Committee on Class and Labor report offers recommendations

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Jan. 15, 2013

An ambitious campus-wide examination of the role of class and status within Emory's non-academic labor force has yielded its first major findings, offering targeted recommendations for change.  

The report, which is being released this month by the Committee on Class and Labor, concludes the first stage of a multiphase study intended to explore the complex nature of class and status within the University community.  

Comprised of faculty, students and staff, the committee took shape as a result of conversations launched in spring 2010, when Emory students and faculty began raising concerns over contract labor issues.  

Appointed by former Provost Earl Lewis and Mike Mandl, executive vice president for finance and administration, the committee's charge was to explore how class functions at Emory, consider how to minimize its impact upon worker satisfaction and productivity, and find ways to foster a culture of education, advancement and growth.  

Co-chaired by Nadine Kaslow, a past president of the University Senate, School of Medicine professor and chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital, and Gary Hauk, vice president and deputy to the president, the group spent nearly two years investigating ways in which class and status may affect working relationships on campus.  

This spring, the committee will meet with groups across campus to share its findings and recommendations, including at least two community forums. Kaslow and Hauk urge everyone to read the report — or at least its executive summary —  with the hope that it prompts both a larger conversation and ongoing dialogue.  

"I think the process has enormous value, in that it generates a breadth of conversation about issues that might otherwise be submerged," Hauk says. "For an institution that espouses the dissemination of knowledge, it's an important process to be engaged in — a very powerful set of issues."  

The sweeping scope of the study is unprecedented — unlike anything attempted before at Emory around topics of class and labor — and is unusual even among peer institutions, acknowledges Hauk, who is a campus historian.  

And yet, the issue of class remains an undeniable fact for universities, which are built upon longstanding hierarchies and rankings, the report states.  

"Class is one of those categories that influence everything that goes on in our institution, whether it be our own employees or contracted employees or faculty or students or administrators — but it's something that's not always taken seriously," Kaslow observes.  

Study focuses on staff, contract employees  

The first phase of the committee's work involved a wide-ranging examination of the non-academic work force, both staff and contract workers.  

Goals of the study included:  

  • Assessing whether class is a significant factor in Emory work relationships;

  • Collecting data on the non-academic labor market in which Emory competes;

  • Evaluating retention, advancement and employee engagement;

  • Identifying impediments to career and educational opportunities;

  • Determining principles and practices to guide the use of contract labor at Emory.

  The initial findings are the result of hundreds of hours of meetings and focus groups within the campus community, numerous surveys and expert analysis.  

Following are a few highlights from among the 59 final recommendations, which were divided into nine categories:  

 Infrastructure

  • Review existing programs and offices intended to ensure that members of the University community are treated equitably;

  • Consider creating an "ombuds" office to help staff with grievance policies/procedures;

  • Re-evaluate telephonic check-in systems.

  Community and Culture

  • Promote a culture of civility that respects all persons and their contributions to Emory's mission;

  • Include staff on major nonacademic committees of all schools and colleges;

  • Review appropriateness of exclusive non-work spaces.

  Communication

  • Make learning opportunities readily available;

  • Conduct focused surveys of staff to help inform changes in policies/practices.

  Professional Development

  • Articulate clear policy about staff development, promotion and advancement;

  • Provide multiple channels of information about professional development and career advancement;

  • Encourage supervisors to mentor staff and discuss career/professional plans; increase access to education along with more staff work time flexibility.

  Supervision of Staff

  • Mandate training for new supervisors, including faculty, to address issues of diversity, conflict management and communication;

  • Require periodic reviews of all supervisors.

  Work, Flexibility, Benefits and Compensation

  • Ensure all jobs have some degree of flexibility;

  • Conduct market analyses of compensation/benefits and consider improvements where Emory is below market;

  • Increase minimum wage for Emory staff and contract workers;

  • Encourage departments to monitor workflow.

  Policy Making and Implementation

  • Consider whether the University's nondiscrimination policy could include "class" as a protected category;

  • Ensure that policies governing benefits, access to programs, and time management are equitable across the University;

  • Eliminate differences in library privileges among staff, students and faculty;

  • Require that staff be allowed daily computer time to connect with Emory;

  • Create a committee to review how Emory parking and transportation policies may affect employees according to class, job, status or income level.

  Contract Labor

  • Make the rationale and process for selecting major contractors more transparent, taking into account Emory's mission;

  • Develop principles/practices to guide contractor selection;

  • Establish a campus entity to advise in major contractor selection;

  • Conduct regular contractor evaluations;

  • Identify and reduce significant differences between the circumstances of Emory staff and those of contract workers;

  • Encourage a shift toward greater full-time employment for contract workers.

Committee work moves to next phase  

With the report's release, membership on the Committee on Class and Labor will be refreshed and an advisory committee will be appointed to help evaluate and implement recommendations, Hauk says.

Subsequent phases of the study will look at academic labor, the relationship between academic labor and non-academic labor, and the relationship between students and all labor on campus.

Kaslow notes that she is proud of the committee's work. "We were a very diverse group of people from across campus. Some were very passionate about particular issues and had very strong opinions, others were there because of their position or expertise," she recalls.

"In the end, we were able to hear each other in very intense, complicated discussions and find a way we could all get on board with all the recommendations," she adds. "A huge effort was made to find one voice, because we felt if we could do that, we could see the community do that — to have difficult conversations and still come together."  

Looking back upon their work, Kaslow hopes "that this report really makes everyone more sensitive around class issues and how we can be as respectful and inclusive as possible to everyone within our University community."