Staff Under Stress

The life of staff at UCLA is not an easy one.  Staffing levels have been on a continuous decline for 10 years, leaving many staff tremendously overworked.  Staffing levels are set to decline further in the current adverse budgetary environment, and the furloughs for staff implies reductions in staff time, with no commensurate reduction in workload.  In addition, the furloughs have reduced already low staff salaries at a time when staff have not had a raise in 3 years.

As faculty, we are limited in our ability to change the overall fiscal situation, but we can and do have a large impact on the work environment for staff.  Mindful of the fact that faculty continue to be eligible for regular (or indeed accelerated!) merit salary increases, and that many of us have been able to dodge the effects of the furlough through the Furlough Exchange Program, let’s all try to make the work environment for staff as reasonable as it can be.

Please take a moment to consider the extra burdens on staff at this complicated moment in the University’s history.  I am trying to identify ways in which technology and information systems can relieve some of the workload for staff, and I encourage you to do likewise.  But this effort can go only so far, and we will have to have extra patience for staff during what can only be called, in homage to Fidel Castro, “A Special Period” for our institution.

Below is a memo from the Dean’s office about issues of concern to staff in the School.  I encourage you to read it.

Memo From Dean’s Office to Faculty

As you know, effective September 1, 2009, staff and faculty absorbed between 4-10% cut in salaries.  The staff cuts were based on 2006 salaries because staff members have not received merits or cost of living adjustments for the past three years.  These are individuals responsible for departmental management, student affairs (departmental and school-wide), finance, contracts and grants management, academic and staff personnel, IT, and other school and departmental support services.

As you can imagine, the salary reduction is causing feelings of frustration, fear and is resulting in a lowered morale.  This situation is being aggravated by the lack of understanding from many faculty members who, unlike staff, are allowed to participate in the FEP and augment their base salaries with outside activities and summer compensation. The ability of staff to cope during this next year can be helped or hindered by faculty behavior. We are asking for your help in making this year a productive one.

When the staff retreat participants were polled, they shared that they and their staff do not feel appreciated and are rarely thanked directly by faculty. Each had examples of faculty members speaking to or behaving in an inappropriate way around staff.  While their examples were numerous, those below are among the most egregious episodes and reinforce the need to address this escalating situation:

  • A faculty member screamed at a MSO during their monthly faculty departmental meeting because she presented a space plan based on departmental needs with some faculty input. The meeting had to be stopped because the MSO became so upset she had to leave.
  • A faculty member shouted at an MSO because his/her office had been moved, even though the MSO had nothing to do with the decision.
  • A faculty member tried to enter a locked office and began forcefully banging the door when it could not be accessed.  A research staff member investigating the noise was confronted by the angry faculty member who wanted access to the locked room.  The faculty member acted in such an aggressive manner, with such a loss of self-control that the staff member stated that “…I have never felt so scared in the workplace and so disrespected.”

As staff management representatives, we respectfully request the FEC’s assistance in encouraging faculty to behave in a professional manner toward all staff at all times.   We request that all faculty be encouraged to:

  • Be respectful and appreciative.  If a staff member is providing information to or assisting a faculty member, recognize that they are supporting the whole department and are doing their best to accommodate numerous requests for assistance.
  • Recognize that services will be reduced or delayed at the campus level which in turn affects the department’s ability to respond quickly.
  • Respect furlough days.  If a staff member is out, do not call or contact them directly.  Recognize that a staff member may be accruing up to two days a month that need to be used within the year.
  • Limit expectations.  Be aware that it’s no longer business as usual.  Staff will do their best to respond in a timely manner and provide the best service possible.
  • Respect deadlines.  Deadlines are put in place to allow timely completion of processes and are not arbitrary.
  • Read emails. Most staff members make an effort not to send unnecessary emails and their correspondence often includes critical information regarding new policies or timelines.
  • Be aware that aggressive and rude behavior toward staff will not be tolerated.  This type of behavior creates a hostile working environment, which is against the law.  Staff will be encouraged to file official complaints toward any faculty member who acts in an abusive or aggressive manner.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns. We are very interested in collaborating with the FEC to ensure that in assisting the faculty with their important work of teaching, research and service staff are treated fairly and allowed to work in a productive, collegial environment free of hostility.

Sincerely,

Kathy Bonfire

Josie Castro

Susan Fisher

Barbara Housel

Kathleen Kiser

Pat Ritter

Kathe Shea

Diana Springer

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