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October 31, 2005

Chancellor praises staff at Staff Advisory Board forum

By Jennifer McNulty

During her first forum of the academic year, Chancellor Denice D. Denton praised the hard work of staff and singled out move-in weekend and Preview Day as successful events that were made possible by campus employees.

"I think staff are the heart and soul of any organization," Denton told the crowd that filled Oakes 105, announcing that 3.5 percent salary increases for nonrepresented staff will be reflected in November 1 paychecks.

During extended remarks, Denton highlighted some of the campus's top distinctions and lightheartedly encouraged audience members to share the campus's strengths during "cocktail party" conversations.

"Word of mouth is part of marketing, so I want each of you to memorize at least one of these distinctions and tell your friends," she said, proceeding to playfully quiz the audience about UCSC's standing in several fields, including space sciences (#1), the impact of social science research (#1), the impact of arts and humanities research (#6), the impact of physical science research (#2), and the recent ninth-place ranking globally of the Economics Department's international finance program.

Getting the word out about UCSC's excellence is key to the campus's success in fundraising and recruiting top students, staff, and faculty, she said.

Venture philanthropists want to invest in excellence, and then "our success becomes their success," said Denton. "Students want to go to the best place with world-class staff and faculty."

She encouraged the campus community to participate in Celebration 2005 events surrounding her investiture as chancellor, which she called "a different kind of inauguration" that will focus on academic programs, student support, and campus partnerships with the community and region.

Striking a more somber tone, Denton also noted events that have challenged the campus this fall, including the deaths of three undergraduate students. "There's no way to soften this blow, but staff, faculty, and students responded and really helped the families," said Denton.

Hurricane Katrina also tapped the talents of staff, particularly in Admissions and Student Affairs, which handled inquiries from numerous displaced students. "At least 25 students have been admitted, in addition to graduate students and several displaced faculty members," she said.

Denton acknowledged that the bus strike has placed "serious strain" on many in the campus community and the county, and she hailed efforts by Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) and TAPS Director Wes Scott, who received a round of applause, to ease the inconvenience.

Finally, Denton discussed her administration's response to a "different environment" on campus characterized by incidents of violence and vandalism. "It's edgy," she said. In response, Denton's team is taking a proactive approach that involves, in part, engaging broader representation of the campus community, including faculty, in planning events.

This new strategy received its first test during the campus's October 18 career fair, the first held since a similar event last spring at which a student intern received serious injuries during a demonstration by those opposed to the participation of military recruiters. Denton, who deemed the event a success, said her goals had been to allow for "peaceful demonstration" and the expression of differing opinions while ensuring that students, recruiters, and campus staff members could safely attend the fair.

On the salary front, Denton said negotiations are ongoing with representatives of the Coalition of University Employees, University Professional and Technical Employees, the California Nurses Association, and skilled crafts. She noted that the campus is engaged in a salary equity study and that she has met personally with Howard Pripas, executive director of UC Labor Relations, as well as UC President Robert C. Dynes and UC Provost M.R.C. Greenwood, to discuss staff compensation.

In addition, the UC Regents have undertaken a major systemwide review of university compensation, including "net compensation," which includes benefits, pension, and salary. "There's a fair amount of movement happening there, but it's going to be a chipping away process," said Denton, who expects to have results of both the local report and the Regents' compensation study by the winter-quarter staff forum.

Responding to a question, Denton explained that there is "no quid pro quo" when the university receives a gift from a donor, and that the campus is not beholden to the views or wishes of givers. "We aren't selling off the campus," she said. "When people give a gift, it's a gift."

Throughout the forum, Denton translated some of her remarks into Spanish, saying she wanted to practice what she learned growing up in Houston and acknowledge the asset that Spanish-speaking employees provide to the campus.

Denton reiterated her commitment to increased communication and said her technology team is developing an e-mail alias system to replace the "e-mail tree" currently used to distribute administrative messages to the campus. "If you feel out of the loop, if you don't feel you're getting the messages, what's your alternative?" she asked. "That's right--Currents Online."


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