The University Record, May 8, 1995

LS&A key administrators share concerns

By Mary Jo Frank
University Relations

Staff retention, summer hours and the need for faculty who become department chairs to receive human resource training were a few of the issues raised at a meeting last Tuesday of the LS&A Key Administrators Group and President James J. Duderstadt.

More than 65 administrators representing all LS&A departments attended the meeting. Many praised the Michigan Agenda for Women and the goal of making the U-M the leader among American universities in promoting the success of women of diverse backgrounds as faculty, students and staff.

"This battle will be won or lost in LS&A," Duderstadt said, "because this is where most of our students and faculty are."

Duderstadt said the next step in pushing forward the Michigan Agenda for Women is consciousness-raising, particularly among department chairs and other faculty leaders. If given an opportunity to hear the personal experiences of women who have been sexually harassed or who have difficulty juggling family and work responsibilities because of an inflexible work environment, most people will learn, Duderstadt said.

"My sense is that the principle challenge is one of ignorance, not hostility," he said, asking for suggestions about ways to raise consciousness.

A major concern for the LS&A key administrators is staff retention because, as one woman noted, it is very time consuming and expensive to replace staff. She suggested the University offer merit incentives to persons who stay in positions longer than three years.

Part of the retention problem, according to some of the administrators, is the lack of respect for the contributions made by staff to the University.

The LS&A administrators also questioned the wisdom of requiring all academic offices to be open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., including the lunch hour, during the summer.

A total quality management study showed that students do not call or drop in academic offices between 4 and 5 p.m. in late July and early August, according to the LS&A administrators, but that data has been ignored by central administration, they said.

Requiring small units to stay open all day throughout the summer also is a security issue, they said, because sometimes there may be only three women in all of Mason Hall.

Jayne Thorson, who is leading the Michigan Agenda for Women effort on behalf of Duderstadt, said flexible hours--allowing employees to work earlier or later in the day and through the lunch hour--are a way to improve efficiency, provide broader coverage and better service, and help employees juggle the demands of work and their other responsibilities. Thorson is assistant director of faculty affairs at the Medical School.

Several of the LS&A administrators and Duderstadt discussed the need to provide new department chairs with management training similar to what the School of Business Administration provides through its Executive Management program.

Without such training, faculty who move into administrative positions can do serious damage, Duderstadt said.