Emorys campus may have been quiet last week during Spring
Break, but one issue is still making a lot of noise: employee benefits.
No decision has yet been announced on the administrations
proposal to make changes to the Universitys employee benefits
package as a way to fight spiraling health care costs, and whatever
ultimately is decided, one thing is certain: There has been no shortage
Each of the five public meetings on the subject held from March
16 was well-attended, and three of them drew standing room-only
crowds. All told, nearly 1,000 people attended the meetings, and
many more watched the two that were webcast live (and are archived
John Temple, executive vice president and chief operating officer,
and Alice Miller, vice president for Human Resources, led the meetings
and presented the proposed changes, which include:
adopting a 5 percent basic University contribution to employees
retirement plans, beginning at age 21, with a five-year vesting
period. The University also would cut its matching contribution
to 1.5 to 1, up to 3 percent.
cutting Universitys contribution to retiree health
insurance premiums from the current 69 percent to 40 percent, with
a 5 percent annual cap on increases.
adopting a graded Courtesy Scholarship benefit based on
years of service. Employees with less than five years of service
would receive a 50 percent University contribution to dependents
tuition; five to 10 years would receive 75 percent; 10 years or
more would receive 100 percent. Employees taking coursework themselves
would receive 80 percent University contribution (regardless of
years of service), and the benefit would be eliminated for spouses.
None of Emorys administrators expected any of the proposals
to be popular, and the public meetings bore this out.
Employees expressed a range of emotions, most of them negative,
and some meetings even became combative.
Through it all, Temple and Miller maintained that the proposed
changes are necessary to bring University spending in line with
declining growth in income.
I think its pretty clear that 100 percent of Emorys
employees do not want us to change benefits in any way, Temple
told a group of perhaps 60 faculty and staff packed in Grady Hospitals
Oppenheimer Room on March 6.
Several employee groups, including the University Senate, the College
Executive Committee and Employee Council, are working on some kind
of report or resolution on the issue. For example, at the March
1 public meeting (which it arranged), the College Executive Committee
asked for volunteers to study the issue and draft a statement from
faculty. Five volunteered, calling themselves the Budget & Benefits
Working Group (BBWG).
The group put together a resolution that will be voted on by the
college faculty at a meeting to be held Wednesday, March 20, at
4 p.m. in 208 White Hall. In a nutshell, the proposed resolution
calls upon the administration and the Board of Trustees to approve
an increase in endowment spending to make up for the current budget
crunch, for the board to meet with faculty to discuss Emorys
financial situation, and for the University as a whole to launch
a capital campaign to replenish the endowment capital that is spent.
We tried to keep everything complicated out of it,
said John Boli, associate professor of sociology and one of the
five faculty in the BBWG. Boli said, if the administration decided
benefit cuts are unavoidable, the group will draft a second resolution.
Robert Agnew, professor of sociology and acting director of the
College Executive Committee, said the proposed resolution was circulated
to faculty last week for review pending a vote at Wednesdays
meeting. Agnew said the faculty may also consider a report from
Sid Stein, chair of the University Senates fringe benefits
committee, which is evaluating all the proposed changes.
According to President Bill McBride, Employee Council is drafting
an open letter to University President Bill Chace. McBride said
the letter, which will be debated at the councils March 20
meeting, deals comprehensively with the proposed changes and his
constituents opposition to them.
Meanwhile, on the administration side, President Bill Chace said
in an interview that nothing has been decided (see story). The Board
of Trustees Executive Committee met last Thursday, and the
benefits issue was on the agenda. Information on what action the
board took or recommended, if any, was not available at presstime.