Changes coming to strengthen Staff Senate’s organizational effectiveness

The President’s Committee on the Staff Senate presented its final report to the full Staff Senate Nov. 8 and recommended changes to the representation and electoral process and a simplification of the senate’s bylaws.

Deborah Leliaert, vice president for University Relations and Planning, and with Joanne Woodard, vice president for Institutional Equity and Diversity, were appointed by President Neal Smatresk to lead the committee. Leliaert presented the report and committee recommendations.

The committee was created earlier this year after the Staff Senate Executive Committee determined the Senate needed to perform at a higher level of effectiveness and offer greater engagement and advocacy for its staff constituents.

Following that determination, the senate executive committee passed a resolution asking President Neal Smatresk to appoint an independent committee to make recommendations to him about how the senate could be strengthened organizationally.

Smatresk asked the committee to study the current practices, structure and activities of UNT’s Staff Senate and to find the best practices of similar kinds of organizations at other universities.

He asked the committee to make recommendations to him about how to improve the senate by:

  • Making it organizationally more effective
  • Increasing its ability to receive and share staff issues and concerns with the university community and administration
  • Improving its engagement with constituents and administrators.

After thorough research, the committee divided into two subcommittees – the Composition Subcommittee and the Bylaws Subcommittee.

The Composition Subcommittee reviewed the current composition of the senate, its proportional representation by job classification and the electoral process. It also examined perceived effectiveness and staff member engagement through representation by job classification.

The Bylaw Subcommittee reviewed the senate’s current bylaws and internal process

After completing its study, the President’s Committee on the Staff Senate recommended that the Staff Senate composition be elected from a pool of candidates from each of the university’s administrative units – eight divisions, the Office of the President and the Athletics Department -- creating the opportunity for staff members to engage more with their Staff Senate representatives and to improve opportunities for senators to understand constituent concerns and share information with them.

The committee also recommended the number of representatives for each administrative unit be proportional to the number of staff working in each unit. After this recommendation is implemented, the size of the Staff Senate will go down from 45 members to 39 members. The report suggested a two-year implementation plan for the transition from election and representation by employee classification to election and representation by administrative unit. The committee also recommended an annual review that would provide for adjustments to proportional representation, as needed.

Regarding the senate’s bylaws, the committee recommended simplifying and updating the bylaw document, offered bylaws and a procedure manual for operations of the senate. The committee report recommends that future changes to the bylaws require UNT Presidential approval, while changes to procedures will only require a two-thirds vote of the Staff Senate.

While conducting its review, the committee learned that the university policy authorizing the senate had been eliminated in April 2013. As part of its work, the Composition Subcommittee drafted a new UNT policy, legitimizing the body.

“The Staff Senate now will become an official organization of the university through policy,” Leliaert told the Staff Senate members present at the meeting. “Right now there is no policy that officially authorizes the Staff Senate. When the policy review was held, that policy did not require endorsement of the president, so it went away.”

Leliaert went on to explain the opportunity that the Staff Senate now has to influence policy and procedures affecting staff and the UNT community.

“As a representative shared governance organization, the Staff Senate has the opportunity to serve as an important advisory body to the president and the cabinet on university policies, procedures and long-range plans pertinent to staff,” Leliaert said. “With these changes, the senate will be a conduit of information about matters impacting staff as a whole and matters related to the performance of their work in support of institutional goals.”

She continued by explaining how the senate will be an important forum for members to communicate with one another on matters of mutual interest of concern.

Smatresk asked that the senate provide comments on the proposed changes by Nov. 30 and the senate will vote to adopt the new structure at its next meeting on Dec. 13.