September 2013

Sept. 25, 2013 -- Signers' Hall restrooms update

QUESTION

The single person stall bathrooms on the first floor of Signers' Hall really need a vacant/occupied deadbolt lock. The only way to know if someone is in there is to yank on the handle and the door is either locked or not. It is an awkward situation on both sides of the door. If the deadbolt was installed, it would easily indicate "Vacant" when empty and "Occupied" when someone is using it.

Also, do those bathrooms get cleaned very often?  They are very grimy looking.  

RESPONSE

From Marianne Freelong, Facilities Services

Thank you for your suggestion. Facilities Services has submitted a work order to install the "occupied/vacant" slide locks on both bathroom doors in Signers' Hall and custodial services has been asked to do a thorough clearning of the bathrooms.

To expedite requests about facilities, please contact dispatch directly at 474-7000 or send an email to dispatch@fs.uaf.edu.

QUESTION #2
Hello!  just happened to stumble upon a post in the Grapevine regarding Signer’s Hall Bathrooms from June of 2013. This is a GREAT idea! Is there an update?

RESPONSE  #2

The restrooms should have been cleaned. Regarding the occupied/vacant slide locks, the work order is in, but due to a shortage of carpenters this summer, it is not yet completed. It will likely be a few more weeks.



Sept. 24, 2013 -- Signers' Hall parking lot

QUESTION

What is the situation with the Signers' Hall parking lot? It would have been nice to have some warning about that since we often have to direct guests to that lot for business with our office.

RESPONSE

The decision to add more short-term metered parking spaces was made late construction season. Facilties Services was able to do it because they had contractors already on site for paving. The project is still on schedule and is expected to be completed by the end of the week if the weather is good. We will be sure to provide information to the building coordinator for Signers' Hall should anything change.

The information was added to a construction update which was sent campuswide Sept. 16. It included a memo from Scott Bell, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Services, with a wrap up of the busy season and included the following excerpt:

"We’ve decided to add some metered parking to the parking lot in front of Signers’ Hall to accommodate visitors to campus and have added two additional accessible parking spaces. They will be available by the end of the month. "

If you did not receive this Construction update, you might want to check your spam folder. It would have come from the UAF Cornerstone and was send to the campus wide list serve UAF-Staff-L or UAF-Faculty-L.

  

Sept. 24, 2013 -- Grapevine current

QUESTION

Thank you for doing a better job of keeping The Grapevine current. For a while there, it seemed nobody was responding to the questions for large expanses of time. For the most part, I find the answers useful and informative. For example, I've worked here 26 years and never knew what the rules were for the staff discount at the Bookstore!

RESPONSE

Michelle Renfrew, director, Marketing and Communications

Thank you for your feedback. The Grapevine is a great way for staff, faculty, students, alumni and others to make suggestions and ask questions. We've made a few changes in our process to help keep it updated. Part of the reason you're seeing the site updated more regularly is that there have been more questions submitted to the Grapevine since the semester began.

In addtion, many UAF departments help to keep the site current. Marketing and Communications doesn't always have answers and relies on others to help us provide accurate responses. The best responses are when staff, faculty or students have alerted us to an issue, it's resolved quickly and noted in the response.

Sept. 23, 2013 -- Open walkways due to construction

QUESTION

I love all the new construction on campus but why is there NO walk way? I can't get to my class in Chapman nor get to Outdoor Adventures, LIVE, Honors, or Student Activities without it being a hassle. Please put a designated walkway in for students and staff!

RESPONSE

Jenny Campbell, Facilities Services project manager

The walkway between the construction site and the  Chapman building will be opened within the next few weeks. We had planned to open it up before classes started, however the rain made the site so muddy we couldn't get things in place.The same goes for the walk up to the offices on Copper Lane. It will be opened up again now that the temporary fire lane is completed.

Sept. 20, 2013 -- Marketing strategy focused on fun

COMMENT

Having just come from the Chancellor's Convocation I was extremely disappointed that our market strategy seems to be focused on students having fun (athletics, outdoor recreation, etc.) rather than in getting a great education. Have we forgotten why we are a university? Our core themes are to educate, research, prepare, connect, engage. I don't see anything about snow boarding, ice-climbing, etc. I really believe we are sending the wrong message to the students we are hoping to attract. (Getting an great education is secondary to having a good time.)

RESPONSE

Michelle Renfrew, director, Marketing and Communications

Thank you for your feedback. The video shown at convocation was developed to show what the UAF experience can mean to our students. The purpose was to underscore our welcoming community and sense of pride.

The video will not be replacing our other research and academic marketing materials, but will augment them. We know from our brand research that in addition to information about our academic programs, new and prospective students want more information about student life and the type of community they will find if they choose to come to UAF.

This element of kinship and fun doesn’t take away from the rest of our brand strategy, which focuses on the unique (and affordable) academic opportunities offered to students primarily because of our location in the Far North. Nor does it take away from the fact that we’re Alaska's research university.

We recognize that some of the most inspiring activities at our university take place in the classroom, the teaching labs and, many times, the natural laboratories of Alaska.

We thought the video was a good balance to the rest of the presentation and a reminder that we’re here to serve our students. We believe their enthusiasm and energy can be contagious and inspiring and we hope others do too!

Sept. 19, 2013 -- Bookstore discount

QUESTION

I went to the bookstore last week and bought an item that was marked as on sale 25 percent off. I alerted the cashier that I was staff for the 10 percent and ran into some issues.

1. I signed for my discount [can't read my name], not sure if my name was taken down, and I did not provide my ID#. Is this the normal verification for the discount? Someone else didn't even sign and received the discount.

 2. My item did not ring up on sale, and I had to alert the cashier to this. Do the registers not have functionality for sale prices? I alerted others that they may not have received the sale price. If so, do the cashiers receive a list at every shift [or when changes occur] for sales, so to insure that everyone is treated fairly?

3. Was told to pick my discount, that one discount could apply [sale VS staff]. Does this mean that all "sale prices" are actually discounts and not sales? This sale sign did not note that this excluded staff discount [but did list other exclusions.]

4. When I talk to other staff members they are unaware that we as staff are eligible for the 10 percent discount. Is there a brochure for this, where if #3 is true, this could be explained? [Along with item eligibility.] Why isn't the staff discount displayed/marketed anywhere in the bookstore? I've been at the university for almost 10 years now, and maybe I just didn't get the notice.

That all said, the staff was very nice and professional about the issues I ran into.

Thank you for looking into this. I greatly appreciate it.

RESPONSE

Becky Phillips, Customer Service Coordinator, Bookstore

Thank you for your questions. If you are unclear on this issue, I am sure others are too. 
 
Faculty and staff receive a 10 percent discount on all purchases over $1.00, excluding textbooks, sale merchandise and academically discounted software. These discount terms are part of the agreement between Follett and UAF. Because the item that you were purchasing was on sale, it was not eligible for the staff discount.
 
It is our policy to ask for a PolarExpress ID when giving a staff or faculty discount, and to ask that the individual receiving the discount sign for it. We have many regular customers, and our cashiers often come to know who is staff or faculty, but they should follow policy with every customer.  We will retrain our staff on this process to be sure that everyone is signing for their discount.
 
Our registers do generally capture discounted prices, but our system does not work perfectly at all times.  When glitches occur discounts must sometimes be taken manually.  We do brief our associates regarding ongoing sales, but if they miss an item that you feel should be discounted, please let us know.  We welcome the opportunity to correct any mistake we may have made.

Historically the discount hasn't been advertised, but we are looking at ways to do targeted marketing to let faculty and staff know about the discount.
 
Thank you again for the opportunity to address your questions.

Sept. 19, 2013 -- Climbing wall usage

QUESTION

Are there any usage statistics for the rock/ice climbing wall outside the SRC?  I assume that access is currently restricted due to surrounding construction, but even prior to the start of the construction the climbing wall didn't appear to have many (any?) users.

RESPONSE

Mark Oldmixon, Department of Recreation and Wellness

The ice tower was open from Dec. 5, 2012 through April 20, 2013, four nights a week. We were not open during the university holiday closure or when temps were below -20 F. We served more than 400 day users this past winter, although many of those are repeat customers. In addition to the day users, we also used the wall for two academic classes and multiple special events. Including Junior Nationals Awards Dinner, Winter Carnival and the first UAF Ice Climbing competition.

The rock climbing wall has been effected by two seasons of construction. Despite construction, the wall has stayed open for public use, three nights a week if it’s not raining. This summer we had great success with offering summer camps for children ages 9 to 13. The campers used the wall each week. We have also served a number of school groups, camps and specialized training courses. 

Construction has wrapped up and grass planted allowing for an excellent recreation field next season. We’re just getting started and plan to advertise throughout the year.

The climbing wall was funded by private sources and ASUAF. Please visit our website for more information.

Sept. 18, 2013 -- Wellness program

QUESTION

My response to this email that was sent out to everyone.

"The wellness program committee formed to evaluate proposals considered many factors to determine which vendor offered the best value to the University and its employees, including numerous essential program requirements such as biometric screenings, face-to-face counseling for high-risk individuals, and onsite as well as online services." 

WIN already provides all these services splendidly! Staff have established, trusting relationships with the counselors. Is it about money? Do staff have a say? I emailed Erika Van Flein asking how staff can weigh in on this issue but received no response. I hope this isn't the fist step in dismantling a wellness program altogether. It is my understanding that the largest group of university employees that take advantage of this health benefit are non-represented staff - are any staff on the committee that decides what happens to this program? Just curious.

RESPONSE

Erika Van Flein, UA Human Resources

The affordability of our wellness programs is always a consideration. Staff were given the opportunity to weigh in through the Staff Health Care Committee and the Joint Health Care Committee well before the request for proposals was released, and the evaluation committee was all staff except for one member. The university has a vested interest in keeping our healthcare costs manageable. If our wellness programs are cost effective then it would be in the university's best interest to continue to have them. That said, we may need to switch providers to achieve that cost benefit.

Sept. 18, 2013 -- Custodial services

QUESTION

UAF should really rethink who they choose for the buildings cleaning contract. Half the time I dump my own garbage. There are often no paper towels or toilet paper in the bathrooms. The company who supposedly provides these services does a very poor job. We should not have to call and remind them all the time. The low bid isn't a good deal if they fail to provide the service.

RESPONSE

Thank you for letting us know about your experience. We've received few complaints about the services provided by the contractor.You can also see the weekly cleaning schedule for your building and floor online.

There are likely to be minor issues from time-to-time, but if there's an ongoing problem with the service in your area, it's good to let us know. The best way to address the custodial issue is for you to work with your building coordinator or contact Facilities Services directly at 474-7000, so we can address the specifics with the contractor.

Sept. 17, 2013 -- University soft and hard closure

QUESTION

Why is there no hard closure this year for the  Christmas holiday?

RESPONSE

In addition to the paid holidays (Dec. 25-26 and Jan. 1-2), this academic year’s university closure will be Dec. 27, 30, and 31, 2013.

We encourage you to allow your employees to take leave during this period. Departments with essential employees are exempt from the university closure.

The soft closure this academic year is limited toJan. 3, 2014. However, that date is also the beginning of Wintermester, so offices providing direct services to students should remain reasonably staffed.

All employees are encouraged to participate in the soft closure on Jan. 3. However there may NOT be forced leave. Employees may choose to work even if the department is closed, or take annual leave or leave without pay. Holiday pay for those eligible will not be affected regardless of the type of leave taken.

Employees should be aware that retirement eligibility (PERS and TRS) may be affected if your leave without pay exceeds ten 10 days in a calendar year.

Once the business hours for a department have been determined and announced by the supervisor, employees should coordinate with their supervisor regarding leave options and schedules.

Departments that have circumstances requiring employees to work during the holiday closure (Dec. 27, 30 and 31) should notify UAF Human Resources before Dec. 17.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Human Resources at 474-7700.

Sept. 16, 2013 -- Dining at Wood Center

QUESTION

I recently had rude interactions with some of the staff in the dining facilities in the Wood Center. I went to Construction Taco for the first time and had an extremely unpleasant experience.

My concern is that this is only the first full week of school, and they have only been open for a week. While the service I received at the register was great, when I pointed out that I had not received what I had ordered, I was met with hostility, rudeness, and just plain bad customer service. I understand that this is a new dining option and mistakes will be made as employees learn the new menus, but I believe that the service still needs to be great. Students grabbing food in between classes do not need to be treated so poorly, especially when they make a point to be polite and respectful to those working. I'm worried that this issue will continue to present itself, especially as the semester goes on and more students begin visiting Construction Taco.

RESPONSE

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

Thanks for informing us of your less than stellar experience with Taco Construction. Your experience is not how UAF administration expects students to be treated when they order food at any of the establishments on campus. Your complaint has been forwarded to the general manager and the staff person you spoke with has been identified and will participate in customer service training to ensure this never happens again.

At each of the dining facilities, we have a bulletin board where individuals can post both complaints and compliments. In addition, we encourage students to speak directly with dining facility staff members to ensure that their concerns are immediately handled. Each of these methods will ensure that any complaints (and compliments) will be tended to immediately and resolved in an expeditious manner.

Sept. 16, 2013 -- Chicken strips and popcorn chicken

QUESTION

Why were popcorn chicken and chicken strips removed from the grill menu at the Wood Center?

RESPONSE

At the start of the semester when the menu boards were updated, popcorn chicken and chicken strips were inadvertently omitted from the menu. This has since been rectified. Thanks for letting us know!

Sept. 11, 2013 -- Tech Fest information

QUESTION

When will more info about Tech Fest be put up on the OIT website?

RESPONSE

Thank you for your interest. Some information about Tech Fest, which will take place Oct. 10 – 11, is currently available online. The schedule of sessions will be available starting Sept. 20, 2013.

Registration for gaming is available here.

Sept. 11, 2013 -- Pet insurance coverage

QUESTION

I have no children, but I have two dogs, whom I love as much in my own way. One of my dogs recently was diagnosed with a condition that will constitute HUGE upfront and ongoing out-of-pocket expenses. Veterinary care can be very expensive. I hear some other companies in the U.S. offer Pet insurance with their health care plans. Has UA considered adding Pet insurance in the UA Choice package?

RESPONSE

Erika Van Flein, UA Human Resources

Pet insurance is a popular element of a benefit package usually called voluntary benefits. It's usually coupled with other options, such as group auto insurance, homeowners' insurance, long-term care and other products. UA has looked at this off and on over the years, but has so far not decided to implement a voluntary benefit package. This hasn't been something employees have been requesting though, and given the administrative and system demands to implement such a program, so far the university has decided not to do so.

 

Sept. 10, 2013 -- Parking on campus

QUESTION

It is parking lot madness at UAF! I know that space is an issue on campus, especially with on-going construction, however, I feel that UAF needs to provide adequate parking for students, staff and faculty. I would like to suggest that part (or all) of the Nenana lot be dedicated to staff only. I get here in the morning and get a decent spot because I get to work on time or early. If I have to leave for lunch it is total chaos getting back in. Then I have to spend an extra 5 - 10 minutes of my precious lunch break scrambling for a spot, only to park in the mud and have to get out on a four inch deep puddle. If I wanted a mud bath I would go to a spa or go hiking, not come to work. Now I get to spend the rest of my day with my shoes covered in mud after a shortened lunch hour because of parking, then do it again when I leave at 5 p.m. If there is room on campus in classrooms, offices, dorms, etc., for all of these people then there should be parking available for the same amount of people.

RESPONSE

The beginning of the semester is always a hectic time on campus and the additional construction this year adds to the challenges many staff and students have experienced. Students still have things to take care of with various departments on campus before they can settle into their typical semester routine.

As the semester progresses things should calm down and become more predictable. In the meantime you might explore alternate parking lots (such as Taku) and use the campus shuttle. Facilities Services will be adding additional metered spaces to the Signers’ Hall parking lot soon, allowing students to park there for short-term business, thereby relieving some of the pressure on the other lots.

Facilities Services agreed to take a look at the lot and make improvements where possible.

 

Sept. 9, 2013 -- Supervisor and subordinate pay

QUESTION

Is there a required pay grade difference between supervisor and supervisee? I assume they can't be the same grade, but what is the rule?

RESPONSE

Tara L. Ferguson, UA compensation director

A supervisor and subordinate can be in the same grade. It just depends on their positions and role, etc.  We recommend that the supervisor receive a higher salary than the subordinate if it comes to them being in the same grade.

Sept. 9, 2013 -- Hooks and horizontal spaces in washrooms

QUESTION

Please install more hooks and horizontal surfaces in washrooms. I have seen students walk in with backpacks and parkas, and have no place to put them but on the floors. Just today, I saw that all the hooks in stalls in a Bunnell Building restroom had been removed, so I put my own satchel on the radiator.

I know construction is taking priority at many places on campus, and this will probably not be speedily remedied, but I'm happy to know it is "on the list."

RESPONSE

Thank you for your suggestion. A workorder has been submitted for this request.

Sept. 5, 2013 -- Naturally inspiring punctuation

QUESTION

Why is there a period at the end of the tagline Naturally Inspiring?  A period would infer a sentence and naturally inspiring by itself is not a sentence. 

If this is just a marketing ploy to try and drive home a point, it misses the mark.  For example, if marketing is effective, it should not need a ploy - the message should stand alone.  The inaccurate sentence structure doesn't seem consistent with an institution of higher learning, especially when we are awarding baccalaureate and graduate degrees in english. 

RESPONSE

The period at the end of "Naturally Inspiring." is a style choice employed for emphasis. Marketing taglines commonly flout conventional rules of punctuation, spelling and grammar. Think "Got milk?" or Fisher-Price Toys' "play. laugh. grow." (Some versions don't even have a space between play, laugh and grow.) "Active Minds Changing Lives" and "World Class. Face to Face." are taglines used by two of UAF's competitors that the skirt the rules of regular writing precisely because they are used in advertising and not in, say, an essay or media release. Please refer to the guidelines provided in our brand book.

Naturally Inspiring.

When used as a stand-alone graphic element, capitalize the N and I. Use of a closing period is optional.

When used as part of a sentence in marketing materials, the capital letters are optional but preferred. Follow standard punctuation rules.

We are the University of Alaska Fairbanks. We are Naturally Inspiring.

We are Naturally Inspiring, and we invite you to join us!

Sept. 5, 2013 -- Proposed North Road now open

QUESTION

Is the dirt road that links West Ridge to the road near Hess village open for regular driving?

RESPONSE

Yes, the Proposed North Road, which connects Tanana Drive to Sheejek Drive on the Fairbanks campus, is now open for driving year round. Facilities will be installing signs this week. Please use appropriate caution when driving on the gravel road. See the campus map for location details.

Sept. 4, 2013 -- Pharmacy benefits changes

SUGGESTION

I saw the Grapevine comment from July concerning the benefits changeover, and am sending this additional message to mention how unpleasant and time-consuming the transition has been. Just nothing has worked as expected, for me and my spouse who are both UAF employees. Below are some details, to illustrate the level of dysfunction I've encountered since the changeover. I don't need any response, but hope it is abundantly clear that the transition has not been smooth, and has wasted huge quantities of employee time. 

In July, the Web site logins at premera.com did not work, and eventually Premera created new usernames for us (or something like that...). The Pharmacy login pages are a mess: from premera.com you can go directly to medcohealth.com (not express-scripts.com), but cannot gain access to features without calling to get a prescription number.  This, I was told, is because their prescription numbers need to be 12 digits, so doesn't match any prescription number I already had.  Huh?  In a nutshell, the advertised self-service is *impossible* to activate yourself: you need to call.  First, though, I did what I'm sure everyone does: work hard for a few hours, over a few days, to try to provide the required information.

The latest misstep was a printed letter I got at home yesterday, from Express Scripts.  It basically berated me for not using their online pharmacy page at express-scripts.com, because I used a retail pharmacy instead due to the above problems logging in.  The advertised feature the letter highlighted, to use the Web site to transfer a prescription from a retail pharmacy, does not actually exist in our UAF plan (or at least, it doesn't appear anywhere in my options, according to the Web site helpdesk person -- two phone calls and two Web sites and two password resets later!).
 

The service they actually offer, I found on the phone, is to call your doctor for a new prescription, ostensibly to replace the one at the retail pharmacy.  The company that did this is Express Scripts, or Medco, or whatever they're called.  To get through to a person at that site, I first needed to speak with their robot, providing all my details: DoB, plan #, zip code, phone number and name.  When I got connected to a person, surprise!  She asked for all of the same info again, except for plan #.  During the subsequent call to transfer the prescription, she needed to confirm my mailing address three more times.  I also found that the email address they had on file was old, and not the edir preferred address I've had for 3 years.  Their process on the phone was just incredibly inefficient, for which the representative apologized.  I don't yet know whether the Web site will be better, but at least now I have access to it.

The 90 minutes I've spent on this today, during my work time at UAF, were a waste of time created by a confusing, poorly documented (and inaccurately documented, which is worse!) transition process.  The relation between Premera, Express Scripts, and the Premera Web site support organization is completely opaque, and yet everyone I spoke to at those three organizations had at least one thing that they could NOT do, and I needed to call the other.
 

I do have some suggestions:
 

  • Keep shopping for a prescription provider, or have strict requirements about integration of the prescription provider with the benefits provider.  The interface between them seems to be the source of many problems.  Express Scripts, or whatever they're called, was *less* capable in my experience than CVS/Caremark.  E-S was faster to answer the phone, but every step of the process was inefficient or incompletely documented.
  • Design an audit process for information transfer.  The fact that my edir preferred email address was not part of the record is telling that the companies did not get current information.
  • Explicitly opt out of all paper mail, for all health benefits operations, for all UAF persons.  Let people opt into paper mail if needed.  Make sure providers send mail readable as text only, not just HTML.
  • Use the UA single sign-on, rather than having a handful of other login information for the various sites. That's what SSO is for.
  • Design total cost of ownership into the benefits evaluation process.  Time spent by employees and UA HR staff must be included, as part of the evaluation of costs. 


Thanks, and thanks for doing well at a hard job. These comments are directed at problems with the providers, not at UAF.  I do hope we can push those providers to improve their services, and also hope that problems such as mine are properly diagnosed and addressed at the organizational level, instead of everyone needing to work it out themselves.

Sept. 4, 2013 -- Proposed North Road now open

QUESTION

Is the dirt road that links West Ridge to the road near Hess village open for regular driving?

RESPONSE

Yes, the Proposed North Road which connects Tanana Drive to Sheenjek Drive is now open for driving year round. Facilities will be installing signs this week. Please exercise appropriate caution when driving on gravel roads. See the campus map for location information.

Sept. 5, 2013 -- Exempt time reporting

QUESTION

As a exempt employee that regularly works the traditional 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and nights/ weekends, when I have a doctors appointment in the middle of the day, am I required to take sick leave? What is the law on this?

RESPONSE

Thank you for your question. Exempt time reporting comes under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and university regulation. You'll find the regulation and guidelines online.

Please call the Human Resources Office at 474-7700 if you have any questions regarding the university's time reporting requirements.

Sept. 4, 2013 -- Pharmacy benefits changes

SUGGESTION

I saw the Grapevine comment from July concerning the benefits changeover, and am sending this additional message to mention how unpleasant and time-consuming the transition has been. Just nothing has worked as expected, for me and my spouse who are both UAF employees. Below are some details, to illustrate the level of dysfunction I've encountered since the changeover. I don't need any response, but hope it is abundantly clear that the transition has not been smooth, and has wasted huge quantities of employee time. 

In July, the Web site logins at premera.com did not work, and eventually Premera created new usernames for us (or something like that...). The Pharmacy login pages are a mess: from premera.com you can go directly to medcohealth.com (not express-scripts.com), but cannot gain access to features without calling to get a prescription number.  This, I was told, is because their prescription numbers need to be 12 digits, so doesn't match any prescription number I already had.  Huh?  In a nutshell, the advertised self-service is *impossible* to activate yourself: you need to call.  First, though, I did what I'm sure everyone does: work hard for a few hours, over a few days, to try to provide the required information.

The latest misstep was a printed letter I got at home yesterday, from Express Scripts.  It basically berated me for not using their online pharmacy page at express-scripts.com, because I used a retail pharmacy instead due to the above problems logging in.  The advertised feature the letter highlighted, to use the Web site to transfer a prescription from a retail pharmacy, does not actually exist in our UAF plan (or at least, it doesn't appear anywhere in my options, according to the Web site helpdesk person -- two phone calls and two Web sites and two password resets later!).
 

The service they actually offer, I found on the phone, is to call your doctor for a new prescription, ostensibly to replace the one at the retail pharmacy.  The company that did this is Express Scripts, or Medco, or whatever they're called.  To get through to a person at that site, I first needed to speak with their robot, providing all my details: DoB, plan #, zip code, phone number and name.  When I got connected to a person, surprise!  She asked for all of the same info again, except for plan #.  During the subsequent call to transfer the prescription, she needed to confirm my mailing address three more times.  I also found that the email address they had on file was old, and not the edir preferred address I've had for 3 years.  Their process on the phone was just incredibly inefficient, for which the representative apologized.  I don't yet know whether the Web site will be better, but at least now I have access to it.

The 90 minutes I've spent on this today, during my work time at UAF, were a waste of time created by a confusing, poorly documented (and inaccurately documented, which is worse!) transition process.  The relation between Premera, Express Scripts, and the Premera Web site support organization is completely opaque, and yet everyone I spoke to at those three organizations had at least one thing that they could NOT do, and I needed to call the other.
 

I do have some suggestions:
 

  • Keep shopping for a prescription provider, or have strict requirements about integration of the prescription provider with the benefits provider.  The interface between them seems to be the source of many problems.  Express Scripts, or whatever they're called, was *less* capable in my experience than CVS/Caremark.  E-S was faster to answer the phone, but every step of the process was inefficient or incompletely documented.
  • Design an audit process for information transfer.  The fact that my edir preferred email address was not part of the record is telling that the companies did not get current information.
  • Explicitly opt out of all paper mail, for all health benefits operations, for all UAF persons.  Let people opt into paper mail if needed.  Make sure providers send mail readable as text only, not just HTML.
  • Use the UA single sign-on, rather than having a handful of other login information for the various sites. That's what SSO is for.
  • Design total cost of ownership into the benefits evaluation process.  Time spent by employees and UA HR staff must be included, as part of the evaluation of costs. 


Thanks, and thanks for doing well at a hard job. These comments are directed at problems with the providers, not at UAF.  I do hope we can push those providers to improve their services, and also hope that problems such as mine are properly diagnosed and addressed at the organizational level, instead of everyone needing to work it out themselves.

Sept. 4, 2013 -- Soft closure dates

QUESTION

Will there be a soft closure during the winter break and if so, what are the dates?

RESPONSE

In addition to the paid holidays (Dec. 25-26 and Jan. 1-2), this year’s campus closure will be Dec. 27, 30, and 31, 2013.

We encourage you to allow your employees to take leave during this period, keeping in mind your minimum staffing requirements for normal business operations, and the last day of fall semester is Dec. 19. Departments with essential employees are exempt from the campus closure.

The soft closure is limited this year to Jan. 3, 2014. However, that date is also the beginning of Wintermester, so offices providing direct services to students, should remain reasonably staffed.

All employees are encouraged to participate in the soft closure on Jan. 3. However there may NOT be forced leave. Employees may choose to work even if the department is closed; take annual leave or leave without pay; Holiday pay for those eligible will not be affected regardless of the type of leave taken.

Employees should be aware that retirement eligibility may be affected if your leave without pay exceeds ten days in a calendar year.

Once the business hours for a department have been determined and announced by the supervisor, employees should coordinate with their supervisor regarding leave options and schedules.

Departments that have circumstances requiring employees to work during the holiday closure (Dec. 27, 30, and 31) should notify UAF Human Resources before Dec. 17.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Human Resources at 474-7700.

Sept. 3, 2013 -- Worn out plaque

QUESTION

On the north lawn of Arctic Health, there is a tree and plaque dedicated to Dr. Leslie Viereck. Unfortunately, the plaque and its wooden base have seen some damage. The wood is warping and the corners of the plaque have broken off. I suggest that we look into repairing or replacing it with materials that might be more durable.

RESPONSE

Thank you for your suggestion. Facilities Services has agreed to look at it and see if they can replace before winter.

Sept. 3, 2013 -- Really Free Market this fall

QUESTION

Just wondering if there is a Really Free Market scheduled for this fall?

RESPONSE

The Really Free Market in the fall is a Winter Warm-up for students. UAF students are invited to come pick up free stuff at the Moore-Bartlett-Skarland Rec Center, Sept. 14, 2013  11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Staff, faculty and students are encouraged to donate clean, usable items, including clothing, household goods, or sporting equipment. Drop offs will be held from 9 – 11 a.m.  First-come, first-served.

For more information contact Summer Sessions and Lifelong Learning at 474-7021 or download and post the Winter Warm-up Flier.

Sept. 3, 2013 -- Dining hours over the weekend

QUESTION

I heard that the dining locations on campus were closed over the weekend due to the holiday. I am hoping this isn't true since it was move in weekend for the dorms, but I thought I would ask.

RESPONSE

Thank you for submitting your question. Dining locations were not closed over the weekend. The hours were as follows:

Sunday:
Campus Cache:  8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Wood Center:  5 – 7:30 p.m. (welcome back barbecue)

Monday:
Campus Cache:  Noon – 8 p.m.
Lola Tilly:  Brunch 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and dinner 5 – 8 p.m.

Fliers with this information were handed out to students who attended Rev-It-Up as well as at Residence Life and both dining locations.
 


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