Mending Faculty-Staff Fences
UC Hopes Resource Guide Will Serve as Catalyst for Dialogue and Collaboration Between Two Groups
By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
A growing rift between faculty and staff at UC campuses across California has prompted the publication of a new resource guide outlining ways to promote positive communication and cooperation between these two groups.
Authors of the report say they hope the document will spur dialogue and improve working relationships.
The guide was published by the Task Force on Faculty/Staff Partnerships and is a joint effort of the Council of UC Staff Assemblies and the systemwide Academic Council.
"UC seems to have experienced an increase in incivility in recent years, one that has damaged campus cultures," said Larry Coleman, chairman of the systemwide Academic Council and co-chairman of the task force. "We found that many faculty and staff do not understand or appreciate each other's work lives or roles.
At Berkeley, complaints from staff prompted former Academic Senate Chairman Robert Brentano to issue a memo last fall, encouraging department heads to talk to their faculty about rude conduct and how it affects the morale of staff.
Chancellor Berdahl welcomes the report and believes it will help create a sense of community at Berkeley.
"Since assuming my position of chancellor, I have been working with the staff association and Staff Advisory Committee to think about ways of improving work conditions on campus and to find ways to recognize staff contributions," said Berdahl. "I welcome this report and am glad to know it is available on the Web for others to read."
The report outlines programs employed by some UC campuses that facilitate positive communication, lists training opportunities for faculty and staff and identifies resources available for resolving conflicts.
It also includes a "Partnership Statement" -- affirming UC's commitment to providing a cooperative and professional working environment for faculty and staff -- tendorsed by UC President Richard Atkinson.
Coleman would like to see senate members and staff assemblies from each campus engage in an open discussion leading to the adoption of a similar statement.
Christine Maslach, vice chairwoman of Berkeley's academic senate and professor of psychology, said faculty-staff relationships are a top priority for the senate. The report, she said, will be put on the agenda of the divisional council for discussion in the coming weeks.
"The report will be one of many tools we use to get faculty involved in improving the work environment," said Maslach. "Partnerships are crucial and central to the work that is done here."
Stephanie Smith, coordinator for the Berkeley Staff Assembly, said the staff members she spoke to are enthusiastic about the attention on civility, but many are taking a "wait-and-see" attitude.
"They're wondering how these principles can be put into action," said Smith. "It's clear the report doesn't offer a template for behavior."
A copy of the report can be found on the Web at (www.ucop.edu/senate/partnership/partnership.pdf). Adobe Acrobat software is required to read this document.