The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life

Housekeeping information and communication page

April 17th, 2018

I’ve set up a page regarding the outsourcing of housekeeping with information and links to documents. That page is here:

Housekeeping

I’ve turned on comments there, so people can discuss or ask questions. I thought that might be perhaps less chaotic than a multi-step e-mail chain. I also thought it would be more accessible to Guilford staff, who can’t read the faculty e-mail chain on this topic, who aren’t permitted to write to the staff@guilford.edu address, and who might wish to take part in the discussion or make anonymous comments.

Flat fees and fair compensation

December 11th, 2017

Flat fees, such as our healthcare costs or the recently proposed parking fee, provide a much more significant burden on low-wage employees than on high-wage employees. This is just basic math. When a cost or fee is constant, then it represents a higher percentage of income for a low-wage employee than for a high-wage employee.

Consider two cases below – a low-wage employee making $35,000 a year, and a vice president making $175,000 a year.

 

Both pay the same costs for Guilford’s healthcare. For an employee supporting a family, that will be $9390 next year. That cost is fixed, and therefore regressive by income. Social security tax is capped, making it regressive at high incomes, so high-wage earners above the cap actually pay a lower percentage than lower-wage earners. The VP pays more Social Security tax in total, but at a lower rate. Medicare is a constant proportion (not capped, so neither progressive nor regressive).

If we look at these employees’ listed salary, the VP makes five times as much as the low-wage employee. But the capped taxes and flat-rate costs exacerbate the inequality. After we deduct the Social Security, Medicare, and health insurance expenses, the VP takes home nearly seven times as much as the low-wage employee.

If we add another constant fee, say $120 for parking for the year, that money comes out of the take-home pay. The fee is the same for all employees, so that fee represents about half a percent (0.5%) of the low-wage earner’s take home pay, while it makes up less than a tenth of a percent (0.08%) of the VP’s take-home pay. By comparison, Medicare taxes are 1.45% of salary, or ~2% of take-home.

In other words, a flat $120 annual parking fee has an impact as much as seven times as great on our lowest-paid employees as on our highest. That’s textbook regressive. It represents about ten and a half hours of work for the low-wage earner, given directly back to the college, and only one and a half for the VP.

We can do better. For that matter, we should do better with our health insurance also.

What I learned about the new consulting project

February 5th, 2016
A&S

People invited to meet with Art & Science for first campus visit – not all could make it

I and other faculty members of SPOC (formerly SLRP) met with the consulting group from the Art and Science group (website here: https://www.artsci.com ) yesterday. I learned about this initiative along with the rest of you in the last week, so it’s come on quickly. Because of that, I thought I’d take some time to report on the process as I’ve observed it so far.

It looks like we (SPOC faculty members) are going to serve as part of their on-campus steering committee. The one-hour meeting stretched to two and a half with people coming and going as schedules demanded, so we covered a lot of ground.

My understanding of the service they provide is that it comes in several steps:

  1. collect information from the community (focusing significantly on faculty) about strengths the college has and initiatives or focus areas it could adopt in the future
  2. interview students in two main groups – admitted students who didn’t decide on Guilford, and students who expressed an interest but did not apply
  3. from the interviews, build a statistical model of how students would view our potential focus areas or initiatives
  4. for each of our focus areas or initiatives, give us a sense of whether (and how much) those would drive students from these pools of students (who are interested but did not come) to decide to come to Guilford

The methodology is statistically complex, and seemed like a reasonable approach, although they didn’t get into complex details, nor is this kind of surveying my area of expertise. The potential students they talk with are paid to participate in an interview of about half an hour. This interview is not just an interest survey. Instead, it presents hypothetical institutions with different sets of parameters to choose between, and students express their choices for these hypothetical colleges.  Guilford is not named as the sponsor of the research during the interview.

Their plan is to do the community research work very soon, over the next couple of weeks, and then come up with possible initiatives or focus areas to include in the survey, which they’ll share with us (SPOC faculty) and with the rest of the community for commentary.  Then, they’ll do the research part over the rest of spring term in two phases and come up with results (based on what they call a simulated decision model) hopefully by Fall 2016.

One concern I had with this work, one that I expressed to the consultants, is that I don’t think the faculty would be happy changing who we were or what we do based on statistical modeling, however accurate or complex.  One of the consultants then pointed out that often this kind of work takes one of two approaches. I’m paraphrasing, but this mostly what he said: One approach is to just be who we are, and hope that is attractive enough to students. This often leads to losing money. The other extreme is to try to figure out what students want and become that, which leads to losing your soul.

I think we’ve followed both of those strategies half-heartedly, and neither has gotten us where we need to be, and we may have managed to lose both money and maybe parts of our soul at various points along the line. One thing the consultants stressed was that they would not test ideas for new initiatives or emphases that we were not already prepared and willing to do, that didn’t come from who we are. So I would expect that the kinds of areas they’ll model will be areas we already emphasize to differing degrees, or areas we’ve already discussed emphasizing in the future. Examples might be experiential learning, social justice, an international focus and study abroad, problem solving, interdisciplinary learning, practical liberal arts, community engagement, student research and creative opportunities, social activism, athletics engagement, and others. The idea will be to figure out which of those things we kind of already do and kind of already emphasize would be best to focus on in the future, with the goal of enticing students who are interested in Guilford but haven’t been coming here to choose us.

I asked if our cost of attendance would be included as a factor in the modeling, because that’s been an area of particular concern to me recently looking at our budgets and enrollments. The consultants said that it was one of the areas they often include in this work, and we could include it if we didn’t choose too many other topics in the survey. Jane indicated in our monthly meeting today that she would like to have that topic included in the survey too.

After meeting with us, some of the consultants toured campus, and they met with a number of faculty. I came out of our discussion optimistic about what we might learn from the process. I’ve listened to many, many faculty and administrators describe new ideas and then say, “that’s what students want,” or “that will help us in recruiting,” without much basis other than optimism or anecdote to support those assertions. I’ve made those statements myself. This project should provide an independent and hopefully more accurate picture of which of the directions we are willing to go will bring us more quickly to being the thriving institution we all want Guilford to be.

Of course, I know that we’ve had a lot of consultants on campus in recent years. One colleague today said, “How can we keep hiring consultants when we can’t even put staples in my copier?” I think we all want to be a college that changes lives rather than a college that hires consultants, but they’re not necessarily unrelated. We’ve committed to this project, so it’s happening, and so far, there has been a strong push to get faculty into the discussions, which I think is very positive. Please take advantage of these opportunities. Having faculty play an active role will help ensure that we get the most out of this project than we can, and also that the directions it suggests we might most profitably explore are ones that come naturally from our values, interests, and community.

 

Comments on college employment

December 15th, 2015

I am deeply troubled by systems of oppression, racism, violence, and inequities. I am grateful to all of those who work here to uncover, dismantle, repair and transform oppressive systems and actions into just and equitable systems and actions. I recognize and I participate in this hard work every single day on campus, in schools and, hopefully, in my thoughts and actions generally in the world.

I think one of the most significant actions we at Guilford College can take is to reform our employment practices. Not by supporting a “fire at will” mentality, but by ensuring that every person who works on this campus has a fair, equitable, supportive contract. As this is a “right to work” state, it is vital that we make a statement that supports workers and we can start by making our campus one in which all workers feel safe to voice their concerns, to be treated fairly in difficult negotiations, and to the rights of due process.

I am deeply saddened by our approach to making this campus less oppressive and racist when immediate actions against individuals can be taken because those individuals do not have strong contracts. I know I do not have all the information nor the full picture/context, but treating people humanely and fairly seems to be what we strive to do. Even if what I am responding to is an appearance of what ‘actually’ happened, it is a devastating one.

No matter what our current efforts are, I strongly assert my belief that standing up for the rights of all the workers on this campus is a step we can take without causing undue suffering, oppression, unfairness. I suggest we work to make sure that every worker is protected by a clear, strong, equitable contract.

— Julie Burke

[Julie originally posted this as a comment on another section of the site. I moved it to the main feed as a post with her permission.]

Every Campus a Refuge

September 14th, 2015

Dear friends,

Inspired by the UN and EU’s call to nations to take in refugees and the Pope’s call to every parish in Europe to host one refugee family, we – Guilford students, faculty and administration – have begun mobilizing and hope to act with urgency as a community to host one refugee family on Guilford’s campus grounds. In so doing, we hope to set an example for other colleges and universities and create an action plan for campuses around the world to do the same.  Here are some ways you, your students, or your department can be involved as Guilford seeks to live its core commitment to principled problem-solving:

1) Please come to the informational panel “Human Flotsam: Perspectives on the Current Refugee Crisis” on Tuesday, Sept. 29th in Bryan Jr. Auditorium at 6:00 p.m.  Professors, refugees and community organizers and activists will speak on the many facets of the current crisis. Q&A to follow.

2) Please come to the “Call to Action” meeting which will take place directly after the panel. We will meet to see how we can come together – what ideas, skills and expertise we can bring – to make this dream a reality.

3) Please be part of a group “Guilford College Welcomes Refugees” picture on Wednesday, Sept. 16th at 1:45 p.m. on the quad in front of Hege-Cox (art building) which we hope to use online as we set an example of leadership to other campuses in the U.S. and around the globe.

4) In the vein of the America Welcomes movement, please take an individual picture or a departmental picture that visually includes the name of Guilford College and your Department and email it to us so that we can post it on our “Every Campus a Refuge” social media pages (up and running soon!); or post yourself using the following hashtags: #refugeguilfordcollege #refugeeverycampus

5) Consider what skills, expertise, resources or material goods you or your department might be able to contribute to the effort of hosting a refugee family on campus and let us know.

We are so thankful to be at a place like Guilford where so many, including our President, are invested in and excited about this Guilford-to-the-core problem-solving effort.

Many thanks,

Diya

refugeeverycampus

 

The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life