March 6 , 2006
Senate hears benefits update from HR
BY Michael Terrazas
President Jim Wagner began the Feb. 28 University Senate meeting, held in the Jones Room of Woodruff Library, by announcing that the Strategic Planning Steering Committee soon will disband, but it will be replaced by an analogous group charged with overseeing implementation of what the steering committee helped create over the past two years. To stay informed about strategic plan implementation, Wagner suggested the Senate invite one or more of the leaders of the plan’s initiatives to speak at a future meeting.
The president also said that “happily colliding circumstances” should result in roughly 6 percent growth for Emory’s operating budget in fiscal year 2007. However, because it is calculated on a three-year rolling average of market value, payout from the University’s endowment is likely to remain modest for one more year despite its recent strong performance, Wagner said. The final FY07 budget will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees in May.
Next up was Peter Barnes, vice president for Human Resources, who updated the Senate on progress made in implementing the recommendations of last year’s Benefits Review Committee. The group suggested a slate of changes to Emory’s employee benefits package, and Barnes said a number of those suggestions
have come to fruition, with more to follow.
Barnes said the benefits changes include:
• adding another paid University holiday (New Year’s Eve).
• eliminating the one-year vesting period for new employees who previously have participated in a qualified retirement plan.
• creation of a Roth 403(b) option for retirement (implementation July 2006).
• making the operations of Emory’s pharmacy manager more transparent (see Human Resources column, page 7).
• development of a health savings account option for health plan participants.
• establishing regular consultation between the University’s Health Care Steering Committee and the Senate’s fringe benefits committee.
Barnes noted two more options that are under study: adopting a sliding scale for Emory contributions to employees’ retirement plans, in which University contributions are greater for older employees (the cost for this, Barnes said, is approximately $4 million annually); and creating a “leave bank” through which employees may donate their unused vacation and/or sick leave to colleagues facing dire circumstances.
The final item on the agenda was a presentation by honorary degrees chair Richard Levinson, who presented six candidates for Emory honorary degrees, beginning in 2007. Levinson said, for the first time, his group put forth more than enough degree candidates, with the goal of creating a pool of qualified, approved candidates from which the president may choose in selecting degree recipients in future years. Such a system allows for flexibility if candidates cannot attend the Commencement ceremony to receive their degree. The six candidates Levinson presented will be put to a vote at the Senate’s March meeting, he said, and they remain confidential.
The next University Senate meeting will be held Tuesday, March 28, at 3:15 p.m. in the Jones Room
If you have a question or concern for University Senate, e-mail President Michael Rogers at email@example.com.