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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
March 15, 2004
Volume 39, Number 13

Council examines need for UNM ombudsman, work-life program

The UNM Staff Council recently recognized councilors who, on behalf of staff, traveled to meet with legislators in Santa Fe. Alan Morgan, Helen Trujillo, Jill Ann Yeagley, Janet Luarke, Glen Effertz, Steve Borbas, Nora Boyer and Sabra Basler were the first councilors to make the trip in six years.

The council also issued its first resolution to the Governor’s Office in support of UNM President Louis Caldera and the Council of University Presidents who called for a five percent salary increase for faculty and staff.

Reviewing UNM’s approach to due process is a recent focus of the council. Staff who have disputes with peers or supervisors currently work through the UNM Dispute Resolution office.

In January, Zane Reeves, Ph.D., UNM professor of Public Administration, gave a presentation on the pros and cons of various dispute resolution mechanisms, including arbitrators, fact-finding and peer review processes, ombudsman and mediators. Reeves said a variety of services is best.

In February, Robert Desiderio, former UNM School of Law dean, gave a similar talk. In response to staff complaints about unfair treatment, in 1994, President Richard Peck asked Desiderio to serve as UNM ombudsman. He accepted a one-year term. Desiderio also recommended a combination of services be offered for staff.

Councilor Tom Rolland said the issue of whether UNM needs an ombudsman dates back to when Desiderio was called to the position to clear a backlog of grievances.

“An ombudsperson serves several functions. As an independent, neutral party they are able to look at problems that come up in an unbiased fashion. As Desiderio said, the university also limits its liability. An ombudsman can direct employees, solve problems and detect trends before issues result in litigation,” Rolland said.

The compensation committee, chaired by councilor Angela Ramirez, will sponsor a UNM Town Hall on the status of the UNM employee pension fund, Tuesday, March 16, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in the SUB Ballroom. The guest speaker is Evalynne Hunemuller, deputy director, NM Educational Retirement System.

The compensation committee continues to work on issues such as long-term staff not at salary mid-point, merit increases and performance review.

The UNM Staff Picnic is tentatively set for Saturday, July 24, at the Rio Grande Zoo, reported Joe McKinney, rewards and recognition committee, which is also working with administration to increase the cash gift for Gerald May Award recipients.

The work-life initiative committee last week sponsored a brown bag on work-life/family friendly issues. The committee, chaired by Laurie Mellas Ramirez and councilor Kathy Meadows, developed a Web-based survey for staff, faculty and students to help determine interest for broadening childcare/eldercare resources, flexible schedules, and more. Complete the survey at http://www.unm.edu/news/Releases/04-03-08work-life.htm before April 10.

Karin Retskin, Staff Council administrative support, said the office moves to Hokona-Zuni, rm. 302, Wednesday, March 17.
Browsing through council archives while packing boxes, Retskin came across documents demonstrating the important role the council had in passing UNM’s Domestic Partner Policy. “UNM’s policy served as a model for other in-state, higher education institutions. Given the current climate on this issue nationwide, the council and administration were on the cutting edge in 1994,” she said. 

Notes also reflect the dedication of councilors who worked with administration to increase credit hours covered by tuition remission and equalize annual leave. More recent documents reflect the council’s impact Dispute Resolution Policy redesign.

“Some issues get resolved and some keep popping up. One issue on the minds of staff as far back as the late 1980’s has come up for discussion recently – due process. And of course, parking issues...enough said,” Retskin said.