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Montana University System Staff Association

CEPAC - Classified Employees Personnel Advisory Committee

Board of Regents Meeting - November 17, 2005 - Bozeman
Classified Staff Representatives 12:45 - 1:25 pm

Representatives from the classified staff organizations from across the Montana University System met in Bozeman for their scheduled agenda time with the Regents. Karen Throckmorton (UM Western), Jana Myers and Kelli Granthan (MSU Billings), Michelle Crowe, Shelley Hiniker (UM Missoula), Christine Muller (MSU Northern), Genevieve Burmeister, Michelle Larsen, and Sara France (MSU Bozeman) - since most campuses' staff organization is called Staff Senate, we refer to ourselves collectively as the "Senates" - took a couple of hours prior to the scheduled presentation (at 12:45 pm) to consider the themes of their discussion with the Regents. Rolf Groseth, Vice President for Inter-campus Affairs also met with the Senates (please see below), at noon.

Presentation to the Regents
At the Senates' meeting with the Regents in July, we spoke of recruitment and retention initiatives and raised the idea of pooling MUS employees to provide professional training and development for classified staff. The ensuing active conversation between Regents, university presidents, and Senates evolved the idea into a web-based forum of various specialty offerings.

Since July, the Senates have collaborated in producing a report on the feasibility and desirability of developing this concept. The project has the working title of "Pooled Resources", which formed the theme of our presentation to the Regents on November 17, 2005.

The Regents were all present, together with Sheila Stearns, Commissioner of Higher Education. As Chair of the classified staff organization from the meeting's host campus, Genevieve Burmeister thanked the Board for including staff interests on the agenda, and expressed how much the Senates value our regular interactions. Each classified staff representative introduced themselves and CEPAC gave a short overview of the Pooled Resources concept, as described in the report (the Regents had already read the Senates' report, as submitted by CEPAC at the beginning of November). The Senates' hope of leaving the meeting with an indication of the Regents' intentions for the project, and perhaps authority to form an Implementation Committee, was stated.

CEPAC had prepared an explanation of the relevance of Pooled Resources locally, and to the university system. It contained some specifics from MSU's perspective (the extraordinary market forces and cost of living circumstances affecting the Gallatin Valley as producing unique recruitment and retention problems) but, earlier, the Senates had agreed on the handout's general relevance to all campuses, and it was presented accordingly, and displayed for the Regents and audience. It was stated that, in presenting the Pooled Resources concept, the Senates did not intend to detract from MUS salary issues; rather to support campus and Regent efforts to pursue them by offering an initiative to bolster recruitment and retention meantime. The classified contribution to the complete student experience was stressed, as was the staff commitment to furthering each campus' mission, and the strategies of the university system.

The Regents and Commissioner were highly complimentary of the Senates' collaborative work and initiative on this project. They encouraged this method of enhancing staff productivity and effectiveness and felt that, since education is the business of the MUS, the concept made perfect sense. They were interested in more information on the resources required to create the facility, but it was conjectured that the net gain could far exceed the necessary resources. The Regents wondered about the time and commitment needed to bring the concept to fruition. The Senates described their endeavors to identify the barriers to progressing the project and how they considered the greatest challenge to be reining in a concept of such vast potential to manageable dimensions. The overwhelming support offered from each campus as the Senates conducted their research was reported, and the Senates did not foresee a want of commitment on any campus.

During Regents' comments, the possibility of other kinds of inter-campus cooperation was raised - perhaps temporarily sharing manpower in times of specific need. The Senates referred to having discussed this with Vice President Groseth, earlier today. They also mentioned that one of the aims for the Pooled Resources facility is increased networking and visibility, thus encouraging receding inter-campus barriers.

Commissioner Stearns invited the Senates to participate in a system-wide HR directors' meeting to discuss the project, its barriers and its benefits.

Chairman Mercer duly authorized the request made by the Senates in their report: for the Senates to take the lead in forming an Implementation Committee, comprising appropriate participants from each campus, including representatives from each Senate and from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education. (Please see the final page of the report for details).

Before the meeting closed, Genevieve Burmeister thanked the Regents again for accommodating the Senates at their July planning retreat. She explained that we recognized this was no longer a convenient time for the Regents, and suggested that the Senates be reallocated to one of the other sessions during the year. The Regents were receptive and asked us to follow up via the Commissioner's office.

After the Presentation
The Senates agreed on how to proceed to the next step of the Pooled Resources project. We will begin to gather suggestions for members of the Implementation Committee and convene a conference call during the week of December 5.

Meeting with Rolf Groseth, Vice President for Inter-campus Affairs, MSU Bozeman
CEPAC is grateful to VP Groseth for devoting his lunch break to meeting with the MUS classified organizations (the "Senates") today. In reference to the Pooled Resources concept, he spoke of the importance of organizations such as the Senates coming together to the extent that MUS can organize and share resources, and commended the Senates on this and our work with the Regents. Rolf asked how each Senate is perceived by their constituents and campuses and how they impact local policy. Each group reported positive feedback and a growing sense of involvement in campus affairs. CEPAC remarked specifically on the benefits shared governance lends to its work. Rolf then spoke of his work on the budget allocation model among campuses, which aims at keeping all campuses viable and healthy, and the decision processes involved. The conversation moved to inter-campus communication and collaboration, sharing resources (including manpower) between departments of the same institution, and the potential scope for practices across the system.

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