The last staff forum of the academic year was held in the Bordy Theater on May 10. President Pelton started off by informing attendees that the Board of Trustees has approved the financial plans for the new dining facility and the Little Building renovation. He also shared that the 2 Boylston Place residence hall and the new dining facility should be completed by Summer 2017. The Little Building will be shut down in May 2017, and renovations should be complete in Summer 2019. He noted that preliminary planning has begun with the City on “resuscitating” the sidewalk along Boylston Street between Tremont and Charles streets, possibly allowing for an enhanced pedestrian experience and sidewalk dining. Pelton ended his welcoming remarks by asking new staff to introduce themselves to the community.
Sylvia Spears (Diversity and Inclusion) went up to the podium next and shared a summary of the discussion about the staff forum that was held at the March 10 forum. She highlighted what people thought was working well at the staff forums and what people would like to see more of and less of. She then introduced the members of a new Staff Forum Agenda-Setting Working Group:
Rhea Becker – Communications and Marketing
Yoel Cassel – ArtsEmerson
Rob Eckhard – ELA
Eric Glaskin – Enrollment Management
Audra Kenny – Academic Affairs
Melanie Matson – Diversity and Inclusion
Zachary Maxell – IT
Erik Muurrisepp – Student Life
John Pearsall – Finance and Administration
Spears turned it over to Becker and Matson, who led attendees in a networking activity during which people were asked to talk with someone whom they hadn’t met before.
President Pelton returned to the podium for a discussion and Q&A period. Using Sharpies and index cards on each table, attendees were able to submit questions anonymously. An attendee asked for an update on the Emerson360 Climate Survey. Robert Amelio (Diversity and Inclusion) reminded attendees that each department has looked at its survey results and created annual goals accordingly. The 360 Committee has spent the past year studying the survey’s responses and have submitted its recommendations to Sylvia Spears, who will share it with the President’s Council. He said that the community should look for some new initiatives to be rolled out this fall.
The next question was about the possibility of a discounted T pass program. Alexa Jackson (Human Resources) replied that Human Resources conducts an annual benchmarking study, which looks at what other institutions offer for benefits. She said that, in July, every staff member will receive a total compensation statement that will show the value of their compensation and benefits package. More information about benefits will be discussed in the fall and during open enrollment.
Jackson answered the next question about a payroll issue that occurred on May 6 in which there was a direct deposit delay for staff who are paid weekly. She said that a good number of employees were paid by 11:00 am that day, particularly employees who bank with Bank of America. Other employees who bank with smaller banks had to wait until Saturday or Monday for the funds to be released. Employees who expressed concern over the delay were given the option of receiving a manual check. A consultant has been hired to further review best practices with the department and mitigate opportunities for such a delay to occur again.
President Pelton then answered a question about the budget outlook. He said that although the College should have a surplus at the end of this fiscal year, we will have to “tighten our belts” until 2020 because of the three current and upcoming building/renovation projects. There is a planned deficit scheduled for FY18 due to lost room and board revenue once the Little Building is shut down.
Bob Smith (Police Department) started off the Staff Announcement portion of the forum by telling the community about ALICE training opportunities. ALICE is a proactive training program that empowers campus members to make informed decisions in the event of an active shooter being on campus. Emerson has six certified ALICE instructors and the training consists of two sections in the same day. Those interested in the training can sign up by contacting Daniel Morse.
Staff also announced some upcoming events, including an invitation to join the Emerson dragon boat team (contact Maureen Tripp for information) and an invitation to walk in the Boston Pride Parade on June 11. The forum ended with a “year-end reflection” during which a number of staff shared high points of the past academic year.
Nancy Howell (Creative Services)