University of Vermont

A Note from Staff Council President Karmen Swim

It’s timely that this Staffline letter is coming out the day after the FY18 staff salary increase information was released to the University. 

Let me be real for moment … like you, I was hoping there might be a higher salary increase this year.  But, I can assure you that the University leaders were very thoughtful and transparent with their analysis in determining the cost of living (1.5%) and the merit (.5%) salary increases.  They made a decision that will further the University’s obligation to remain affordable to its students and to maintain the amazing benefits that we are privileged to have at the University (medical and dental coverage, tuition remission, parking, 10% retirement contribution, and the generous paid holidays, winter break time and exception time).  Additionally, the University wants to maintain the quality of work supporting the University’s mission -- a mission in which we all share – commitment to excellence!

University leadership made themselves available to Staff Council and attended many meetings with the Council as a whole, with Staff Council Leadership and with the Compensation, Benefits and Budget Committee (“CBB”) to help provide guidance for the Council’s work in regard to the FY18 salary proposal. 

There were open, insightful and sincere conversations about the fiscal reality of higher education.   The numbers are the numbers and Staff Council can’t control what those numbers look like, but we worked effortlessly to give advice and advocate for the staff in this regard and I believe the CBB Committee did amazing work on behalf of staff.

Staff Council shared with and helped University leadership understand the many concerns that we received last year from approximately 800 staff who reached out following the FY17 staff increase announcement and took every opportunity given to us to weigh in regarding these concerns and help improve the communication and process for FY18.

These concerns centered on:

·         metrics to be used to fairly determine merit increases;

·         appropriate justifications for merit and what it means to be an exceptional performer;

·         lack of supervisor training in conducting performance reviews;

·         merit dollars being used to alleviate compression issues;

·         merit dollars being used to balance department budgets and not used for staff salary increases;

·         1% was too small for across the board; and

·         lack of guidance and transparency regarding the merit component of the raises.

This is how Staff Council contributed to the process:

First and foremost, we asked FAB to confirm that all FY17 salary dollars were, in fact, used for staff salaries and not for any other department needs.  They confirmed this to be true.

Staff Council’s Professional and Personal Development Committee (“PPD”) was instrumental in the implementation of Performance Reviews, defining what it means to be exceptional and how that differs from being a solid performer (which is the expectation of our staff), as well as discussing supervisor training to make sure staff were receiving balanced and useful performance reviews. I am happy to say that there are now definitions for all of these expectations and that classes are being offered for supervisors through Professional Development & Training (presented by HRDMA staff), and also, when requested, by special presentation at the college/unit level.

We asked leadership to consider removing compression adjustments from the FY18 merit pool and, as you will see in the Guidelines, they have done this. “The merit increase pool will not be used to address salary compression issues.  Matters of compression should first be discussed with the HR Administrators of your college/unit who will work with Classification and Compensation staff to assist you.” 

We were advocates for those staff who only received a 1% increase last year, for varying reasons, and helped the University leadership know that 1% is not a livable increase that creates any “real” difference for staff and we worked to get a higher across the board/cost of living increase this year, although, admittedly, not as much as we had hoped for. 

Additionally, for the FY18 staff salary increases communication we asked University leadership to let us give advice to help them be transparent with the process on how they determined the salary increases, how merit is determined, etc. Staff Council Leadership had a seat at the table and were asked to help contribute to the communication and I am confident that all the concerns of staff that were shared with us were adequately addressed in the communication.

Staff at the University are very important and valued by University leadership, and we all contribute greatly to the success of the University.  In this regard, to quote the Performance Review form, it is the expectation that we are all Solid Performers and we consistently and satisfactorily meet requirements of position )with some areas where we are exceptional and some areas where we need development or enhancement).  The definition of being exceptional means “significantly and consistently surpasses performance expectations in the majority of competencies or accountabilities and exceeds role requirements.  Demonstrates exceptional depth and breadth of role knowledge,” and, most notably for me, “is recognized as a role model by others.”

After listening to staff years ago about wanting merit increases again at the University, a few years ago we presented the merit structure and it was adopted by the University. This will be the third year we are receiving merit increases.  President Sullivan is committed to the merit increase structure and Staff Council will remain committed to it as well.  Each year we receive and provide guidance about the process and the process has improved, and will continue to improve, each year. 

We will be discussing the FY18 staff salary increases at today’s Staff Council Meeting, 12:05-1:30 pm in the Livak Ballroom, 4th Floor, Davis Center.  We invite you to attend to contribute to the conversation. 

On another note, the Staff Women’s Forum is on April 11, 2017 and I am happy to report that we are at full capacity.  We have a waiting list, so if you have not signed up and would like to be placed on the waiting list, please email the Staff Council office at and we will let you know if a spot opens up.  We are very excited about this opportunity to help inspire the UVM female-identified staff and look forward to sharing insights and resources, help you feel empowered and inspired and provide meaningful conversations.

Staff Council Committees will continue their work to be the voice for the unrepresented staff, so please keep reaching out to your representatives or directly to the Staff Council Office and leadership.   As I said earlier, the CBB Committee has done great work.  Soon, the PPD Committee will submit a parking proposal to leadership to bring facts and concerns regarding parking to their attention; they worked closely and collaborated with Jim Barr and Mary Provost from Transportation and Parking on these recommendations.  The Outreach Committee is busy putting together some Focus Groups to discuss initiatives and concerns at the University, so stay tuned for more information.  The Social Committee continue to do exceptional work to help the University come together in a social setting to enjoy events and have the opportunity to get to know other staff at the University. 

Together we can make a difference. 

Think spring and remember, the rain in the forecast will result in spring flowers.