planning to do this year the following action items:

  • Collaborate with department chairs, the Provost's Council of Deans, Advancement, and Business Office to share information about how to pursue external funding.
  • The OR's webpage will provide more information on selected funding opportunities and how to identify additional opportunities. The selected list includes opportunities that are likely to be the most fruitful for our faculty.
  • The OR's webpage will also streamline, clarify, and post processes that empower faculty to take self-directed action to pursue external funding.
  • Collaborate with the Center for Teaching, Learning & Scholarship to provide grant proposal development workshops—one each, fall and spring—to help faculty to increase their skill in seeking external funding.
  • Provide office hours once a week. 
  • Encourage, promote, strategize and otherwise support faculty in the development and submission of  proposals for external funding.
  • Provide guidance on effective proposal preparation to insure that Saint Mary’s faculty submit high-quality, competitive applications.
  • Collaborate with the Provost’s Council of Deans to identify strategies to increase faculty participation in external funding applications.
  • Guide decision-makers regarding promising funding opportunities so that the college is investing its resources in the most competitive applications
  • Lead proposal development for large institutional projects involving multiple units, such as the U.S. Education Department Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions program
  • Collaborate with the Business Office and Information Technology Services to identify and implement a data management system for use in tracking and reporting on sponsored research funding applications and awards.
  • Collaborate with the Library and Office of College Communications to develop user-friendly systems for faculty to self-report their scholarship.
  • Collaborate with the Office of College Communications to raise awareness of individual research activities as well as faculty research activity viewed as a whole.
  • Collaborate with the Library and the Center for Teaching, Learning, & Scholarship to prepare and publish the Saint Mary’s 2016 Report on Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity.