Staff Advisory Council

January 2017

Staff Advisory Council

January 18, 2017

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

HR Conference Room


Kim Alitere, Laurie Booth, Bonnie Bresett, Colleen Little, Susan Gaskell, Tamra Hjermstad, Rachel Louis, Martha Tetrault (ex officio), Kevin Thomas (ex officio)


Veronica Bosley, Jean Grant, Vishakha Sheoran (ex officio), Brian Teal, Helena Warburg


Next Meeting:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., HR Conference Room



We welcomed Laurie Booth to the Staff Advisory Council, and introduced ourselves to her.

Martha gave an update on the accelerated schedule for vacation leave.  The proposal remains the same; hourly staff will receive 2 weeks on hire, 3 weeks at 3 years, and 4 weeks at 8 years.  However we will postpone the change until it is coordinated with the change to an accrual process, rather than vacation leave being delivered in a lump sum annually.  The payroll department will have greater capacity to make those changes during the summer.  It is labor intensive because of the large number of vacation plans.  In this way, also, the entire package of changes can be approved by senior staff at once.

Adam Falk will be doing Staff Forums on 1/30 and 1/31.  Martha asked what communication pathways should be used to advertise the staff forums.  Is Daily Messages sufficient, or should a direct email come either from Martha or from Adam?  Many members said that daily messages are either skimmed or skipped, so a direct email would be helpful, either from Martha and Adam.  More information about the agenda for the forums in an engaging style will increase attendance.

The daily message asked people to submit questions, so some members had the impression that the agenda items would come entirely from those questions.  But in fact the agenda is built based on input from a variety of sources: staff committee, staff advisory council, Martha’s Director’s Breakfast, and other sources.

We then moved on to topics that should be discussed.  The main construction projects and where they are.  The development office are interested in knowing about the construction because their constituents often ask.  Martha noted that topics that are very important to one department may not be to another.  One member said she wanted to hear about policy changes that affect staff: bereavement, vacation, tuition reimbursement policies.  Martha brought up the idea of the status of the compensation committee.  Another member recommended an update on the health insurance changes, what the enrollment looks like, and the implications for the college.

Martha brought up topics like WCMA and the Williams Inn, the WCCC expansion, and the Campaign, including progress towards funding goals and any changes in the initiatives of the campaign.

Tuition Reimbursement

Martha handed out a report on Tuition Reimbursement utilization and the proposed changes to the policy by the DART Staff Subcommittee.  While the cost of the program has fluctuated some from year to year it has never become a budgetary problem.  The program has not been utilized that much.  People using it for degree programs use more money but there are fewer of them.

HR has not received a lot of inquiries about the policy.

HR has understood the “job related” broadly and approved a lot of classes towards degree requirements.  Other members of the community have interpreted it more narrowly, however; one member described that she stopped going to school because of the job related requirement and not seeing a link between her job and the gen ed courses needed for her degree.

One member described submitting a request to a department head, which was then not forwarded on to the Benefits Administrator.

One member said that she doesn’t believe supervisors are letting people know about it.  One supervisor said that she did that every year at the time of the performance review.  A member from another department said everyone knew about the benefit in her department.  One member said she it was important for her to think about the purpose of the program – some people enjoy learning for learning’s sake, but felt they couldn’t ask for a tuition reimbursement unless it were more immediately job related.  Is “job related” supposed to be understood broadly, or more narrowly?

Martha raised the question of the grade requirement.  Most members felt the B grade requirement was reasonable.  A member raised the question of someone considering taking a course in statistics and not taking the course because they were afraid of getting a D.

Martha raised the proposal of having the money fronted by Williams.  One member recommended that the College front half the money and reimburse the other half after the course is completed.  Martha raised the idea of applying for financial aid, but members noted that most colleges require students to take at least 3 classes to qualify for financial aid.  One member remarked that in the current policy, if employees take over 1 class per semester, they have to pay for the other class themselves.

One member raised the idea of using the tuition reimbursement policy for non-academic credit courses, like professional certification courses.  Martha raised the “professional development policy”, which is not broadly known, a benefit for employees of over 5 years for special professional development experience that might entail additional expense and time away from work.

Martha raised the example of a department that would pay for employees to go to conferences and in exchange the employee would take vacation time for their days away from the office.  She didn’t consider it reasonable to expect employees to take vacation time to attend conferences.

Overall, it appears that practices vary broadly across departments in terms of how well supervisors support employees’ professional development.

We discussed the “job-related” requirement and its impact on employees that are interested in training for a role in a different discipline from where they’re working on right now, or even for those that are looking for promotions in their own fields.  Martha mentioned that the supervisor is able to help create those links in their letter of approval.  Martha said that in general the policy needs to be rewritten to reflect more modern and holistic approaches to professional development in our organization.

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