Speaking Out

What Are Your Plans for Us?

The Board of the A-3 Assembly addresses the following Open Letter to the Administration of the University.

Tuition Benefits: Penn as an institution places an emphasis on building and supporting the Penn community. This is clear from the rhetoric, from the thick booklet of training and development opportunities we receive each semester, and from Penn's tuition benefits allowing staff to take courses at Penn. It is both good community building and good business practice for Penn to encourage skill acquisition among its staff--it both promotes staff retention and improves staff productivity.

But what happens to this "commitment" to staff improvement when employees don't have the academic background to be admitted to Penn? Penn's tuition benefits only apply to course work at Penn. Staff members applying for part-time course work at Penn, through CGS or Wharton evening may be told to take specific courses from a community college in order to prepare for possible admittance to Penn. (As a separate problem, there is no written policy defining who can be admitted to Penn and under what academic conditions. Staff members are sometimes directed to community college courses without so much as a transcript evaluation.) If the staff members are then accepted to the Penn program, the credits will transfer. The employee, however, is obliged to pay the tuition.

In the spring of 1995, the benefits committee developed and approved a plan to cover tuition expenses in these cases. (See Almanac April 25, 1995.) The A-3 Assembly would like to know why this plan has been put on hold, and what the intentions are for implementing this plan.

Retirement Benefits: There is currently a provision in place for faculty and "professional" staff at Penn to accept early retirement under specific conditions, to retire no later than June 30, 1996 and retain full access to Penn's medical and tuition benefits. Those retiring, early or otherwise, after that date will be subject to a much less generous package of benefits. This early retirement was mentioned to the A-3 community only in passing, buried within the 1995 Training and Development Opportunities booklet. Faculty and A-1 staff were invited to a series of informational meetings to learn of this plan and discuss their options. A-3 staff were not notified. Faculty and A-1 staff received several mailings and were asked to apply for this early retirement option no later than December 1995.

Now that it is much later than December, 1995, the A-3 Assembly would like to know what the administration's plans are to inform the A-3 community. The Assembly further asks whether A-3 staff members will be held to the December application deadline--the existence of which was concealed from them. What are the administration's intentions concerning A-3 staff members and early retirement?

Restructuring: A great deal of planning has gone into the process of restructuring at Penn. The A-3 Assembly would like to be informed what those plans are.

How many A-3 staff members have been laid off, relocated and reclassified -- in each school or division and department?

What percentage of those displaced have been placed elsewhere at Penn?

What is the restructuring schedule of departments, areas and divisions ? Which areas will experience lay-offs? When will these lay- offs take place? How much money is expected to be saved in these areas? What percentage of cost-saving is expected to come from personnel costs?

In those departments, schools or divisions that have already experienced personnel reduction, what arrangements are being made for remaining staff members who are now required to do more work with fewer people?

--Transmitted by Cheryl Shipman on behalf of the Board of the A-3 Assembly

Partial Response(s)

The letter above was forwarded to Executive Vice President John Fry and Human Resources Vice President Clint Davidson with an invitation to respond in this issue or a future one. The following additional pieces of information have been provided with respect to the questions raised:

Tuition Benefits: In her report at Council on Wednesday, A- 3 Assembly Representative Karen Wheeler reiterated the Assembly's concern on this issue. Mr. Fry outlined the approach to restructuring the benefits program in his address to Council.

Retirement Benefits: The Benefits Office released to Almanac for publication Of Record a letter on the retirement option, with a schedule of lunchtime Q & A sessions February 29, March 4 and March 5 (see page 5).

Restructuring: Mr. Fry's update on Restructuring, presented at Council on Wednesday, is summarized starting on page 3 of this issue. It does not directly address the displacement of A-3 staff in the detail queried above, but contains (a) a basic approach of attrition and controlled rehiring; and (b) some overall figures [not by personnel category] from which readers may glean some information relating to the issues raised.

Mr. Fry and Ms. Wheeler both reported at Council that regular meetings continue between the A-3 leadership and the EVP and Vice President for Human Resources, with restructuring a major topic. The PPSA's Ira Winston reported that similar meetings are held with the A-1 group's leaders. --Ed.


February 27, 1996
Volume 42 Number 22

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