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“Cautiously Optimistic” Faculty members petition to keep administrative assistants on campus

By Justin Siewierski; Editor-in-Chief
On November 24, 2017

“Cautiously Optimistic” Faculty members petition to keep administrative assistants on campus

Justin Siewierski

Editor-in-Chief

jrsiewierski@plymouth.edu 

As the integrated cluster vision is nearly in full swing, faculty members decided to take a stance November 9th to ensure the safety of their administrative assistants. Over 100 faculty members signed a petition crafted towards the protection of nearly 20 jobs; something that got an immediate response from its administration.

“I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the academic deans got back to us,” said Dr. Jeremiah Duncan, a chemistry professor who helped write the petition. “It was really nice to see how quickly they reached out.”

Dr. Duncan, alongside members of both the Department of Atmospheric Science and Chemistry and the American Association of University Professors, realized there was a need for the petition after a recent faculty meeting.

“Our primary goal was to make sure that administrative assistants shouldn’t feel threated, and we wanted to ensure that their job security would be the primary goal.”

The petition itself has three key components, as follows:

“1.None of the current academic administrative assistants should find themselves involuntarily unemployed as a result of impending, cluster-related changes to their duties and assignments.

2.The University should provide, or bear the costs of, any training required for the current administrative assistants to transition into the soon-to-ne created positions.

3.Current administrative assistants must be provided a reasonable amount of time to complete the aforementioned training before they are expected to perform related duties in new positions.”

Four days after the petition was sent out to the President’s office, the Academic Deans quickly wrote a comprehensive response to all faculty members on campus. In the email, the academic administrative assistant positions (now coined as administrative support staff) should not be overwhelmed with the current scenario/ One thing they made certain is that, like any other organization, no position is ever 100% safe. However, they wanted to let everyone involved know the end result isn’t to cut any more positions.

“The goal is to match staff interest with developing needs and shape the administrative support positions essential to the Clusters and programs,” said the faculty-wide email. “We will utilize staff experience and expertise in helping us work together to develop the administrative support structures that will move us forward. With an 18-month transition period, administrative support staff is integral to the transitional planning and evolving University structures.”

Additionally, the email responded to the first component of the petition with an opportunity for more jobs to become available.

“We will need embedded administrative support positions, cluster and program administrative support, and cross cluster administrative support. Positions will also likely emerge from Financial and Student Affairs that current administrative assistants may be interested in considering.”

Robyn Parker, Dean of Business Administration, spoke with the Clock in a previous article written when the problem arose in late September. In a recent email, Parker reinstated that support at the cluster level will be reasonably different than what current administrative assistants are involved with.

“Support would likely be at the cluster level and likely some kind of cross-cluster support teams,” she said. “Those teams would represent a reorganization of some of the duties department chairs presently perform as well as adding new kinds of support for partnerships, projects, and cross-cluster communication.”

The Academic Deans followed up with the second two components of the petition, stating that not only will the administrative assistants have ample time to complete any additional training, but that it will not come at their expense.

“Administrative support staff will be provided (and encouraged to participate in) ongoing professional development. This does not mean that administrative support staff should feel pressured to attend all professional development in all areas, but rather that they should feel empowered to explore areas of professional growth that are of interest to them... Administrative support staff will be provided time to develop skills needed for their current positions as we evolve from departments into clusters as well as time to prepare for emerging positions.”

The email closed on a high note, encouraging the community to buy into the cluster vision and the inclusive approach it intends to bring. “Our hope is to tap the energy and expertise of the entire community. To that end, we will work with administrative assistants, cluster leadership, Financial Affairs, and Academic Affairs administrators to co-create administrative structures that support the clusters, honor the administrative skills of staff, free up more classroom time for faculty, and provide an affirming, caring, and innovative work place.”

As the petition sparked a positive response, the first two clusters are expected to debut next semester.

“[The faculty] and I feel cautiously optimistic with what the petition has done,” said Dr. Duncan. 

 

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