January 2014

Jan. 31, 2014 -- Recent weather closure

QUESTION

As a staff member who arrived on campus and worked a full day, it is difficult to see the many co-workers around me receiving full pay (without personal leave deductions) for deciding to stay home when that option was not made available to me.

When will UAF start being proactive and consistent about the safety decisions of all members of the Fairbanks campus?  I understand that UAF is a residential campus; however, I fail to see how many of the administrative and support functions provided by staff are either immediate or necessary enough to warrant placing human lives at risk, especially when academics, our primary function as a university, are suspended for safety.

Many staff members believe that campus remains open because of the cost to the institution in paying administrative leave. Staff members similarly feel that classes are canceled because it does not cost UAF any money to do so, as faculty are truly exempt employees and students are not paid to attend class. Is this the reason that campus remains open?  If so, can UAF be honest with employees about the role of money in the decision?  If there is another reason outside the stock response "UAF is a residential campus" could that be provided as well?

RESPONSE

From Brian Rogers, UAF Chancellor

There were a few questions on the decision to give employees administrative leave if they felt they could not safety come to work on Friday, Jan. 24. 

I appreciate the employees who took the time to share their concerns and want you to know that we take into account many factors when assessing any sort of reduction of services at our campuses. 

After assessing the road and weather conditions, which did not appear to be the same for everyone that morning, the administration instructed employees not to travel to campus unless they could safely do so. Those employees who could come to work safely were asked to do so. Supervisors were instructed to offer flexibility as well.  

While it’s true that canceling classes does not cost money, it is still a serious decision because it reduces the amount of instruction students receive. However, it’s frustrating for students who come to class only to find the faculty member is not able to be there, so if it appears likely that a number of faculty may be absent, classes may be canceled at a particular location, a portion of the day, or across the board.

The decision was consistent with UAF’s emergency closure policy, which takes into account that the Fairbanks campus is nearly a community unto itself. 

Students who live here are our customers and expect services (such as food, library, business functions and even recreation, etc.) to continue to the best of our ability.

These and other functions need to continue if at all possible and it would not be fiscally responsible to grant leave to those employees who could make it to work safely.

Yes, those who felt they could not safety travel to work may have received administrative leave for the day while someone who was able to come to work did not. There are times when a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work and this is one of those instances.

Jan. 31, 2014 -- Alumni office changes

QUESTION

Someone told me there were big changes for the Alumni Office. What is going on?

RESPONSE

From Mike Sfraga, Vice Chancellor for University and Student Advancement

As part of a strategic realignment effort within the division of University and Student Advancement, the UAF Development Office and the UAF Alumni Association and Alumni Relations will be integrated to form a single, unified office known as the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and Institutional Events will be integrated into UAF Marketing and Communications. This merger began Jan. 1, 2014. The new Office of Development and Alumni Relations will better integrate efforts to realize UAF’s strategic philanthropic goals, enhance Alumni outreach efforts, provide critical administrative and program support to Alumni Relations and the UAF Alumni Association, and leverage existing staff and financial resources. The integration of these departments will enable UAF to realize the many opportunities associated with our 100th Anniversary in 2017, and provide the foundation for UAF to build its Alumni Relations program, philanthropic giving and institutional marketing efforts for years to come.

Jan. 30, 2014 -- Terrain park funding

QUESTION

What is the source of funding for the new Extreme Park and how long ago was that funding secured?

RESPONSE 

From Ali Knabe, Student Services, Executive Officer 

Student government (ASUAF) initially invested $50,000 for the terrain park in the fall of 2012. Since then private donations of more than $260,000 have helped support our efforts to enhance the residential experience at UAF. However, the facility is also open to the community. Visit our website for the hours of operation and activities available. http://www.uaf.edu/draw/outdoor-ed-center/nanook-terrain/

 

Jan. 30, 2014 -- UAF wellness program

QUESTION

I am also confused by the recent email about the new UAF Wellness Program. Does it not have a personal coach option any more? Is there an incentive plan like the previous program that allowed us to track our wellness activities and win prizes?

RESPONSE

From Erika Van Flein, UA Human Resources

When we issued the RFP for Wellness Program services, there was a required on-site coaching component. Healthyroads' offer included on-site coaches, the number to be determined by the university. In recent months we've had to look at all programs and services to address the expected budget reduction for the coming fiscal year. Given that the Healthyroads core program offers a comprehensive wellness program with online resources and telephonic coaching, the on-site coaching component was cut by the university.

We will be offering on-site biometric screenings this year, with the incentive of a rebate on your contribution to the health care plan. The screenings, along with completing the Personal Health Assessment (PHA) online at Healthyroads.com, will need to be completed by April 30 to qualify for the rebate beginning in July. More information will be coming soon about the incentive program.

 

Jan. 29, 2014 -- Healthyroads program

QUESTION

I am questioning the message we just received from Erika Van Flein about the new UA Wellness Program. "Welcome to the Healthyroads® Program, provided to employees and spouses/partners enrolled in the UA Choice health plan by the University of Alaska as part of your benefits." This is very disappointing as in the past the UA Wellness benefit with WIN was available to all 'benefit' eligible employees including those who had opted out of health care. Can you please explain this change in the UA Wellness benefit program?
 

RESPONSE

From Erika Van Flein, UA Human Resources

The wellness program is part of the UA Choice health plan. As such, it is partially paid for by employee contributions for health plan coverage. The previous wellness program had a personalized coaching component that drove most of the program cost. That coaching was only available to employees covered by the UA Choice health plan. There were additional services offered by WIN that employees who waived coverage could also use, but the core program was for enrolled employees only. The new program with Healthyroads is also only for employees and their spouses or partners who are enrolled on the plan. We use the same eligibility and enrollment information for Healthyroads that we use for Premera.

Jan. 27, 2014 -- Pita place lines

QUESTION

I am so excited that Pita Place will be back on campus, THANKS DINING SERVICES! When they were here a few days a week a few years ago, extremely long lines were common. Has there been any thought to methods of avoiding them this time?

RESPONSE

From Pamm Zierfuss-Hubbard, Auxiliary, Recharge and Contract Operations

We're excited to offer Pita Place on campus this semester as we know a large number of staff, faculty and students enjoy their falafels during the summer. Dining Services is looking forward to working with this local vendor (and possibly others in the future) to provide food variety on campus. As you know, with the popularity of the Pita Place, there will most likely be lines that form while we try to serve everyone quickly and efficiently. Because the vendor is utilizing our space, we will continuously work with him to keep the lines as short as possible but we can't guarantee there won't be a line during popular times. For now, we recommend that you visit outside the normal lunch rush hour, but still could be a line due to the popularity of his food. The Pita Place will be open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m.–3p.m.

Jan. 27, 2014 -- Budget poster costs

QUESTION

How much did it cost to produce the Budget 101 poster?


RESPONSE

From Julie Queen, Office of Management and Budget

The budget 101 poster was produced entirely in-house using existing UAF graphic design staff time and UAF printing services for production. We printed 25 posters and 75 handouts to help increase awareness about the UAF budget. We will primarily use the infographic online. The total cost for printing was $97. The goal of the piece was to increase understanding of the components of the budget to help the UAF community make informed recommendations for future strategic reduction or investment areas.

Jan. 24, 2014 -- Employee leave time due to weather

QUESTION

I think the Chancellor may have mispoken about the ability for staff to "take administrative" leave. I thought that administrative leave had to be granted centrally.

RESPONSE

Chancellor Rogers did not misspeak. If employees were unable to make it into work due to the weather, work from home, or make other arrangements to make up the work time, they should check with their supervisor Monday morning regarding appropriate leave. UAF Human Resources will be providing instructions to supervisors regarding how to account for the leave.

Jan. 24, 2014 -- Employee leave time due to weather

SUGGESTION

As a relatively new employee Annual Leave is very limited. Correct me if I am wrong, but upon resignation from UAF Annual Leave is paid out and sick time is use or lose. Why couldn't we take half of our sick time and have it rolled into additional personal holidays? There have been a handful of days where inclement weather has shut the campus down to essential personnel only. Staff are forced into using Annual Leave for those days if you are not able to work from home or if your supervisor refuses to approve it. That forces us into calling in sick when we aren't due to the fact that we need a day off and have burned Annual Leave for unexpected time off. I think there should be a better system in place. It sets departments in the University up to have employees call in when they otherwise would not.

RESPONSE

Thank you for your suggestion. It has been forwarded to Pat Pitney, vice chancellor for administrative services.

Jan. 24, 2014 -- Employee leave time due to weather

QUESTION 1

Once again there are life threatening road conditions in Fairbanks, public schools are closed, UAF classes are canceled, but "UAF offices remain open," so staff must either use vacation time rather than be given administrative leave if supervisors will not allow staff release time or to work at home, or choose to attempt to drive in and risk life and limb.  Can someone explain why it is acceptable to treat staff in this manner?

QUESTION 2

I say this as an alumnus and former UAF employee - I am disappointed in UAF's leadership decision to keep all offices open on 1/24/14.  We all understand that UAF is a residential campus, and that there are going to be a number of essential staff, and that a closure creates some accounting issues, but by keeping all offices open, even by telling staff to use their discretion, UAF is sending the message that safety IS NOT a priority.  You'll have managers who feel they need to be there for their employees, and employees who feel the need to be there to show that they are committed to their jobs.  The pressure to come in is much greater than I think some administrators realize, causing staff to take unnecessary risks.  Additionally, some staff members without leave may have to decide between saying safe and forgoing essential pay they need to support their families (the newest and lowest paid staff members would be in this category). 

That's shameful. UAF Leadership needs to come up with a better solution in which it identifies and minimizes essential staff, and it needs to work out the accounting and fiscal issues. Human lives are more important than the inconveniences of coming up with creative budget solutions. 

RESPONSE

From Brian Rogers, UAF Chancellor

Thank you for your feedback. Because UAF is a residential campus, we make every effort to remain open during inclement weather, in part, to serve the hundreds of students who live on the Fairbanks campus.

Safety is a priority as well. We canceled classes because we recognize that students may feel pressured to come to class so they don't miss important material. We took a different approach with our employees, however, and asked them to use their discretion as to whether it’s safe to travel. Employees who can safely travel to work should do so. If employees cannot safely travel to work, and cannot work from home or make alternative arrangements to perform their job, they should claim administrative leave. Supervisors have been instructed to provide flexibility for all employees. 

Allowing employees to work at home is also an option, and for many, helps to alleviate stress by keeping projects moving along.

We’ll be evaluating weather conditions and will provide an update later on this afternoon. For those who are on campus today, please use extra caution when driving or walking, as roads and sidewalks may be very slick.

Jan. 21, 2014 -- Miss Euphoria column in the Sun Star

QUESTION

Why is the Sunstar permitted to publish Miss Euphoria in the printed edition of the paper? The information in that column seems to be the same as what is covered in plastic at the back of newsstands and hidden by "I verify that I am an adult" waivers on websites.

This is a community campus with reading-capable people ranging in age from 5-100 who attend events here. I can only imagine what they think of UAF after picking up a free copy of the Sunstar and seeing Miss Euphoria's advice. 

I'm not trying to squash any first-amendment rights, but this should be a website-only column.

RESPONSE

From Lakeidra Chavis, Sun Star editor

We would first like to thank you for asking about our content. We always appreciate feedback from our readers and encourage it.

The Sun Star is an independent student newspaper at UAF. The content published within the paper is solely dependent on the Editor-in-Chief and his or her editorial staff. Because of our independence, the university cannot tell us what to print or, in some cases, to not print. 

The Miss Euphoria column is a bi-monthly sex column written by a student drag queen on campus. The column is not meant to be taken seriously. For the fall semester, we printed, when space allowed, a disclaimer telling readers that the advice in the column is meant for comedic purposes only. We will print this disclaimer consistently during the spring semester.


When serious questions are submitted, the columnist does answer the questions genuinely and provides accurate information. Most notably is the column that was devoted to LGBT issues on campus. The qualification of what is a serious question, is determined by the columnist.

In response to your concern that contributors will read the Miss Euphoria column and think ill of UAF, it's important to note that there are numerous ways people can access information regarding our campus. The Miss Euphoria column is opinion and only appears on the opinion page. The remainder of our newspaper, except for the leisure page, is filled with accurate and edited news articles held up to high journalistic standards. Our editorial staff continuously discusses the very mature nature of the column. We do not by any means consider the column pornographic.

The Miss Euphoria column adds diversity, which we are always trying to incorporate into our newspaper because we are the student voice of UAF.

Next semester, we are working on better ways to communicate the column’s intentions. We are happy to hear any feedback through letters to the Editor. We do not print anonymous letters. Readers are encouraged to stop by during office hours, which are posted on our office door in the Wood Center located near the student government office.

Our readers, more than anyone, have the most influence on what we print in our newspapers. We provide content that readers not only need to know, but also want to know.

I encourage you to email me at editor@uafsunstar.com or call my office phone 907.474.5078. For a faster response, email is recommended.

Jan. 16, 2014 -- Ticket office hours

QUESTION

Why was the Athletics ticket office open on Thursday, Jan. 2 (a paid holiday) but closed on Friday, Jan. 3, a soft closure date?  Considering the "kids 12 and under free" promotion going on and a home hockey game Jan. 3, it might have been a good idea for someone to be at the office and available to sell tickets.

RESPONSE

From Chris Brooks, UAF Athletics

Thank you for your question. The Patty Center ticket office was only open on Thursday because we had a home men's basketball game at 7 p.m. that night so we all were here to put on the event. On Friday, even though the department had a soft closure, the ticket office was opened from 12:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. when the staff went over to the Carlson Center for the game.

With the ticket office opened all of Thursday and a lot of Friday, many tickets were actually sold despite it being a closure in other areas around the university. Should anyone ever have any questions regarding ticket office hours, please tell them to call 907-474-6665.

Jan 17, 2014 -- Coffee vending machine failures

QUESTION

The coffee machine between Signers' and Eielson frequently fails to dispense a cup before the coffee. Who should be contacted to rectify the situation?

RESPONSE

If a vending machine fails to dispense product, individuals can go to the Office of the Bursar for a refund. You may also Dining Services at  474-6661. They will contact the vendor to fix the machine. 


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