STAFF SENATE MEETING MINUTES March 19, 2014
President Lynn Livingston presided over the March 19, 2014, Staff Senate meeting held at Peabody Hall, Room 225, on the LSU Campus at 10:30 a.m.
P - Torres, Donna (’15)
P - Collins, Lorita (’14)
P - Matkovic, Igor (’14)
A - Williams, Elmer “T” (’14)
P - Chaney, Carolyn (’16)
P - Baker, Sheantel (’14)
P - Gothreaux, Chad (’14)
P - Millican, Tammy (’14)
P - Moreau, Scott (’14)
P - Perkins, Julie (’14)
P - Carruth, Holly (’15)
Pr - Galasso, Tiffany (’15)
P - Livingston, Lynn (’15)
P - Loveless, Kathryn (’15)
P - Sasser, Leigh (’15)
Pr - Saucier, Kandie (’15)
P - Silver, Jon (’15)
P - Craddock, Jacquelyn (’16)
P - Davis, Anaiah (’16)
P - Hale, Robert (’16)
P - Hart, M.E. (’16)
P - Heil, Mark (’15)
P - Adedeji, Funmilayo (’16)
P - Love, Donna (’14)
Pr - Collins, Judy (’14)
A - Bennett, Casey (’15)
P - Collins, Debra (’16)
P - Joseph, LaToya (’16)
A - Indicates Absent
P - Indicates Present
Pr - Indicates Proxy
Frank Jobert, Retired State Employees Association
Lorry Trotter, Retired State Employees Association and Former Staff Senate President (1987-1989)
Yangdong Li, Coastal Studies
Mark Foretich, Information Technology Services
Pinki Diwan, LSU Foundation
Fred Fellner, Facility Services and Former Staff Senator
Alexandra Mouton, Staff Senate Student Intern
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by President Livingston at 10:30 a.m.
There was a quorum with three proxies noted.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Senator Love led the Pledge of Allegiance.
GUEST SPEAKER – Frank Jobert, Executive Director with Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana
President Livingston welcomed Frank Jobert for coming to share some information with the Staff Senate regarding the Retired State Employees Association.
Frank Jobert mentioned that the Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana (RSEA) represents retired and active Louisiana state employees and their families. This association is independently led and membership driven non-profit organization that is designed to advocate for retirement and health benefits and improve the lives of members through informational and enrichment programs. Membership in RSEA is the opportunity to have your voice heard by legislators and state administrators, bolstered by the support and strength of fellow RSEA members.
Their Mission is to advance the quality of life of current and future retired state employees who have given of their talents to the State of Louisiana.
They found themselves as an association a couple of years ago, especially for those who were in the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System. If you recall a couple of years ago, there were several attacks on the pension system that affected current employees. And they called it at that time the “work longer get less program,” a reform proposed by the Governor’s Office. RSEA vigorously opposed that, and at that point, they stood up for the active employees. They don’t see any misalignment of interest in fact quite the contrary. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us as far as they are concerned. So whether you’re active or retired, they feel like we have the same constitutional protections and rights as retirees and future retirees. So there is no cross purposes of dealing with one another. So they want to open RSEA in calling up and recruiting active employees to help carry out their mission, which costs money and takes resources. In fact, two years ago there was a bill that passed called the Cash Balance Retirement Plan that only affected new employees, so it didn’t affect current active employees or retirees. Our association, after that measure was passed by the legislature, recognized that because the system was going incur actuarial cost to implement a new program that the vote in the legislature did not obtain the required 2/3 majority vote that is established in the constitution. They brought that matter to court, they prevailed. The Governor’s office appealed to the Louisiana’s Supreme Court and in July of 2013, just about the time when the act was supposed to be implemented for new hires, the Supreme Court ruled eight to nothing in RSEA’s favor. It cost almost over $100,000 in legal fees to fight that measure to obtain that victory. So they need as many resources as they can get. The association is made up of retirees primarily with 10,000 members, 9,700 of which are retirees with another 300 or so who are active employees. They feel like if they can reach out to the active employees it would help them to further their goals and ambitions by doing what’s best for all. They feel like collectively they can do an even better job representing both groups.
Jobert mentioned that the good news for you all, and he presumes that most of us are current employees, there is not a lot on the radar in this particular legislative session for current or prospective employees. The only measure that he is aware of that affects new employees that they are tracking, is a measure by Chairman Pearson in the House of Representatives, he’s a Chairman of the House Retirement Committee. He has a measure in to raise the minimum retirement age which is currently age 60 to age 62. The association is taking a neutral stance on that. We understand why he wants to do it, he wants to mesh it with the current earliest retirement age for social security recipients. LASERS is in fact supporting the measure, RSEA just took a different stance as an association since they are not exactly in favor or opposed to it, as they don’t have any specific objections to it as long as it stays in its present form. If it’s something that’s clearly unconstitutional or violates your rights in any way, they know our stance, he has testified many times in the legislature. If a measure comes up and they feel like it doesn’t meet the constitutional tests and guarantees provided for employees and retirees, they will challenge it in court. Jobert mentioned group benefits, he is not sure if anyone participates with the Office of Group Benefits (OGB), he did notice that the LSU First system is where a lot of employees participate, but there are some problems going on with the Office of Group Benefits system that they are foreseeing. They are seeing issues arise with that program as they are tracking it and basically it revolves around the fund balance. There was a $500 million dollar reserve fund that was in place about two years ago to pay our benefits and our claims. Well in the last few years, that fund balance has been dwindled down to roughly $200 million, $300 million has already been spent. RSEA is very concerned about the system’s ability to pay claims and benefits for retirees and current employees who are still members of that system. They are hearing several different scenarios that might come up including rate increases. For a rate increase, from what he understands, may affect anybody who is in the LSU First System because they sort of use the same rate structure of OGB. So if OGB’s rates go up, then perhaps the LSU First system will also have some rate increases which are a distinct possibility. It’s mentioned in House Bill 262 which they are tracking to see what they have in store for us. They are anticipating a 5% rate increase, frankly we think that’s a little low, although we don’t want to see our rates go up, we do want to protect the integrity of the program, which is more important to us than a slight rate increase. Especially important for retirees, as they have never paid into the Medicare system throughout their work career. Jobert believes that didn’t start until 1986. If you worked for the state after 1986, the State is paying a portion of their salary to the Medicare program and they will have that coverage upon their retirement. For those who are not in Medicare, OGB is our first and only line of defense for our insurance purposes. RSEA is more concerned about not just the rate increase, but severe benefit reductions. There are only two ways you can save money when you run an insurance business and that is to raise the rates, charge higher copays, raise the deductibles or reduce the of benefits. Could be any combination of those several factors that they are looking at.
Jobert mentioned that there is one other thing on the OGB radar which is the election for the board seat that’s coming up. The paperwork came to him yesterday. The election is now calling for nomination petitions which takes 25 signatures, you have to be an OGB plan member in order to be able to run, you have to have the 25 signatures from other OGB plan members in order to qualify for election. Those petitions are due in on April 7, 2014. What is significant about that is that there are two seats that are open that affect teachers and teacher positions, there’s a retired teachers’ position and it also includes other school employees and there is an active teacher position for K-12. There is one seat for university faculty members but that seat is not up for re-election this cycle. The two he mentioned, retired teachers and active teachers K-12, are up for re-election. We need people who aren’t afraid to talk or to stand up for their rights. Jobert is a retired state employee who worked in corrections for 30 years, so he has paid his dues. Don’t let anyone tell you that your retirement benefit is an entitlement because every pay period, out of your paycheck, your retirement contribution comes out, the state puts up their portion, you work your career and pay your dues. This is something that you are guaranteed under the state constitution and as part of your employer contract. RSEA wants you to be aware of your rights and if you have questions and want to call his office about to see if it’s something we can help you with whether it’s a retirement issue or a group benefits issue, he is happy to assist you. He may not know all of the answers which he doesn’t because it’s complicated sometimes, but feel free to call him. He knows people that can help with getting the correct answers to your questions, maybe not the answer you want but he is sure to get you an answer and help you in any way he can.
Jobert mentioned some of the legislative bills being discussed downtown. He mentioned that some of these may not apply to you right now, but he will break them down into categories. There are a couple of bills that are trying to preclude membership, if you heard of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators, some of the staff members are members of the retirement system. It’s a bit novel because those are private non-profit organizations but the folks that they hire usually come from the teacher ranks and the schools, so they try to maintain their membership for LASERS and Teachers’ retirement systems. This bill would knock out that ability to do that. RSEA is neutral on it since we don’t have anybody in our association that it directly affects. But we have friends who are adamantly opposed to it. This bill came up last year and it was defeated but it’s up again for consideration this year. There are a couple of other bills that deal with retirees. Specifically cost of living allowances. We haven’t had a cost of living allowance for our retirees since 2008. Jobert researched on the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site and the cost of living in the United States as they go by consumer price index, urban has gone up 12% in the last 6 years. We haven’t had a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), he has asked for a 1.5% increase which he doesn’t think is being greedy. Some may argue with that proposition but that’s a bill that RSEA is supporting. And there are 3 bills like that which is House Bill 30, House Bill 34, House Bill 38 and Senate Bill 18. So there are three COLA bills. They are going to be heard in the legislature this Monday, at least the Senate Bill. RSEA is hoping to get that past at least through the first hurdle. The chairman of the committee, Senator Guillory is the author of the bill and usually chairmen of committees have a better chance of getting their bills to go through more so than anyone else, so they are optimistic about that. Monies are available which is not money that comes out of the general fund. The retirement systems invest our retirement money and that money goes to various investment vehicles. They earned 14% on their investments last year, there threshold that they have to hit is about 8.25%, so they exceeded it by approximately 6%. They classified that as an access in investment earnings, those earnings then become available to fund retiree COLA, so the money is set aside for that purpose which is how the statues are written. We are hoping the legislature doesn’t monkey with that formula. We are told that there is a bill that is being drafted to try to modify that formula, but it wouldn’t affect any legislature this year, it wouldn’t take effect until 2015.
Jobert mentioned that there are three more bills, that they have called supplemental COLA’s. It costs right about $100 million dollars to do a 1.5% COLA and there is enough money in the COLA account to fund a 2.7% COLA. So the first 1.5% would come off, that will leave an additional 1.2% that could be used as a supplemental COLA but we are not sure if that money will still be there . The House is proposing a measure to sweep that COLA account of anything over the 1.5% COLA to put money back toward the unfunded accrued liability. If that happens then the money won’t be available, and it won’t be in the supplemental COLA. If the money does remain in the account, we could get up to an additional 1.2%, and he doesn’t think it will be that high. It’s kind of a fill in the blank measure. They don’t even have the amount of money quantified at this point, they just said if they want to grant supplemental COLA, that rate would be determined. We will wait to see what they’re determination is. There are a couple other bills that the system is worried about and we are opposing it as well. One in particular would restrict the way investments could be deployed. They want to limit the rates to 20% in alternatives. If you’re familiar with investments, basically your portfolio is stocks, bonds and alternatives which make up the LASERS portfolio. Alternatives can be classified as anything from private equity to hedge funds, real estate, anything other than a stock or a bond. What they’re trying to do is limit that alternative asset class to 20%. The systems are opposed to that. They feel they have the right and the obligation to monitor and deploy that money according to the best investment practices in the industry. They are trying to maintain that autonomy and that authority, so they are opposing that bill. He mentioned future COLAs. One day you all are going to retire. He was 21 when he started with the state and he was thinking about retirement and contributing 2.5% every pay period after working for 30 years, he can retire at 51 years old and walk out earning 75% of your salary for the rest of your life, that’s not a bad deal. So having said that, now that he is retired, he wants to keep that money coming. That’s the goal of the trust fund is to make sure that these benefits continue to flow for perpetuity for future generations. And of course we all are going to have the same needs and wants when you retire, you’re going to need a COLA to keep the cost of living under control and maintain our standards of living. There are two bills that are going to be proposed by Representative Regina Barrow of Baton Rouge. She’s proposing House Bill 88 and House Bill 90 which would set-up a seniors supplemental fund and it’s supposed to be derived from money to come from any state surplus’s that accrue. Right now the surpluses can be used in various ways. She trying to get this fund included in one of those ways we could use those dollars if in fact we ever have a surplus. Jobert mentioned a bill by Senator Guillory, Chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee which is interesting, it’s Senate Bill 22, and it actually dedicates 5% of the revenue from taxes, fees and assessments from legalized marijuana. So there are a couple of thresholds that first have to be obtained which is first you have to legalize marijuana then you would have to put a tax, then 5% of that tax would go to the retiree COLA account. And there’s another bill proposed by Senator Guillory which is Senate Bill 3 which allows a 3 cents gaming tax per transaction. That money would also be converted to the COLA account for future retirees. There’s one other bill and this is not necessarily in the retirement arena, but almost in the education arena. It’s House Bill 493. It’s a constitutional amendment being proposed by Representative Joe Harrison who is proposing a bill that will dedicate all the lottery and gaming proceeds to higher education, so we don’t have to go through further cuts in that area, he is also dedicating a portion to go to the K-12. He is also voting that some of that money go to votec and technical college education. And some of that money be dedicated for the unfunded accrued liability which the systems have collectively and it is a huge liability. So he wants to donate some of this gambling money to those initiatives. RSEA is willing to support it. Jobert asked if there were any questions.
Q: Higher education is very focused on a couple of bills going through on Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) retirees. What is your view on that? Here at LSU, you are either in LASERS, Teachers or ORP. The ORP employer contribution is somewhat tied to Teachers normal cost, so the employers portion is going to be dropped by 3% for future contributions.
A: That bill may be moved through favorably. They are trying to raise that employer cost to a 6.1% level to compare to the folks who are in the defined benefit plan of LASERS. Our association hasn’t taken a position on it. Personally speaking, he thinks it is a wise move especially when you are trying to attract faculty members. ORP is a good vehicle for faculty and staff that may be more transient than others. That is a good recruiting vehicle that should be supported. He did hear that if someone is a member of the ORP for 10 years that they can transfer into the defined benefit plan, they would have the option to do that. I don’t know what the actuarial would say, actuarial always spin things in such a way that even though something looks good on paper if it has a cost to the system usually it is something they won’t support. Normally, if they are to support it there would be stipulations that the member who is looking to do their transfer, they would pay the cost of the upgrade out of their own pocket. He is not sure if that is the language in that bill. Frankly, he thinks that’s another good one, as a defined benefit plan member, it’s a much better plan. It gives you a lifetime sustained benefit, you cannot out live a defined benefit plan benefit. In most cases, the ORP is like a 401k, you have a set amount of money and you may hope that you die before you run out of money or you stretch that money out to make it last as long as you possible can. Whereas the defined benefit plan, where most LASERS are in, that money is there as long as you are alive and you leave the same amount to your spouse . So the defined benefit plan is better as far as longevity is concerned and sustainability over a lifetime.
Member-at-Large Baker mentioned that LSU is 55% LSU First and the rest are in OGB, so we do have a very large population who participate in OGB. Jobert mentioned to keep your eye on that ball because he is trying to make a public record request. The last financial statement he received was in November 2013, he met with the Director of OGB yesterday for about 2 hours. He really couldn’t get much information. He is trying to turn up the burners on them while legislature is still in session because his biggest fear is that they are going to wait till the legislature adjourns and pull something to where there won’t be any legislature oversight to be able to head off the changes and give us a voice to at least have a forum to voice our opinion on the matter. Frankly, he was not pleased with the meeting, He doesn’t like when people are not forthright. He might not tell people what they want to hear, but he will tell you the truth.
President Livingston thanked Frank Jobert for coming to speak to the Staff Senate today.
GUEST SPEAKER – Pinki Diwan, Director of Special Projects for Advancement Services with the LSU Foundation and Fred Fellner, Assistant Director with Facility Services
President Livingston welcomed Pinki Diwan and Fred Fellner for coming to share some information with the Staff Senate regarding the LSU Foundation’s Endow an Oak Program at LSU.
Pinki Diwan thanked the Staff Senate for the invitation and opportunity to speak today about the Endow the Oak Program. She introduced Fred Fellner who she has worked with very closely from LSU and who is in charge of Landscape with Facility Services. Pinki wanted to honor Lorry Trotter who brought her to Staff Senate as a Senator about 20 years ago. Some of the things that happened in that time was the creation of the LSU Daycare Center and the unclassified employees became known as professional staff employees. She wanted to thank her as she was her mentor. Pinki mentioned that those are very old memories, but they come back when you see those former Staff Senators.
Pinki mentioned that is how she got involved with the Staff Senate at LSU. She was working at Middleton Library when she first began working here and then she moved to the LSU Foundation 20 years ago. And now her passion is in raising funds for the live oak endowment. She mentioned that Fred Fellner is the one who can tell you more about the trees and the importance of the trees on LSU’s campus with regards to the beautification and preservation. It all comes from Facility Services. They do work together because the LSU Foundation wants to raise funds where half of the mentor’s contribution is completely for the endowment and the other half is for operations to take care of the trees and to put a plaque under the tree. Pinki distributed a handout which shows some of the examples of plaques of how some of the people have been honored. People who are honored can be a staff member, a faculty member, a graduate student, a family member or someone you want to give honor to or in memory of or in appreciation of. She encouraged everyone to share this information with the employees in their departments, friends and family members. She commented that you all are the heart of LSU, LSU wouldn’t be there without the staff. Staff plays a role in all the good things behind LSU. She wants to reach out to you all to take this message back with you. The LSU Foundation is raising private donations from all donors which is what is most needed at LSU right now. We are always short of funding in the professorships, scholarships, endowments or chairs. That is one of the roles that the LSU Foundation plays here and we want to see the academic excellence here. She mentioned that we have about 1200 live oak trees which really started when Steele Burden started planting in the 1930’s. He was a visionary who started planting all around campus. There are several zones and we have maps, if someone is interested and wants to know which trees are available, please come her, she is happy to share those maps with you.
Fred Fellner mentioned that this is a very exciting and integral part of LSU. Most of the surveys done on people attracted to the university, who teach, go to school or work here, usually one of the top three reasons is because of the beauty of the campus and within that is the beauty of the vegetation of the campus. The live oaks give it that unique LSU flavor, that ambiance that you feel when you come onto campus. And because of the live oak is very strong and long-lived. They are still planting about 20-30 live oak trees a year. They are always having new trees that are available. The endowment is up to about $400,000 thousand dollars with a goal to reach $2 million dollars. The interest off the endowment is automatically available to us to use immediately as well as 50% of the endowments that are made. That process as it works back into the maintenance goes directly back to the benefit of the tree. It’s a one of those programs that is like the pothole deal where you spend a dollar in there and it all comes back eventually to the maintenance of the trees. They are running a crew and they would like to have a dedicated crew that’s just for live oak maintenance. Right now, LSU has just one arbor crew and they do everything, so he has to do a lot with contract labor. That’s their goal is to build this and the Foundation has a lot of interest in this right now because it has connections back to the heart strings of possible LSU donors. They’ve done some research that has indicated what is out there and what the capabilities are in the marketplace for people to come back to donate. And the live oak endowment is a big piece of that. Fellner mentioned that the trees are at a point now that no matter where you go on campus, they are there. This is a very popular program which started around 1993-94 and started with an urban forestry grant. They’ve had a grant or two along the way to help refine it. They are working very diligently right now on pulling down the LSU website they have for the urban forest and they are bringing back up a new map, it’s all going to be geo-positioned where you can locate the trees, they will be identified with pictures. People will be able to click on it and if they would like to endow that tree, they will be able to do so. It won’t be long to where you should get some news on that once it is up and running.
Pinki mentioned that they were recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2012. Fellner mentioned that we were approved for True Campus U.S.A. through the National Arbor Day Foundation which they would like to preserve where they have to plant and manage the budget appropriately and report on it. LSU has a tree committee in case there are hazardous situations, they furnish replacements and new plantings, so they really have stepped it up and it is more sophisticated and recognized. Pinki mentioned that the trees are affordable. If there is a group of people who want to do an endowment for someone, they can. For example, the Dean of the College of Agriculture retired and his staff all put funds together and had one tree endowed to honor him. So, he will be remembered there with a plaque and honored for a lifetime. This is a great way to recognize someone. It is $4000 to endow most of the trees which could go up in price later on. They do want to keep up with the price and cost of taking care of all the trees on the campus. Another example, a student whose brother went to LSU passed away and the fraternity he belonged to collected money and they wanted to honor him in his memory. So there are several ways that you can endow a live oak, it is a lifetime memory. It is a great way to see the name of someone being honored on a plaque under a tree whether it is a faculty, staff or student member or whoever you would like to honor. Pinki appreciates the time. Does anyone have any questions? She hopes to hear from some of you. LSU Foundation’s website is lsufoundation.org. Please let her know in the future if she can be of any help.
President Livingston thanked Pinki Diwan and Fred Fellner for coming to speak to the Staff Senate today.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES – February 19, 2014, Staff Senate Meeting
A motion to accept the minutes was made by President-Elect Perkins. The motion, seconded by Senator Joseph, carried.
President Livingston reported that on February 20, she along with Senator Millican attended an interview for the Director of Procurement. It was great that Member-at-Large Torres included the Staff Senate and the Faculty Senate in that process so we were glad to be there.
President Livingston reported that on February 21, she attended a University Council on Gender Equity meeting. The report was in included in the meeting packet. Please note the name change, we moved from University Council on Women to the University Council on Gender Equity to reflect the membership of the group. But more importantly, to reflect the area of concern. It’s not just about women, it’s about gender equity here on campus.
President Livingston reported that on February 26, she along with Senators Millican and Davis attended the Staff and Student Bookstore Advisory Committee Meeting. The report was also included in the meeting packet. Senator Millican isolated some of the more important presentation slides and those were sent to the full Senate shortly after that meeting. Livingston thinks the things we take away is that the bookstore and the coffee shop are always doing some type of deal. So if you can locate them on Facebook or twitter, they are always offering deals that will benefit us so keep that in mind.
President Livingston reported that on March 7, she led a Staff Senate Information Session where there was one person in attendance so there was some lessons there. We know that it’s a good idea to be able to share information about Staff Senate. But it highlighted the communication difficulties that we are having presently on Staff Senate. We are currently working on trying to nail those down and be able to get our messages out to staff a bit easier.
President Livingston reported that on March 10, she attended the Chancellor’s Staff Meeting and she wanted to provide some updates about what is going on around campus. The President/Chancellor spoke about LSU’s priorities, the first would be protecting tuition which it looks like we have been able to do, the second is no mid-year budget cuts and the third is new money. He talked mostly about the Wise Act which is $40 million dollars announced by the governor towards stem and other high demand fields in the state. The administration is working on how we can access some of that money and further some of the things that we are doing for the state. From a legislative perspective, there are about 160 bills that impact higher education this session. LSU is seeking a lot of our autonomies and we are prepared to not get all of them. Last week, Melonie Milton, Staff Senate Administrative Coordinator shared a list of bills that might concern us. If you’re tracking the legislative session that list of bills would be a good list to reference. There were some updates on the Dean searches which you have probably seen along the way. Here’s the summary: Science, Veterinary Medicine, Business and Humanities and Social Sciences have all named Deans in the last few weeks. Library and Music and Dramatic Arts have announced finalists and Honors is in progress. So making some good head way with the leadership on campus. LSU is now accepting nominations for the Vice Provost for Diversity. That’s a position that’s being promoted now, here and nationwide. From a recruiting perspective, applications for next year’s freshman class is up 3.8%, so now they will focus on getting those students here, the yield. From a research perspective, updates were provided and they announced that they are on schedule with their annual rewards. Equity, Diversity, and Community Outreach, Kenneth Miles in the interim role is making lots of connections with the community and local and national organizations. So he’s doing a great job with that. Student Life is focused on Student Government Elections, you’ve probably seen that in the newspaper. University Recreation phase three is gearing up and the Career Center is scheduled to be completed in July. Athletics is focusing on the fan experience, particularly with the traffic flow and they have some specific ways that they are going to try to attempt to ease the traffic situation before and after games. Risk Management is working on securing high level risk management autonomies. And also, when they aren’t busy with that, focusing on a new Enterprise Resource Planning system for campus. So everybody is really busy on campus. There was so much more shared but she thinks those are some good updates for this campus.
President Livingston reported that on March 10, she lead the Executive Committee meeting and set the agenda for this meeting.
President Livingston reported that on March 11 and 13, as the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) representative for Staff Senate, she attended various meetings regarding the QEP since SACSCOC was on campus for their site visit. It was a great visit. There were some recommendations to improve the QEP which we have three months to develop those plans per their recommendations. And kind of related to that visit, there was only one recommendation related to our compliance so it was a very positive visit. There are a few months to submit those responses to SACSCOC.
President Livingston reported that on March 18, she lead the Bylaws Committee meeting, there was no report because the meeting took place yesterday. So it will be more in the form of a verbal report later during this meeting under New Business. There is quite a bit there that we would like to talk about.
President Livingston reported that prior to this meeting, she led the Communications Committee meeting and the group talked a bit more about social media. Alexandra Mouton, Staff Senate Marketing Intern has been doing a great job with our Facebook page, but we are looking to increase that profile a little bit more. So we are going to try to send out some information for you to share with your friends on Facebook. So they can reap the benefits of the things that we post in terms of information, deals, and things like that. Always looking to improve that.
President Livingston asked if any of the chairs who submitted committee reports had any further updates to provide at this point.
Long Range Review and Planning
President Livingston would like to revisit the Staff Senate Vision and Mission drafts that everyone received and that was discussed during last month’s meeting. Senator Sasser announced that the committee did receive some feedback electronically. Livingston asked if there were any changes made to the drafts that were presented last month. Senator Sasser replied that the committee did discuss the suggestions received but no changes have been made to the drafts that were submitted during last month’s meeting. The committee would like to move forward with the drafts that were submitted . President Livingston would like to take a vote on whether or not to adopt the Vision and Mission statements as developed by the Long Range Review and Planning Committee. Those statements were included in the meeting packet. Senator Sasser read the draft as follows:
Mission: The Louisiana State University Staff Senate promotes and protects the welfare of the LSU staff by representing the interest of and the issues impacting all staff members.
Vision: The Staff Senate seeks to enhance its visibility as a vital governance organization, recognized as the voice of the LSU staff. The Staff Senate will be an essential partner in University planning and viewed as a valued resource by the administration when critical decisions are made that affect staff members. The Staff Senate seeks to continually support the vision, mission, and Flagship Agenda of Louisiana State University.
A motion to accept the Staff Senate Mission and Vision was made by Past-President Gothreaux. The motion, seconded by Member-at-Large Torres, carried.
All in favor of adopting the Staff Senate Mission and Vision statements. Everyone in favor, none were against.
Member-at-Large Donna Torres reported that she has made contact with the new employee with the Office of Student Aid and Scholarships that will work with the Staff Senate and the committee should have a list of recipients for the Staff Senate Fee Support Scholarship by the end of the week.
Senator Loveless asked if there was a special procedure regarding the cash received during the presale for the LSU Staff Lapel Pins. Torres mentioned that the cash can be put in a sealed envelope and delivered to the Bursar’s Office vault where they will hold it for us until the pins are delivered and we are ready to deposit with the LSU Foundation. The pins are expected to come in by March 28. Senator Love asked if Senators should let Torres know how many pins have been presold. We will deliver the presold orders first before the pins are sold campus-wide. Past-President Gothreaux asked for the presold list, should each person’s name be filled on the list, if a Senator is buying more than one for some of their employees in their department? No, we just need to know the quantity of how many each person would like to buy.
The Clovers and Quarters fundraising campaign is going on this week. Melonie Milton will pick up the collection containers beginning Monday, March 24.
President Livingston mentioned that there was a question regarding Senator Hart’s report. Member-at-Large Baker asked if there has been any feedback received regarding the new broadcast emailing system for all the announcements. In her opinion it is not very effective that way they have been going out. Senator Hart mentioned that at the meeting, it was not discussed how was it going. Senator Craddock mentioned that currently with the broadcast system, students have been inundated with a lot of emails. So, they have gone to a system under Jason Droddy’s direction that it will only be used for emergency situations. There is a GROK article explaining that if you want to use the emailing system across campus that the requests will be compiled into a once a week, News and Notes email across campus. That is the policy that was set forth by Jason Droddy. They were not taking any feedback for changes or suggestions. Michelle Spielman leads the Campus Communicators meetings and Todd Miller is the person responsible for broadcast emails. At this meeting, they opened for questions during the legislative discussion. President Livingston mentioned that the Staff Senate is allowed one email per week to send out through the LSU Staff Senate email account but there are some issues that are being worked out so we can use that email account that was set up for us. Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Student Government were allocated one email per week but other departments on campus have to request their announcements for the News and Notes publication. Senator Davis mentioned that she attends Campus Communicators as well and Lori Kemp spoke about social media and mentioned that there is a way to get information out to the community through LSU’s social media sites and can be requested through the University Relations website or by emailing Lori Kemp at firstname.lastname@example.org . Senator Hart mentioned that there is not just one person who is handling social media for LSU anymore. Senator Craddock mentioned not to have expectations that they will put everything a department may be doing on LSU’s social media pages. It has to be of a relevance that is impactful for the institution not necessarily what we may post on our unit’s social media pages. Member-at-Large Baker mentioned that she understands that the broadcast emails needed to be more minimal but even the title is too minimal. In fact, the announcement for the Staff and Faculty appreciation night at the LSU Women’s Basketball game was just one sentence. Member-at-Large Torres mentioned that there is such a lack of communication on campus and this new system seems to enforce that.
Senator Love reported that she attended the Faculty Senate Meeting on March 18, she submitted her report this morning before the meeting. She mentioned two things that may be of interest is one, Student Government is looking at an Academic Honor Code for LSU. They will discuss that for consideration at tomorrow’s meeting. Also, Faculty Senate passed their support for a tobacco free campus, the margin was slim which was 19 to 14 but they did pass that resolution. Also, they did a first reading of a resolution for Retirement Options for LSU Faculty Members with regard to supporting the current legislation for the Optional Retirement Plan concerns. After discussion and suggestions, there was a vote to suspend the rules and allow a vote on the resolution as amended. That language will be updated but the resolution passed unanimously. Livingston mentioned that the report will be sent to the full Senate.
Staff Senate General Elections
President Livingston announced that for EEO 7 which is the Service/Maintenance Category, we received two nominations for the three seats that are available. Senator’s Matkovic and L. Collins have declared candidacy and will be run unopposed for another three year term. For EEO 1 which is the Executive/Administrative/Managerial Category, there were no declarations for candidacy, so we will still pursue for someone to fill that open seat. For EEO 3 which is Professional/Non-Faculty where we only have one seat available and we have received eight nominations, so there will be an election in that category. And for EEO 5 which is the Technical/Paraprofessional Category, we have received one nomination and one vacancy, so we will try to fill that seat as well. Senator Love asked since there was a deadline for candidacy forms, what will happen at this point if someone is interested in serving on the Staff Senate? Livingston mentioned that if someone is interested in serving, they can be appointed per Executive Committee approval.
Benefit of the Month
Member-at-Large Torres announced that the benefit of the month is for everyone to remember that Campus Federal Credit Union is our credit union and to take advantage of all the services that they provide. The Campus Federal Credit Union annual meeting is scheduled next Wednesday, March 25, at the Lod Cook Alumni Center. They will have a buffet lunch with door prizes. She encouraged everyone to attend to show our support. Torres also announced the ING will be announcing a new branding; they will change their name to Voya Financial. She received notification by postcard in the mail and wanted everyone to be aware that if you receive something from Voya that is formally ING.
President Livingston mentioned with regards to Campus Federal Credit Union and the relationship that we have with them, she announced that Blaine Grimes’ mother passed away this past week. A condolence card was passed around for Senators to share their support for Blaine.
Staff Senate Gift Fund
President Livingston reminded the group of the Staff Senate Gift Fund. If you haven’t contributed and you can, please donate $10 towards the fund so we can build that fund back up for the remainder of the year.
Lapel Pin Sale
President Livingston announced that the Staff Senate would like to host a Lapel Pin Sale in front of the Union the week of March 31, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. for free speech alley. Hopefully we can reach those staff members who may not know about the lapel pins as of yet. She circulated a sign-up sheet for Senators to help with the sale during the above times.
President Livingston announced that during the Bylaws Committee meeting, the committee recapped five of the big issues that have crossed our paths this year. The first is membership, we discussed what it would take to correct this crisis we have with membership on Staff Senate. The Staff Senate Constitution prohibits any one category from having majority on Staff Senate. This year we have 32 Senators but because the reclassification and the loss of positions in other categories being shifted to EEO 3, we actually lose eight seats for the Professional/Non-Faculty Category. The census indicates that we have 2100 employees in that category but the Constitution prohibits so we are only allowed to have thirteen Senators. So we lose eight seats but it’s less about the seats but the fact that we lose eight members on the Staff Senate. The Bylaws Committee is aware that the Bylaws and the Constitution needs amending. The Constitution is not an easy task because we have to put it up for a staff vote. So the committee discussed amending everything that needs to be amended at one time. The five different issues are membership, the mission and vision, the finance role for a treasurer, resolutions and adopting a first and second reading, and also clearing up how we handle officer elections. All of these are worthy of changes to the Bylaws and Constitution. A handout of both current documents with the changes tracked were distributed to the full Senate for the above five issues. These changes are open for discussion and we will take a vote on whether we would like to move forward with changes on each of these five issues.
President Livingston discussed membership which would be a change to the Constitution only. Those changes would simply be removing the rule that no EEO Category would have majority. Under section 2 which explains Senate membership that we strike through that no single category will have majority representation on Staff Senate. If we were to agree to do that, we would need to put this to a campus wide staff vote. If passed, the result would be that we would move from 26 seats next year to 34 seats. EEO 3 would have majority but that is the category where we get the most interest. Any questions? Senator Davis asked what will happen if we leave it as is? How does it affect current membership? President Livingston mentioned that currently we have 16 out of 32 in the EEO 3 category because that is the most we can currently have seated. Next year, it will go from 13 of the 26 seats. Currently with the vacant seats that we have for next year, we will only have 23 active Senators provided that everyone shows up for all the meetings. Knowing that we have 8 nominations for one category but we can only elect 1 seat that would up our numbers. If we are able to fill all of the seats needed, EEO 3 would have 66% on the Staff Senate next year. Past-President Gothreaux mentioned that at one point the EEO Categories were homogeneous, so EEO 3 represented only professional administrative or unclassified staff. The other categories were made up of classified staff. That has changed as the definition of the EEO categories has evolved such that there are classified positions that are considered EEO 3 as well, same with some of the other categories. He thinks that the intent was to balance out that issue whereas now it is matter of trying to balance out and recognize the participation of types of positions and not so much looking at the classification of those positions.
Senator Love mentioned that during the last Staff Senate meeting, there was an indication that when those titles shift, they tend to shift into the EEO 3, Professional/Non-Faculty Category, do we have have a break down campus-wide? Do you know the proportions in the various categories? And if we make that change, will that reflect what the campus is right now? President Livingston announced that the campus population by category per the fall 2013 campus census is for the Clerical/Secretarial category: 10.3% of the population, on the Senate that equals 11.5%, for the Service/Maintenance category: 13.4% of the population, on the Senate that equals 15.4%, for the Skilled Crafts category: 4.7% of the population, on the Senate that equals 7.7%, that is a situation where there is 147 staff members in that category but the Constitution requires two Senators which is a good thing. For the Executive/Administrative/Managerial category: 2.2% of the population, again with two Senators required, on the Senate that equals 7.7%, for the Professional/Non-Faculty category: 66.5%, if we had the full 21 seats, it would be 61.1%, so we would actually have fewer representation with the full 21 seats, for the Technical/Paraprofessional category: 2.9% of the population, again that category has 90 staff members, so there is two Senators for that category which brings that to 7.7%.Livingston thinks it is pretty equal as far as representation. Love commented that it seems in the original design there would be concern that people would vote as a block but she doesn’t see that, especially now that they are blending.
Senator Loveless mentioned that when you eliminate something and don’t put something else in its place, people tend to think it is not equal even though with the numbers it is. So we may want to explain this in detail when it does go out to staff for a vote. Livingston agreed and mentioned that we need to educate the staff of why these changes are needed, so they can make an educated vote. The intent is to provide a lot of education about this. Livingston mentioned we are not taking a final vote of these drafts that outline the amendments now; we will do that next month. We would rather put these drafts out there for input and suggestions.
President Livingston mentioned that Mission and the Vision that was just passed would be included under Article 1 of the Constitution at the beginning before the Staff Senate purpose to reflect who we are. This gives us more identity as a Senate. The other language that you will see on the Constitution would be updating the title for our President and Chancellor because he will ultimately approve this document those corrections need to be made. The third issue is the finance role which we discussed last month. The feedback we received during the last meeting was possibly morphing one of our at large positions into a treasurer role. The committee thought that in terms of gaining nominations during the election process, designating one of two Members-at-Large gets a little messy. So if we are going to designate a finance role, we might as well call it a treasurer. The Bylaws Committee agreed that is the best move we can make and added in some language in both the Bylaws and the Constitution to reflect that, so this was the last change that would affect the Constitution. There is a lot more language added to the Bylaws for the treasurer role which of course the Bylaws will be more specific. There are lots of updates in the Bylaws, particularly on Page 4, about the treasurer, adding in that role and some framework on what that treasurer would do. Livingston mentioned so we would eliminate one of the at large positions because there are two and assigning one as a treasurer. We did not want to add a position because as an Executive Committee, we only have 5 voting members, the Past-President is an ex-officio which is a nonvoting member, so adding another position there could potential be a tie on voting matters. So we would have a President, President-Elect, Past-President, Secretary, Treasurer and a Member-at-Large. Also, throughout the Bylaws there is language that needed to be updated. The fourth issue was resolutions, there was a question earlier in the year about employing the first and second reading, so on Page 6 at the top, we added in a statement on how we handle resolutions. We would introduce resolutions and they would be voted on during the next meeting. However, if there was situation of us doing a Commendation or in the interest of time suspending the rules by 2/3 vote to allow the body to vote on a resolution during that meeting, we include that language too. The fifth issue is officer nominations, we were revisiting the question of allowing Senators to run for more than one officer position. The committee decided that we don’t want to go in that direction. There are not many elections out there where you can run for all the positions. We wanted this to reflect more of a realistic election process but the heart of that question is to possibly tackle when one of the positions runs unopposed. So we want to address how we should handle offices that are unopposed. On the bottom of page 3 extending to page 4, there is language where if we are in a situation where there is an office that is running unopposed, we want to open nominations one more time from the floor for anyone to declare their interest to run for that position. At the April meeting, we will know who our Senators are for next year and we will open officer nominations. In May, if there is a position running unopposed, we will open the floor for nominations on the spot to avoid that unopposed situation. Senator Sasser mentioned that if the nominations are open on the floor, you can nominate yourself as well. Senator Love asked would there be any language included that mentions that we would know who the candidates are before the election occurs at a meeting? Livingston stated no as we would like to move away from Senators deciding to run for an officer position based on the other candidates who are running. Senator Love mentioned that in the past officer elections, we would nominate and then we would not know who is running until the next meeting. Livingston mentioned that we are going to change that process. We will open the nominations in April, in May we will hear the candidate speeches and open the floor for unopposed nominations, typically at the same meeting, you would receive a ballot and vote at that meeting, we are going to move away from that by sending the ballots electronically to Senators after the meeting to mail in anonymously so we are ready for the June meeting. Senator Davis mentioned in a true election process, knowing who is nominated is part of the election process. Livingston mentioned none of this is final but will consider that when the final amendments are issued.
President Livingston would like to take a vote on the five issues to see if we want to move forward with these changes. We are not adopting this language now just simply taking a vote on the five issues discussed.
In terms of membership, do we want to pursue a Constitutional amendment o strike through the requirement that no category has majority representation?
A motion to pursue the membership change was made by Past-President Gothreaux. All in favor of that amendment. Everyone in favor, none were against.
In terms of adopting the Mission and Vision statements into the Constitution that were approved earlier during the meeting.
A motion to adopt the Mission and Vision statements as part of the Constitution was made by Senator Millican. All in favor of that inclusion. Everyone in favor, none were against.
In terms of the finance role to consider a treasurer position on the Executive Committee which would include amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws.
A motion to replace one of the Member-at-Large positions to a treasurer position was made by Past-President Gothreaux. All in favor of that amendment. Everyone in favor, none were against.
In terms of resolutions to include language in the Bylaws to specify how we handle resolutions from a day-to-day business prospective.
A motion to include that language for resolutions was made by Senator Hart. All in favor of that amendment. Everyone in favor, none were against.
In terms of clarifying the officer nomination process in the Bylaws.
A motion to clarify the officer nomination process in the Bylaws was made by Senator Joseph. All in favor of that amendment. Everyone in favor, none were against.
President Livingston mentioned that if you need these documents electronically just let her know. She encouraged everyone to take some time to read through them. Also let her know if there other changes that need to be made or that were missed. We want to try to get these updated as much as possible all at the same time. We will vote on this during the April meeting and then if we vote to move forward with a Constitutional amendment, we will need to put it to a campus-wide staff vote, so we will need to move quickly on that. We can vote independently on that, and then we will forward those results to the President/Chancellor for his approval. The hope is to have these changes in effect for June 30 and for the next Senate year. Senator Love asked what is involved for the staff vote as far as reaching a threshold. Livingston mentioned that we only need 2/3 of the votes cast which we will try to do electronically. Past-President Gothreaux asked what happens if the Constitution gets adopted in June, that removes the stipulation regarding the majority and after we review the census because essentially we can have however many more Senators. Livingston mentioned that we would consider a special election paying attention the seven of the eight candidates who won’t get elected to see if they would like to rerun in a special election for those open seats.
Geaux Big Baton Rouge
President-Elect Perkins mentioned that Geaux Big Baton Rouge is scheduled for Saturday, March 22, from 9am to 1pm for those who volunteered. We will meet at 8am on the Parade Grounds where the kick off begins. We will also get our t-shirts and work assignment. We will be doing a cleanup in old South Baton Rouge, she is not sure where specifically but she knows we will be close to campus. So if anyone else would like to volunteer, meet us out on the Parade Grounds this Saturday morning.
Esprit de femme Awards
President Livingston announced that every March, LSU recognizes Women’s History Month by honoring and celebrating women from all walks of life. Part of the month-long celebration is the LSU Women’s Center’s annual Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration, where the LSU Women’s Center will honor the 2014 recipients of the Esprit de Femme and Men Who Champion Women awards on Thursday, March 27, at the Renaissance Hotel Baton Rouge. The event will kick off at 8 a.m. You can buy a table for $350, if you would like to get a group together to attend.
Senator Love mentioned to keep the retirement legislation on your radar, So far, the issue with ORP has been deferred in committee. She also wanted to thank Senator Silver for coordinating the Staff and Faculty Appreciation Night with the LSU’s Women’s Basketball Team.
Senator Moreau also mentioned that if you go to Raising Cane’s on Highland and State Street today and mention the Rowing Team, they will receive funds to help buy a new trailer.
Staff Senator Birthday
President Livingston announced that Senator Judy Collins celebrated her birthday on March 7, Senator Elmer Williams celebrated his birthday on March 9, Senator Dominic Adedeji celebrated his birthday on March 12, Senator Donna Love celebrated her birthday on March 15, Senator Anaiah Davis celebrated her birthday on March 17 and Melonie Milton, Staff Senate Administrative Coordinator will celebrate her birthday on March 23. “Happy Birthday”.
MOTION TO ADJOURN – With there being no more business, Past-President Gothreaux moved to adjourn. The motion, seconded by Member-at-Large Baker, carried. The meeting adjourned before noon.
Holly Carruth, Secretary