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Expense policy changes, renewed faculty governance discussed

By Kimber Williams and Leslie King | Emory Report | Nov. 30, 2012

University Senate

Upcoming changes to Emory's travel and expense policies designed to save time, money and paperwork — which will include new Visa corporate cards — were previewed during the Nov. 27 University Senate meeting.

The changes, which become effective Feb. 14, 2013, are the result of a year-long effort by Emory's Office of Business Practice Improvement (BPI) to analyze and improve travel and expense functions, according to Bill Dracos, chief business practice improvement officer.

Among the changes, Emory will be adopting new Visa corporate and purchasing cards. The corporate card will be the preferred payment method for travel-related expenses, and several policy changes should also help make travel easier for faculty and staff, including:

  • Receipts under $75 are no longer required with corporate card, expense reports can be submitted electronically within minutes;
  • Lost receipt affidavits will no longer be used;
  • Simpler meal reimbursements/per diem policies;
  • Automatic currency conversion with corporate cards;
  • GPS is now reimbursable on rental cars;
  • Direct bill to smartkey airfare will no longer be available after Sept. 1, 2013; corporate cards will be the preferred method of payment;
  • Corporate cards will not require a credit check.

The new process should both streamline the user experience and create cost savings. For example, a 100 percent adoption rate of the corporate cards for travel charges could save the University $1.6 to $1.8 million in employee time alone, according the BPI staff.

Changes will be announced in emails and faculty meetings through December. Brown bag lunch information sessions will be offered every at noon each Wednesday in January and February. Instructor-led training and online training videos will also be available. For information, visit howtopay.emory.edu.

Lisa Underwood, associate vice president of transportation, parking and community services, also gave a presentation detailing findings of an extensive review of all Emory transportation programs (see Employee Council coverage below).

In other presentations, Employee Council President Kathy Troyer shared key projects and areas of focus for the coming year, including the Hardship Fund, the Annual Town Hall, StaffFest, and increasing staff engagement within the University.

Troyer noted the success of the Emory University Hardship Fund, which started two years ago with council support as a way to assist fellow employees in need. To date, the fund has received $72,747 in donations and awarded $49,653 in grants to faculty and staff.

"It's been hugely successful," Troyer said. "It's something that the council takes great pride in."

Faculty Council

President James W. Wagner led a conversation about a need for "reinvigorating and even growing" faculty engagement and governance at Emory during the Nov. 20 Faculty Council meeting.

Historic changes — including how society values education, increasing tuition costs and student debt loads, and rising economic pressures — have shaped the landscape for higher education.

But those changes "must be understood as an opportunity, not a threat," he said. "I think we respond to all this with faculty engagement and government."

Using the analogy of a tugboat pulling a large ship through a narrow channel, Wagner observed that there have been times when the administration was seen as the lone vessel powering the progress of the university system.

However, "this system, this ship that really has the value in it, could go a whole lot faster if there was some more propulsion provided by it," he said. "If we can start getting a common sense of direction and more energy for governance where it really counts … I think we'll move faster."

Though change may create tension, "not only can we tolerate that, I think that would be healthy," he added.

To promote strong, creative and progressive faculty governance, Emory must have the culture and will to pursue it, structure and policy to permit it, and participation, responsibility and ownership at the deepest levels of the institution, Wagner said.

Discussion included the need for guidelines that would better define the scope of faculty governance authority and how to effectively communicate a vision that may be seen as "Utopian" given recent changes at Emory College.

Jeff Busse, associate professor of finance, also gave a presentation on a new policy on tenured associate professor workload to be implemented in fall 2013 at Goizueta Business School (GBS).

Under the policy, associate professors who haven't been promoted to full professors within 10 years after tenure may be assigned additional teaching workload — as much as double their prior workload, Busse said.

Douglas Bowman, senior associate dean for external relations and marketing professor at GBS, also invited regular, full-time faculty to consider applying for small, short-term grants of up to $30,000 through the University Research Committee.

Proposals should fit within one of seven categories: biological and health sciences; humanities; math and natural sciences; social sciences; visual and performing arts; or interdisciplinary, a new category.  Funding decisions will be made in March 2013.

The BPI office also gave a presentation on changes to travel and expense policies (See University Senate coverage). Discussion issues were presented from the School of Business and School of Nursing.  

Employee Council

A new competency-based system for employee evaluation could be implemented by next fall, Associate Vice President of Human Resources Del King, told the Employee Council at the Nov. 14 meeting.

"Performance-based management was not working for everyone," King said.

The new system will be based on four core competencies: building trust, delivering results, collaboration and communication. Language will also be provided to help managers evaluate employee performances. Within the present system, for example, it may be hard to distinguish between work that is exceptional or commendable.  Under the new system, which will start in 2013, performance reviews will be online.

"We're building a new performance management tool for managers and supervisors, a standardized way to do performance management across all departments," King said.  

Currently, the program is being piloted in Emory College of Arts & Sciences; School of Medicine; Rollins School of Public Health; and Human Resources. "The target is to finish by early January and use the feedback from the pilot programs, then engage other units within the University," King said, with the eventual goal of universal adoption across campus.

King also spoke about encouraging employees to set annual goals and take responsibility for planning their personal development. Supervisors and managers can help by urging employees to take the lead and providing the tools they need.

In other business, Lisa Underwood, associate vice president of transportation, parking and community services, reported on a survey of Emory's transportation and parking program. Launched in fall 2011, the review examined the effectiveness and popularity of all University transportation programs.

Areas identified for strengthening or additional study include:

  • Information distribution methods and communication
  • Technology improvements for registering programs
  • Reviews of ineffective or underutilized programs
  • The possibility of extending cost sharing to the MARTA transit pass program
  • Alternative options for part-time employees, temps, teleworkers, and part-time commuters
  • Remote parking location alternatives
  • Alignment of subsidies and incentives with specific programs. "The one-size-fits-all approach to incentives is not effective," Underwood noted.

New programs, including random audits of use of the various transportation program options, have been implemented, she said.

Underwood said the committee that guided the survey is also considering options to address intentional misuse of the programs.

Currently, the advisory committee is working with the transportation committee of the University Senate on the next phase of shaping transportation options, seeking feedback from University stakeholders, and finalizing the recommendations toward an implementation goal of fall 2013.