Emory Report
April 4, 2005
Volume 58, Number 25


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April 4, 2005
Senate hears proposal to change benefits

BY Michael Terrazas


At its March 29 meeting, the University Senate heard presentations on two projects of great interest and importance to the community: the ongoing benefits review, and the revised discriminatory harassment policy.

Before those discussions began, however, the Senate elected Tom Frank, professor of church administration in the Candler School of Theology, as president-elect for 2005–06; and Jennifer Vazquez, administrative assistant in the School of Medicine, as secretary.

First up was benefits. Senate President Sharon Strocchia, who chairs the ad hoc Benefits Review Committee (BRC), explained the committee’s proposal for revamping Emory’s employee benefits package. Strocchia explained the history behind the BRC and its guiding principles, which are to recommend a benefits package that is consistent with Emory’s vision statement and strategic plan, that is competitive with peer institutions, that meets nondiscrimination testing, and to accomplish these goals through a transparent process. Finally, Strocchia said any resulting benefits changes would affect only employees of the University, not those of Emory Healthcare.

Summarized, the BRC proposed the following changes:
• Retirement: adopt a graduated scale of Emory contributions to retirement plans based on age, with employees 21–34 receiving a maximum 8 percent University contribution, those 35–49 receiving a maximum of 9.5 percent, and those 50 and over receiving 10.75 percent maximum. Also eliminate one-year vesting period for new hires over age 55 and those who previously participated in a qualified retirement plan; implement a Roth 403(b) option; lower threshold for participation in 457(b) plan from $135,000 annual income to $125,000.
• Paid time off: add one paid holiday to winter break in first year of new plan and continue adding one day per year up to three additional days. Also increase annual number of vacation days from 21 to 24 for staff employees with 15–20 years of service; allow for voluntary donation of vacation and sick leave time to fellow employees with a health crisis; reduce sick day allowance to 12 days per year with no cap on accrual.
• Health care: recommend to existing steering committee charged with designing health plans that the most medically effective drugs and those used to treat chronic illnesses be available at lowest co-pay; that pharmacy benefit manager operations be made more transparent; that Emory develop a health savings account option; and that disease management and health promotion be promoted more aggressively.
• Security: increase basic term life insurance from $10,000
to $25,000.
• Tuition: change scale of courtesy scholarship so that employees with one year of service receive 30 percent of tuition, those with two to four years receive 50 percent, and those with five or more years receive 100 percent. Strocchia said the committee is waiting on its recommendation for a “portable” courtesy scholarship (one that can be used at another institution) until it has more data.

Strocchia said the changes were made with an eye toward using Emory’s benefits package as a recruitment tool. If adopted, the proposed changes would put Emory right at the median of packages offered by the BRC comparison group (17 of the top 20 research universities in the country). Strocchia asked Senate members to take the proposed changes back to their constituents and gain feedback, in preparation to discuss the changes further (and vote whether to recommend them) at the April meeting. If approved by the Senate, the recommended changes would be forwarded to President Jim Wagner for consideration.

Next, Emory College Dean Bobby Paul reported on the revised discriminatory harassment policy put forward by a committee he co-chaired with General Counsel Kent Alexander. The policy previously had come before the Senate, during its October 2004 meeting, and the version Paul distributed incorporated recommendations made at and following that meeting.

The substantive changes, Paul said, were an expansion of the section detailing with direct communication with an alleged harasser; an expanded section on community facilitator options; and a new section dealing with issues specific to faculty that provides an option for a faculty review panel to handle complaints.

After minimal discussion, the Senate approved the policy by a vote of 15 ayes, zero nays, and one abstention.

The next Senate meeting will be held Tuesday, April 26, at 3:15 p.m. in the Jones Room of Woodruff Library.

If you have a question or concern for University Senate, e-mail Strocchia at sharon.strocchia@emory.edu.