October 2010

Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 -- Loud noise from the power plant

QUESTION

What the heck has changed about the way the power plant runs? Suddenly the smoke stack is much louder. It sounds like the space shuttle taking off. As I sit here in my office in Signers' Hall, it sounds loud. Hopefully this is temporary.

RESPONSE

The loud noise that comes from the power plant is from a boiler steam vent. This happens every time we start and stop a boiler. To start a boiler, we have to vent steam from the boiler as its pressure increases. This is to prevent parts of the boiler from overheating. When we stop the boiler, we vent steam to allow parts of the boiler to cool down. Changes in demand for steam dictate when this happens.

The noise level has remained the same, but we do it more often as the weather changes. When it gets cold at night and warms up in the daytime, we have to vent the steam more often. 

Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010 -- Political ad endorsement

QUESTION

I saw an Joe Miller ad on TV last night with a UAF economics professor endorsing Joe. Does this mean that UAF endorses Joe or just the School of Management or the Economics Dept?


RESPONSE

There was no endorsement from UAF, the UAF School of Management or the Economics Department on the commercial in question. The endorsement was a personal endorsement, which is allowable. Employees on their own time are allowed to express themselves under the First Amendment.

Included below are a couple of FAQs on this topic. Additionally, employees who have questions about what's allowable should review the Partisan Political Activities (pdf) memo distributed Sept. 2, 2010. 

Q: May university employees endorse candidates and identify themselves as university employees?

A: Alaska law recognizes state employee rights to express political opinion (AS 39.25.178). When state employees express their personal opinions they are not prohibited from indicating where they work. The fact that someone is or can be identified as someone who works for the university does not mean that they speak on behalf of the university, or that they may not express their opinion.

Q. Are there limits on partisan activity by university employees?

A. Yes. While engaged on official business, a state employee may not display or distribute partisan political material (AS 39.25.178). In addition, employees may not use university resources, including time, equipment, stationery, etc., with the intent to differentially benefit or harm a candidate, potential candidate, political party or group.

Friday, Oct. 22, 2010 -- Transportation options in Goldstream

QUESTION

In this period of sustainability and bad air in the winter, couldn't UAF start a shuttle that runs the length of Goldstream to pick up students, staff and faculty and bring them to UAF?  I'm certain it would support itself by ridership.

RESPONSE

Currently, the UAF shuttle buses run four fixed routes and two on-call shuttles serving on-campus locations, as well as multiple off-campus UAF locations. The shuttle bus system is funded through parking fees, student transportation fees, as well as a few other sources such as advertising. Adding another route to the current system would mean possibly having to purchase another bus, and even possibly hiring more drivers.

However, there is a new program just starting in the Fairbanks North Star Borough called Van Pool. This is a commuting program operated on a volunteer basis where a person becomes an authorized driver for a 12-passenger van provided by a company called VPSI. The driver picks up passengers within their area and commutes from home to work and back. Each person pays a nominal monthly fee for the transportation.   Each passenger would also split the cost of the fuel, as well as the parking pass. For information on participation, please call 1-800-VAN-RIDE or visit their web site at www.vanride.com.

Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010 -- Blue bins for campus recycling program

QUESTION

Where can one get blue waste(recycle) baskets? We used to have them but some have cracked and have been discarded and we would like to replace them.

RESPONSE

The UAF Office of Sustainability is out of the blue bins currently, but will be getting more in soon. If you need bins, please e-mail sustainabilityoffice@uaf.edu.

 

Friday, Oct. 15, 2010 -- Dependent coverage

QUESTION

A friend of mine heard and asked about a rumor that the university will not comply with new federal health care law and will not offer coverage to 21-26 year-old children of employees who are not in school.

RESPONSE

From Mike Humphrey, UA Human Resources

The university will follow the new federal health care law, but it doesn't take affect for UA until July 1, 2011 when our new health plan renews. The plan will offer employees coverage of 18-25 year-old dependents.

If you have specific questions about your benefits, please contact your HR consultant at UAF Human Resources at 474-7700.

 

Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010 -- Custodial staff and recycling bins

QUESTION

Are the custodial staff emptying all blue office recycling bins into the new recycling dumpsters?  We thought we had to do it ourselves, but have found our office recycling bin empty each morning,
and we just wanted to make sure that paper is making it to the right place.

RESPONSE

Thanks for noticing. Our custodial contractor has indicated that they are willing to be involved in the process and will be servicing and emptying the recycle bins. 

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010 -- UAOnline

QUESTION

Why is the login to UAOnline so insecure? Other UAF account require good passwords (e.g., you're forced to include letters, numbers, caps, etc.). The UAOnline login uses your student ID number (printed on every Polar Express card) and you can create any type of password (e.g., a word in the dictionary). Seems like hacking into the system by brute force.

RESPONSE

From Karl Kowalski, Office of Information Technology

We are currently working on modifying the UAOnline login to the same UAusername/password combination that your other accounts use and can be managed through our Easy Login Maintenance Option (ELMO). We do not have a target date yet as this is a complex change and will take a while to work through our test, prep and production systems before users actually see a change.

IT at the University of Alaska is working to increase the security and privacy of services, including encryption of communications, removing dependencies on personal information like SS# or date of birth, adopting best practices for protecting passwords, and requiring stronger passwords. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed a series of recommendations for good passwords based on the chances of guessing the password by brute force.

UA IT departments have set a goal of meeting the password requirements NIST defined for normal business use. This measure of password strength is enforced by the ELMO interface for setting your UA password: it requires, for example, a minimum of 8 characters and a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Further details about the NIST standards for passwords and levels of assurance are at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-63/SP800-63V1_0_2.pdf


Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010 -- Children in the workplace

QUESTION

I know UAF has a policy on children in the work place. In the policy it states "the supervisor may approve them in the workplace." why? Isn't that a huge safety issue? And how come it only applies to "some" and not all? I see infants at meetings, in offices etc.... Including nursing, sleeping, changing diapers and the employees holding them talking to others. UAF needs to school supervisors on the policy and have them adhear to it.

RESPONSE

From Kris Racina, UAF Human Resources

The risk management guidelines located at http://www.alaska.edu/risksafety/download/MinorsOnCampus.pdf are very comprehensive regarding risk assessment and conditions under which minors can be present in the workplace. UAF recognizes that due to life events, our employees may occasionally have to bring children with them to the workplace and we want to be accommodating where the need is short term and unavoidable. The guidelines apply to all employees and to our campus as a whole.

If you have witnessed minors in the workplace that cause you concern--either due to the risk of injury or more than a short-term disruption--please raise those events with an appropriate administrator. Though we have campus guidelines on minors at work, not all employees, supervisors or administrators may be aware of the guidelines or immediately cognizant of risk or workplace disruption. This grapevine submission has caused us to consider disseminating the guidelines so we increase awareness.  Thanks for raising this issue.

Tuesday, Oct., 2010 -- Executive officer position at UAF

QUESTION

The vice chancellor's salaries were listed in an earlier grapevine submission. What about Bob Shefchik's Executive Officer position?  How much is his salary and is it still term funded? In this time of pullbacks, is it necessary to have vice chancellors and a duplicative position such as the executive officers?  If this is not a duplicative position, then what exactly does the executive officer do for the university?  

RESPONSE

The executive officer in the Chancellor's Office is term funded at $138,370 annually. The executive officer provides oversight for several short and long-term initiatives within the Chancellor's Office. This position serves as a senior level advisor/manager to the chancellor and the Chancellor's Cabinet and provides project leadership and strategic support to the chancellor. The executive officer also serves as a liaison between the Chancellor's Office and the community and state officials and organizations. 

Each of UAF's vice chancellors has specific areas of responsibilities that take up the majority of their time. The executive officer doesn't duplicate their work, but provides both coordinated and specific support to the chancellor and other areas as needed. For instance, the current executive officer, Bob Shefchik, is providing supervision of the research enterprise until the new vice chancellor for research comes on board.

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