New staff group would create outlet for concerns

University staff are calling for the same representation that students and faculty have at GW.

The University’s Staff Association submitted a proposal for a charter to create a governing Staff Organization and Staff Senate earlier this month. With more than 3,000 staffers currently unrepresented in a governing body at GW, the change could help them feel more invested in decision-making, staffers said.

The proposal aims for more collaboration with administrators about issues affecting employees, according to the charter. The staff senate would be made up of elected members who discuss ideas and respond to any workplace conflicts involving nonfaculty and nonunion staff members, according to the proposal. The setup would be similar to the Faculty Senate, which works with officials to make decisions, and the Student Association Senate.

“Until now, staff members at GW have lacked the representation that other stakeholders are guaranteed through organizations including the Faculty Assembly, the Student Association and various collective bargaining organizations,” the charter proposal reads.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to comment on administrators’ timeline on approving the body or process for approving a new governing body.

The Staff Association was created in November 2014 after hundreds of employees protested tuition benefit rollbacks. In April 2015, GW laid off 46 staffers, and more than 20 employees said they did not know they would lose their jobs until a press release announcing the layoffs was published earlier that day.

Robin Kuprewicz, a department operations supervisor in the School of Business and the communications chair of the Staff Association, said getting the same level of representation as the Faculty Senate and Student Association has been a top priority for Staff Association leaders since they began the group.

“With the impact of last year’s layoffs and the guarantee of budget cuts in the future, there is no time more pressing to gather staff input,” Kuprewicz said. “We need to involve talented and innovative staff in creating solutions that protect the entire University community.”

Staff representation will ultimately help GW by making staff members feel more invested in the success of the University, Kuprewicz said.

“Staff input is greatly in need of fiscal planning, benefits discussions, expansion efforts and retention and recruitment,” Kuprewicz said. “These challenging, urgent decisions require University-wide collaboration in order to yield creative solutions.”

The Staff Senate would like to partner with the SA, Faculty Senate, the Board of Trustees, University President Steven Knapp and other upper-level administrators to advocate for staff members, Kuprewicz said.

Kuprewicz said the Staff Association has already communicated with several leaders and groups within the University about the proposal, including former Vice President for Human Resources Sabrina Ellis, Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman, faculty, students and the Faculty Senate’s executive committee.

Ten of GW’s 14 peer schools have representation for staff in either an advisory council or university senate, including Georgetown, American and Vanderbilt universities, according to those universities’ websites.

Andrew Zimmerman, the president of the Faculty Association, called the proposal a “terrific idea.” He said the Faculty Association, which was created as an alternative to the Faculty Senate, supports and communicates regularly with the Staff Association.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Zimmerman, a professor of history and international affairs, said. “I hope that the University administration will take their proposal seriously.”

Zimmerman said the representation that the Staff Senate plans to bring for staffers is important because the third major component of the University will finally get its voice in University decisions. GW uses a shared governance model that involves faculty and the Board of Trustees in decision-making.

“I think the University administration often makes decisions with the assumption that the people affected will be silent,” Zimmerman said. “The staff has certainly shown with the Staff Association that they don’t want to be silent.”

Charles Garris, the chair of the Faculty Senate’s executive committee, said he supports the proposal for a staff senate, but it will have trouble representing every staff member because staffers hold a myriad of positions.

“It won’t be that easy to set up because they will be trying to represent the entire staff,” Garris, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said. “The nonunion staff includes a tremendous diversity of different types of jobs, cleaning personnel all the way up to vice presidents, so it’s quite a spectrum.”

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