Building a community of faculty and staff
School of Public Health employees create ways to increase civility, communication

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs

21 February 2001 | When Hadidjah Rivera came to Berkeley’s School of Public Health three years ago, she recalls tension in the air.
“Faculty and staff weren’t working well together and morale was low,” said Rivera, division manager of the school’s Health Policy and Management group. “In some instances, conflicts would ensue over things like office space, resources, expectations or deadlines.”

A lot has changed since then. Efforts to build community by the school’s new administrators — Dean Ed Penhoet and Assistant Dean Gail Grogan — and faculty and staff, have begun to pay off, Rivera said. “We all agreed that improving the work environment was a critical issue for the school.”
The turnabout hinged largely on the creation of staff committees and a business team of some 20 managers and supervisors. Collaborating with faculty and the school’s administration, these groups created a variety of venues to improve communication and increase interaction between faculty and staff.

“In the past, some faculty and staff interacted only when administrative issues arose,” said Rivera. “They were not aware of each other’s contributions to the school and what they may have in common as individuals.”

Setting up opportunities for staff and faculty to interact was a key to breaking down barriers, said Sally Bellows, another business team member. Faculty members are now invited to staff meetings to make presentations on their research, and staff are invited to academic events. Both faculty and staff are encouraged to attend other schoolwide gatherings.

An annual research symposium, organized jointly by staff and faculty committees, brings together the school’s employees as well as students, alumni and the campus community.

“Successful faculty-staff partnerships require an understanding of the differences in our roles and responsibilities and an appreciation of how much we have in common,” said Bellows. “The more we know about each other, the better we are able to collaborate and reach our shared goals.”

The business team made presentations to faculty and staff groups to outline concerns, list the steps that have been taken to improve working conditions, and seek support for their community-building efforts. The faculty formally endorsed all of their requests, said Rivera.

The efforts to build partnerships did not go unnoticed. Grogan and the school’s Staff Enrichment Committee both received the Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award for their work.

Improvements at the School of Public Health are just one example of progress toward improving relations faculty-staff relations, says Kathy Day-Huh, a Berkeley staff member who co-chaired UC’s Task Force on Faculty/Staff Partnerships with Larry Coleman, chair of the systemwide Academic Council.

Day-Huh points to several examples: the Berkeley Academic Senate’s newly created task force on faculty/staff partnerships; the Office of Human Resources tracking reports of incivility, in exit interviews, to see how it affects retention; a staff ombuds-sponsored workshop, “Civility: Respect in Action,” planned for March 6; a Berkeley Staff Assembly-sponsored talk, by UC Irvine professor Stephen Barker, on “The Civility Dilemma”; and a Staff Affirmative Action Office offer to work with departments to design individual programs on faculty/staff cooperation.

Day-Huh would like to see more, especially at the UC systemwide level.

“For real change to take place, the leadership of the university must take a strong stand on this issue,” said Day-Huh. “While grassroots efforts, such as those at Berkeley’s School of Public Health, go a long way toward effecting cultural change, sometimes the change must come in the form of policy.”

Day-Huh is referring to Academic Personnel Policy 015, covering faculty conduct and administration of discipline. While the policy outlines faculty behavior toward students and colleagues, it mentions nothing about the treatment of staff. Day-Huh hopes the Systemwide Academic Council will take action to correct this omission.

“It is my mission to keep this idea alive and on the university’s radar screen,” she said.


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