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Virginia Tech Staff Senate starts new year

August 8, 2019

Robert Sebek passes the gavel(s) to Tamarah Smith
Robert Sebek passes the gavel(s) to Tamarah Smith

The Virginia Tech Staff Senate has started its new program year with a new slate of officers and a long list of accomplishments to build on. At the June meeting, outgoing president Robert Sebek passed the gavel to Tamarah Smith, who served as vice president for the past two years. Smith is a business operations specialist in the office of Summer and Winter Sessions and the non-voting staff representative to the Board of Visitors. Other senators who took office as of July 1 are vice president Serena Young, reservation coordinator in Student Engagement & Campus Life; secretary Brandy Morse, accounting/budget analyst in Student Affairs; and parliamentarian Angel Carter, executive secretary in Enterprise Systems.

The executive board of the Staff Senate consists of the officers, including Sebek as past president, and returning committee chairs: communications, Bruce Harper (University Relations); McComas Leadership Seminar, Amy Ingram (Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program); policies and issues, Judy Alford (TLOS); and elections and nominations, Judy Taylor (Executive Vice President and Provost Office).

Members of the Staff Senate were involved with the committee that looked at the need for affordable child care in the region, to serve staff, faculty, and student families. A report from the committee was presented to the Board of Visitors in November. One result of the report was the establishment of the university Child Care Task Force that will report to the Board of Visitors at its November 2019 meeting.

Another aspect of the report looked at the current staff pay scale and its impact on being able to afford child care and cover other expenses. The Staff Senate worked with the Faculty Senate to raise awareness of the below-living-wage salaries for pay bands 1 and 2, including a presentation by the Faculty Senate president to the Board of Visitors. This led to the creation of the university Total Compensation Task Force, which recommended pay increases. As a result, the minimum salary in pay band 1 was raised from $10.25 an hour to $12 an hour, with corresponding increases in pay bands 1 and 2. It also established a $500 yearly stipend for full-time employees making under $35,500. The Staff Senate is advocating for the $12 an hour minimum to apply to part-time employees.

Smith served on the planning committee for the new university strategic plan, approved by the Board of Visitors at the June meeting. As part of the process, Erin McCann spoke to the Staff Senate several times on the plan, its status at that point, and the need for input from staff.

The Staff Senate also sponsored the annual James D. McComas Staff Leadership Seminar, with over 200 staff employees in attendance. This year’s theme was “Empathic Leadership,” and our speakers explored leading others while considering followers’ needs and concerns. The planning committee piloted a program to have a satellite location in northern Virginia for staff in that area to attend via Zoom and coordinated catering services and swag for the staff remotely attending the seminar. The day-long seminar in March was well received and planning has already begun for next year’s seminar.

At its 2018-2019 monthly meetings, the Senate also heard presentations from Ellen Plummer on shared governance; Tim Hodge on the university budget; Matt Hanratty on Blacksburg’s affordable housing programs; Joyce Landreth and others on 4HELP and IT support services; Dwyn Taylor on upcoming construction projects; Jerri Baker on parking; Mike Dunn and Jack Washington on the university’s Master Plan; and President Sands on the enrollment surge and steps the university is taking regarding it.

The Virginia Tech Staff Senate has been in existence since 1991. The Senate is made up of elected representatives from each college and administrative area of the university. It represents all non-faculty salaried and non-student wage staff (both classified and university) in shared governance at Virginia Tech. There are 19 staff associations across campus that elect senators; the officers are working on establishing staff associations in Roanoke and Northern Virginia. The monthly meetings are held on the third Thursday of every month from 12 noon to 1 p.m., are open to any staff member to attend, and are broadcast via ZOOM to make the presentations and discussions available to those who are not able to attend in person.

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