November 7, 2001

Officers attending: Russ Marcks, President; Pam Chambers, Vice President; Fred Thomas, Secretary

Senators attending: Cindy Beckett, Susan Callender, Frank Clay, Roxann DeLaet, George Hageman, Rick Jurus, Kenneth Melendez, Bob Reas, Mike Smith, Ellen Rosengarten, Karen Winston

Not attending: Forrest Cope

Others attending: Karen Blake, Mary Dudash-White, Dave McCormick, Laurel Mayer, Gary Tucker

Russ called the meeting to order at 2:30 in the VPI Conference Room

1.      Minutes from Oct. 24, 2001

Cindy moved to approve the minutes as distributed. The motion passed.

2.      Health Care Team

Russ welcomed Mary Dudash-White and Dave McCormick as representatives of Sinclair’s Health Care Team. They described briefly the current status of health care planning, including the fact that faculty and staff will soon receive a mailing at home and their new open enrollment packets. They emphasized the need for coordination of the planning process, which begins during summer.

Russ asked about the current process through which the Health Care Team receives faculty input, and Dave responded with a description of the process going back to the formation of the Health Care Team in the 1980’s, when the team included three faculty, three staff and about four administrators. About ten years ago, Faculty Senate wanted a representative on the Team, and Dave (then chair of the Personnel Committee) was appointed in that role. He still continues in that role, although he is no longer participates directly as part of Senate.

Dave described how faculty has had input on health care issues (such as vision care) through the salary and fringe process. Cindy noted that health care is now generally excluded from the salary and fringe process. At present, neither the health care team nor the Faculty Issues Team is involved extensively in discussions about the extent of health care benefits, although there is a widespread feeling that Sinclair employees receive very generous benefits. The job of the Health Care Team is to take the pot they are given and to spend it wisely.

Gary asked if there is discussion about Sinclair joining a consortium with other employers. Mary and Dave responded that there has been some discussion, but it is very difficult to form such a consortium.  Groups with lower health care utilization don’t want to join with those that have higher utilization.

Mary noted that the average age of employees at Sinclair is now 47. Health costs increase with age, although they are also high for some other groups such as women of childbearing age.

Frank asked if there is anything out there that Sinclair should be doing and isn’t. Mary and Dave agreed that there is little precedent in other systems to do more than Sinclair does, except perhaps for some improvements in vision care.

Mary emphasized that the cost of prescription drugs (driven in part by TV ads, aging population and better diagnostic methods) is a major cause of increase health care costs.

Russ asked if a possible wave of retirements at Sinclair would significantly decrease health care costs, and if a retirement buyout might help to lower those costs. Dave agreed there are likely to be changes in the age distribution as a result of retirements, but it is not clear how those would impact costs.

Laurel asked about a perception that changes to the health care system seems to be announced all at once and relatively late in the process, so employees have little time to make decisions. Mary replied that employees would soon receive a great deal of information. Dave emphasized strongly that employees need to become better consumers of their own health care. He also emphasized that this is one issue for which all Sinclair employees (from the President to the lowest paid workers) are in the same boat—everyone does have a common goal.

Cindy asked why the Sinclair health care plan does not place more emphasis on wellness issues, such as smoking cessation or weight control. These could lower costs, and deserve further consideration. Dave replied that this was not part of the current charge to the Health Care Team, which is pretty much a "nuts and bolts" organization. The Team could lend its support to such an effort, but he felt that other groups--perhaps Faculty Senate--should take the lead.

3.      Proposed Sinclair Email Policy

Russ explained that although Senate was initially asked to provide comments on the proposed policy by Monday, Nov. 12, Jeanne Jacobs, Steve Johnson and Ned Sifferlen have all expressed their desire to receive input from Senate and their willingness to delay taking the proposal to the Board of Trustees.
Frank expressed concern about the point in the policy that makes all email messages the property of Sinclair. One problem is how that might apply to work that students submit via email.  Fred:  Also, many communications with students are protected by privacy acts.
Cindy expressed doubt that there is any major problem with the policy. Some faculty feel that it does not go far enough.
Russ cited the policy against the unapproved use of encryption software as a cause for concern.  It seems to imply that administration wants to read our emails.
Ellen said that the corporate tenor of the policy may be a cause for negative responses from some faculty, but noted that the policy is not as restrictive as email policies in some institutions.
Cindy said that no one actually has time to check significant quantities of faculty email.  Fred replied that software is available that could scan email message for key words or monitor it in other ways.
Pam said that the process used to develop the email policy began several months ago and included benchmarking of other businesses and institutions. It is not clear how it may have included input from faculty.
Russ stated that there are clearly valid reasons for an institutional email policy, particularly problems with “spam,” bandwidth and storage, but also expressed concern about the potential impact on academic freedom and intellectual property. He suggested that Senate invite Ken Moore to attend the next Senate meeting and address Senate’s concerns.
Senators are to email their concerns and/or questions to Russ by Thursday, Nov. 8, so he can formulate a list of questions to submit to Ken.

4.      Open Forum

4.1 Pam said that Forest was not attending this week or next for health reasons. Senate will send him a get-well card.

4.2 Frank asked about the time required for Sinclair to issue an emergency hand-written paycheck. In his case, it took about a week, which other Senators agreed is typical.

4.3 Rick described an incident when he was in class last Tuesday and was told by a security officer that there had been a bomb threat and advised to check students’ bags.  That does not seem to be an appropriate responsibility for faculty.

The meeting adjourned at 4:05.