Engagement Forum Notes

Two open forums were scheduled to give UMW Faculty and Staff an opportunity to share their thoughts, suggestions, and other feedback about the initiative. The moderators for these sessions were Dr. Anand Rao, Chair of the UFC and Mr. Michael Morley, President of the SAC.

Session 1

Date:  September 19
Location:  Fredericksburg Campus:
Attendees:  Approximately 80 attendees plus 2 moderators.

Moderator Comments:

  1. Introductions
  2. Comments will be shared anonymously with administration. Please share thoughts openly.
  3. We’d like feedback on how to mitigate issues, and ideas on how to improve communication.
  4. Explanation of survey results
    1. Strengths
    2. Opportunities

Attendee Comments (Note-taker 1):

Question:  Did Faculty and Staff take the same survey?
Yes, they did.  Questions were presented based upon the user’s responses, so it may appear that there were different surveys.

Recommendation:  The BOV should make “Richmond” understand that the COL is high and has risen in recent years.  BOV members are appointed by “Richmond”, and should communicate with them.  We are no longer central / southern Virginia; we are Northern Virginia.

Moderator:  Agrees, and would like to see a solution.

Recommendation:  Reinstate the budget for training and professional development.

Recommendation:  Use inclusive language;.  Staff are underpaid as are Faculty.

Recommendation:  There seems to be a caste system:  Salary, MyTime.

  • MyTime creates a feeling of a caste system for the classified non-exempt employee.
  • Employees have worked at UMW for years, and have never had to punch in as they do now.
  • Any actions taken should be across the board (A/P, Classified, etc.).

Question:  What is the goal to compensate overtime that occurs because of FLSA?

Comment:  Do something about the minutia (i.e. procurement is short-staffed).

Comment:  There is a common theme:  Times are tough.  There is a feeling of (perceived) inequity across colleges, groups of employees, etc.

  • Need transparency.
  • Equitable percentiles.
  • Level the playing field.
  • Deprivation makes people miserable.

Recommendation:  One strategy to improve communication:  Cabinet members should go to the Faculty / Staff dining hall.

Comment:  The Chronicle had an article about salaries at UMW.  It was enlightening.

Comment:  UMW tends to be conservative.

Recommendation:  When looking for pots of money, try solutions that have not been tried before, and look to solutions that are not in use elsewhere.

Recommendation:  Many UMW personnel live in NVA.  Survey employees to see where they live.

Recommendation:  Institutional raises are considered COL, but COL should be routine and pegged to actual numbers.

Recommendation:  The value of a liberal arts education needs to be pushed.

Recommendation:  Free tuition should be available for children of employees who attend any state school.  Note:  This is prohibited by the state; increased scholarships should be considered.

Recommendation:  Faculty development funds were cut to $500; these should be restored.

Comment:  MyTime is complicated – with no gain.

Comment:  Campus surplus has been centralized.  Not sure if this is beneficial.

Comment:  MyTime has been divisive.

Compensation and Performance Management are no longer related.  The UFC plans to address the topic.

Comment:  Staff are completing a self-evaluation.  Employees are often told that they are a ‘great guy’, but there is not a relationship between compensation and performance.

Comment:  There is no plan for promotions of employees.

Comment:  The University’s vision is unclear – and needs to be articulated.

Comment:  The retention of employees is an issue.  Employees are leaving for more money and better benefits.

Recommendation:  Raises / bonuses should be consistent for all groups.

Recommendation:  Reinstate compensation for certifications, articulating what you will gain for certs.

Comment:  A faculty member was recently promoted; salary are stagnant.

Recommendation:  To improve work / life issues, we need child care for faulty and staff.  Kids Station is expensive, limited to 1 child in a family, and not used often.

Comment:  There is a significant gender disparity in salaries at the university.

Comment:  UMW is part of NVA.  Efforts to make this understood ceased when Dr. Anderson retired.  The feeling is that there are other state employees in the area;  salaries cannot be raised for all.

Comment:  MyTime is a tool to help pay employees fairly, but punches are not perceived as positive.

Comment:  There are many employees at the upper level who are making a lot of money.  There is also inequity with new employees making more than their colleagues.

Comment:  The role of the foundation is not well understood.  Are they considered part of our team?

Recommendation:  The compression of salaries needs an explanation.  If a study has not been done, it should be.

Comment:  There was low participation of wage and non-exempt employees in the survey / this forum.  How can we promote participation in activities such as this?

Closing Remarks:  Mr. Morley and Dr. Rao are willing to accept feedback.  The results of this conversation will be made public.  Additional discussion will be encouraged.

Attendee Comments (Note-taker 2):

  1. What is “Performance Management”?
    1. Evaluations and annual reports.
    2. There is no “Management” in the current process.
  2. Re the survey’s mention of “time for scholarship and scholarly activities”:
    1. Very problematic balancing academic workload, service/committee commitments, and scholarly pursuits – and sometimes second (outside) jobs (due to low compensation)
    2. Did everyone (all employee classes) take the same survey?
    3. “Scholarly pursuits” could mean very different things to faculty vs staff
  3. Get Richmond to recognize we are northern VA, not southern VA, and cost of living reflects that
  4. Would be a boost to restore/improve benefits for continuing education
    1. These and other benefits/limits indicate a “caste system” on campus
  5. Re Opportunity #28 – How will UMW adapt to new FLSA requirements in departments where employees routinely work more than 40 hours?
  6. As a classified non-exempt employee, believe that MyTime could offer a great opportunity to demonstrate there is no “caste system”
    1. Whatever is done should be done across the board (all employee classes)
  7. Leadership needs to get out more, be seen at events, and sit in on meetings
  8. Recent articles/studies have shown that faculty compensation is going down relative to cost of living, while leadership compensation is stable or rising
  9. UMW tends to lag in adopting new tools and techniques
  10. We don’t promote niche specialties and develop others
  11. Can we survey where employees live (in order to get a true read on cost of living)?
  12. A Cost of Living increase is NOT a raise!
  13. Could family tuition benefits be extended to state schools (vice just UMW)?
  14. Opportunities for improvement:
    1. Faculty research budget
    2. MyTime
    3. Adjunct pay
    4. 29-hour part-time limits
    5. Disposal of surplus equipment (vice reallocation or sale locally)
  15. There is nothing so divisive as some, but not all, punching a time clock
  16. For many positions, career paths are invisible or don’t exist
    1. Perception is that all employees get the same evaluation scores year after year, and no advancement occurs
    2. No recognition/reward for high potential employees, thus retention suffers
  17. Improvement possible for employee child tuition benefits – we are losing employee’s kids to other schools
  18. The raise announced last week should have been applied consistently across the board (“caste system” perception again)
  19. Promotion/compensation levels are stagnant
  20. Re work/life balance – child care (Kid’s Station) is too expensive, limited to 1 child
  21. Believe that there is still a gender gap in compensation
  22. Thanks for holding the Forum!
  23. There seems to be a growing proliferation of administrative positions & levels
  24. What standards/scales exist for salaries?
    1. Incoming employees are compensated higher than some with significant time in service
  25. Don’t understand what the UMW Foundation is and how it works
  26. Low survey participation by non-exempt staff was noted
    1. Rough show of hands at Forum indicated ~20% teaching faculty, ~35% A/P faculty, ~44% classified exempt staff, and 1 non-exempt staff

Session 2

Date:  September 22
Location:  Stafford Campus:
Attendees:  Approximately 20 attendees plus 2 moderators.

Moderator Comments:

  1. Introductions
  2. Comments will be shared anonymously with administration. Please share thoughts openly
  3. Fredericksburg sessions had good constructive criticism
  4. Explanation of survey results
    1. Strengths
    2. Opportunities

Attendee Comments (Note-taker 1):

Did upper level management take the survey as well?
Yes, they did

Resource constraints – if we are always being told there’s no money, it’s hard to find the motivation to follow through on salary studies, reallocation reports, and exploring new programs because the effort does not result in anything.

What’s the UMW endowment like? Are we using this effectively?  Are we engaging with alumni effectively?

Over the last 6 years, the administration has poorly communicated the value and purpose of the Stafford campus. Words of support have been followed up with contradictory actions – relocation of teaching faculty to the Fredericksburg campus, cancellation of programs and certificates, a lack of (Stafford focused) marketing, unwatered lawns, and welcome desks that have been empty for 4 – 5 years.  Growth through austerity does not work.  The recent announcement of a School of Graduate, Continuing, and Online Education is very hopeful and encouraging news to those of us that work out here.

Leadership training opportunities might go a long way at addressing some of the negative comments seen in the survey. Some people end up in supervisor roles with no support or guidance on being an effective leader.

Identify our areas of growth and pursue those opportunities. UMW is slow to change, slow to adapt, and new ideas are coldly received.  New programs need financial support (spend money to make money).  This financial and campus support is even more important if you are being asked to teach online.

Money generated by a successful program should be reinvested back in the program, but everything seems to go back into the general fund.

Teaching online:

  1. Acknowledge the need and demand for these programs for graduate, adult, and continuing education programs
  2. Look differently at how we do things (not just traditional face-to-face)
  3. Getting approved to teaching online is a laborious process. Some of the comments from that (DBLC) committee seem petty and drive instructors away from teaching online
  4. Need better support for faculty asked to teach online
  5. Must educate UMW employees of the potential of online education. It can be done with quality and effectiveness while still keeping to UMW standards
  6. Have we asked students what they want and what’s best for their educational needs? Yes – a survey was done
  7. UMW is not always motivated to try new things. Traditional is great but sometimes your community changes and needs new things.  Must be responsive to that.
  8. Online graduate classes always fill up faster than f2f graduate classes, but the exact opposite happened on the undergraduate level

UMW employees should also be willing to take the extra step (with students, parents, visitors, alumni). Everyone is a potential student – invest your time in them and it will pay off ye creating the impression of UMW as a place they want to be.  For example, if someone looks lost on campus, ask if you can help and walk them to their destination.  If someone is in a building and looks like they need assistance, stop and answer their question.  Thank people for visiting and be present in that moment.

Salaries and benefits:

  1. People are appreciative of the recent faculty salary increase and the bonus for the other staff. Faculty salary compression and inversion remain and issue.
  2. Concern expressed over salary challenges for classified and hourly staff. Fredericksburg has a high cost of living and the individuals with smaller salaries may be financially struggling.  Previous salary studies incorrectly identify Fredericksburg as part of greater Richmond area – in reality, we are part of greater Washington DC area.
  3. Performance measure are not tied to anything meaningful (like a raise). In order to retain the best employees and maintain employee morale, evaluations should lead to something meaningful.  Otherwise, it’s just a routine.
  4. Other public colleges and universities in Virginia are offering higher salaries for the same positions doing the same work at UMW
  5. Tuition reimbursement – expanding the reimbursement to include schools other than UMW would be nice. Currently, many adults can’t use this benefit as it’s structured because many classes are held during working hours and offerings are limited (because UMW classes don’t tie into what my job is).
  6. Earning a degree gets you a small recognition from UMW but does not really lead to anything as a UMW employee. You almost have to go somewhere else to make use of the degree that’s been earned.

Attendee Comments (Note-taker 2):

Did upper management get the survey to complete as well?

How is the committee going to address the old adage of “we have no money” when dealing with resource constraints?
There is a sense of optimism that new revenue resources are going to be identified

Statement: More has to be done to engage alumni; determine if endowments are restricted or non-restricted.

Statement: There seems to be a lack of management training; feeling that people get promoted but do not necessarily receive the proper training to take on their new roles.

Statement: Frustration over communication; pointing out to the Fredericksburg Today article this week that came out announcing a “new graduate school” – was news to many individuals who work with graduate programs.

Statement: There are concerns about if areas on campus are generating revenue, will it go back to where it was generated from?

Statement: A feeling that there are roadblocks to developing online courses; COE would like to finally realize a fully online program; other state universities in VA are offering online and face-to-face versions of the same program, and it’s getting to the point where the face-to-face is going to have to “stop” b/c the majority of the students just want the online option.  Got to get away from those faculty/administrators that may feel online learning is “not the UMW way.”

Statement: Have we asked what STUDENTS want out of UMW?

Statement: Developing online learning must come down from the top.  Dean -> Dept Chair -> Faculty being tasked to develop online courses/programs.  Resistance to this has gone on for far too long.  There are certainly resources at UMW to assist faculty that may be skeptical of teaching an OL course.

Statement: There needs to be a compression salary review; must look at people who were hired 5-10-15 years ago and see if their salaries need to be adjusted based on the starting salaries of new hires

Statement: Must bring back support for merit based incentives/salary increases.

Statement: Cost-of-living adjustment vs. raise – not the same thing.  Several individuals vocalized support to give increases to those employees that may need it the most (less than $30,000/salary).

Statement: Need to work towards recognizing Fredericksburg as part of Northern VA so that salaries can reflect that.

Question: How are salaries going to be adjusted/addressed in light of FLSA regulations?

Statement: There is limited benefit/restrictions to allow employees to take classes.

Statement: lack of positions for the staff that receive degrees at UMW; no advancement potential.

Question: How are we getting the bonuses announced last week if there is “no money?”
Answer: We did have funds that were allowed to be used for compensation.

Statement: Classified employees should always be considered when discussing salaries b/c they are the ones making less.

Attendee Comments (Note-taker 3):

Did upper management also answer survey questions?

Resource constraints- imagine its money- state not providing money- for years we have heard this response- we are all under paid and the state is not contributing- expectations will hear there are no resources –how is the committee going to address the issue about the issue that there is no money?

Been brought up before about engaging alumni-underutilized- what is the state of the endowment – is it unrestricted or restricted and how does it grow?

1/3 people are satisfied- 1 out of 3 – are happy per the results- maybe it’s a lot of the other issues- internal training (managerial) no management training internally- a lot of this comes from not training our managers and providing professional development.

Communication- feel we need to move forward and make change – the status quo holds but is not excelling.  Presidents opinion about traditional is at capacity and area of growth is with adult online/professional education.  Getting calls about masters programs and this goes with –emailed my boss about the communication- are you still going to be my boss? No one knew what was going on- very slow to make a change here – is you have the courage to suggest an idea- people here are the people to talk to about graduate education because they are one who provides it and we are not included and we are not asked- the reality- we want you to make money- I want training/support- no money for that –but they want me to make money-

What’s the difference between school/college?

Have to spend money up front can’t slap together programs without support we would still be bringing in more people.

When are we consulted- about how we can make extra revenue within our department and then if we do how does the funds come back to the department/program that made the money? We can give but it does not come back.

Everything goes into the common pool- is that reinvested back into our programs- it’s been this way since Jesus was a baby- but part of this is our budget process- no innovation budget- no training for staff- no marketing- jealous of other schools that have nice ads- have to put the money upfront.

Graduate education- delivery method focus on moving things online- number of roadblocks placed I n the way of realizing programs online – we need committees –I just need to feel comfortable that the process is not so burdensome that they push us back even further. Other state universities closing down some ground offerings and moving completely online.

Frustration from the online proposal process and the comments may be petty in nature- some degree of resistance about the modality because it is not the Mary Washington way.

Student took a course online and dept. did not want to accept the online course- rejected because it was delivered online (with the same outcomes)-   online education is wrong- we need to do  a better job educating ourselves about benefits about online education.

Its starting over is some ways and we will need support/time and preparation. Other schools recognize that by paying faculty who develop courses a stipend or other funds to compensate.

Concern about how these comments and the ones from earlier in the week that there is confidence that this will go anywhere and develop into something

Need transparency and share the comments then we will need another forum to discuss these comments and some of these ideas are in draft within the strategic enrollment plan draft.  Maybe there are ways to tweak this and make it better- we need to be vigilant and use SAC and other forums to push forward- concern dually noted- we need to prevent this from happening

Observation- as a student coming back after 17 years- things have changed – course offerings- good ole fashioned customer service – have we asked the students what they want- when I was a student that never came up- this is what you got- make the sacrifice- Have we actually asked the students what do you need?

Faculty support for online education- I have talked with DTLT they are more than willing to provide faculty consultations – I want to see online succeed.  Let people know-

Communication out of senior leadership was a big thing for me- Stafford lost its identity and we were dangling on a string – being told we are in support of the Stafford campus but let’s remove all the faculty and cancel the programs and never put someone back at the front desk. The news is encouraging and I hope it’s over its peak and I hope the communication has changed.

Bogus discouraging about hearing that we will not accept online courses – why can’t we ask faculty to move forward with teaching online –

I think a lot of the financial issues/concerns – rethinking who are students are- not just the 4,000 on the Fred campus – every person in this region has the opportunity to become a UMW student- prep course-in service- PD courses- every single person has to be greeted with customer service. Walk (visitors) people over to their location. On Tuesdays we could open up for xyz… FINANCIAL RETURN COMES LATER ON

Yes we have different populations –the undergraduate population is changing – transfer is increasing and they are commuters- back to delivery- how are we serving them- evening and weekend classes are these courses available- ready to move two programs online – and we see that continuing- the question is what do the students want? –One face to face and online – online fills first and face to face last- they are speaking with the choices they are making.

Another are is compensation – when another pot of money is available- how should funds be distributed.

Appreciate the decision to apply the across the board raise – someone is thinking about it and do something about it- the compression issue is important- keeping staff and faculty here- people are  to be looking at other options is these things are not addressed.

Merit based- no funding for this… UMW then and UMW now- there was a time where people stayed forever- this is a different workforce- people are not going to continue to work for no raise and stay at the same salary forever- at one time we used to applaud their effort if they received a degree – performance management has no value since there is no money attached to it.  They need to go together and be evaluated.

What we are about to receive is cost of living adjustment it is not a raise- the pot of money regardless of faculty staff – the people economically at the bottom need to be helped first versus a percentage across the board. The people at the lower end are economically trapped

How did we compare (market value basis) the workforce is very different and people don’t stay for 30 years anymore – people are moving every three years and that just how it is today- faculty may not be as mobile- serious look at options employees have- take a look at cost of living – very few places – where there is no annul COL increase that is tied to performance.

Compensation study for faculty – but nothing for staff has been done- took a while to pull understanding to hit a wall because we are bound by the state and if we are going to affect change we have to work with every other state agency- anything located in our region – pay rate looks at Richmond – encouraging a relook at the northern Virginia area-

Even if they use bonuses – there is gender disparity in salaries

Modification for FSLA laws – if they have to go through Richmond –

Same positions at 4 year public institutions  (CNU RU W&M) and all are making 3-6k more than a UMW employee in the same job/role

Tuition reimbursement- for staff other programs and needs to come back for our employees

However- when they receive their degree- minimal bonus –why isn’t there a position available for them? Not offered another position –even if not offered- why isn’t there an opportunity – no advancement- sad since other schools utilize internal talent- people are disappointed that it’s not taken into consideration

Salaries – one of few people who said I’m happy because I’m worried about my other coworkers- hard for me to say where is my 2% -when I care more about the people who report to me who are worse off.

Be encouraged people are interested in our voices – there are other opportunities to share your thoughts/ website…


  1. Nabil Al-Tikriti says

    Concerning this point:

    “Recommendation: Free tuition should be available for children of employees who attend any state school. Note: This is prohibited by the state; increased scholarships should be considered…”

    The Commonwealth does not exactly prohibit this practice, it simply does not currently extend this benefit to public university staff and/or faculty, even though it is standard practice in numerous states throughout the US. Considering that the Commonwealth has underpaid its university staff several thousand dollars per year for many years now, the least they can do is extend this benefit to such underpaid staff and faculty.

  2. Jonathan Levin says

    Just want to say thank you for the many thoughtful, insightful, constructive comments.

  3. Ali Hieber says

    Dear Sabrina,
    I participated in a recent forum and reviewed notes shared in your email this morning. Thank you to members of your committee for seeking this information.
    The concern for lack recognition of employees and the perceived “cast” system theme was mentioned several times.
    When I supervised a team of mostly entry level admin/faculty in admissions, I was frustrated that there wasn’t a mechanism to reward outstanding accomplishments through an HR approved system. In response, I was reluctant to use the existing WOW recognition program publically for the classified and wage employees on the team. I privately acknowledged excellence with the classified/wage members to avoid negative repercussions with the admin. faculty who made similar contributions.

    While working at Germanna, I utilized their recognition program that was available for all employee types. There was a simple recognition form that included a space to attach the reason for the recognition and select from an incremental reward option. There was a choice of either a $25 or $50 gift card from Wal-Mart or Target and I believe awarding leave (four or eight hours) was also an option.
    The beauty of the reward is twofold: a co-worker could initiate a recognition and when a team of wage, classified, admin faculty and teaching faculty came together—and did excellent work—everyone could be recognized equally. It did wonders for supporting the ideal that we achieve greatness together.

    The supervising Dean/VP did have to sign off on the form so there was a moderator of sorts tracking the use of the recognition. The forms also went in the personnel file and were helpful during the annual evaluation.

    While implementation of a similar program at UMW would require Foundation funds, I suspect the traction gained in sending the right message would exceed the financial investment. It’s one small way to level the playing field in how we recognize employees.

    Ali Gauch Hieber

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