University Senate

Meeting 536 Minutes

The University Senate
of Michigan Technological University

Minutes of Meeting 536
25 September 2013

The Senate

  • Presentation on Survey Results by Gerard Caneba
  • Questions and Answers by University President Glenn Mroz



1. Call to order and roll call. President Brian Barkdoll called the University Senate Meeting 536 to order at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. The Senate Secretary Marty Thompson called roll. Absent were Senator Peng and representatives of Army/Air Force ROTC, Kinesiology & Integrative Physiology, Materials Science & Engineering, Academic Services A, Administration and Graduate Faculty Council.

2. Recognition of visitors. Guests included Glenn Mroz (President’s Office), Max Seel (Provost’s Office), Renee Hiller (Human Resources), Karen Hext (Human Resources), Theresa Coleman-Kaiser (Administration), Kathy Pintar (Registrar’s Office) and Ellen Horsch (Administration).

3. Approval of agenda. Scarlett motioned to approve the agenda; Wood seconded; it passed unanimously on a voice vote.

4. Approval of minutes from Meeting 535. Wood motioned to approve the agenda; Scarlett seconded; it passed unanimously on a voice vote.

5. Presentation: “Results of the 2012-13 President & Executive Team Evaluationby Gerard Caneba
Caneba, Administrative Policy Committee, presented the results to the 2012-2013 presidential survey, the efforts undergone to encourage participation and ensure high quality. He presented and discussed individual response statistics which were broken down by respondent category. Caneba followed the statistical analysis of survey questions with a general summary of common responses to a series of questions on promotion of diversity and several questions provided by University President Mroz. He concluded by describing the fate of the survey results. Mullins asked about the methodology used to calculate the overall average scores. Caneba said the overall scores were an average of all responses and not the average of each group. Nooshabadi asked how staff would know the administrative support for research and felt the results for that question were not reliable. Caneba acknowledged his concern and said this was the reason for pooling the responses and indicating the scores from faculty, staff or administration. Barkdoll said that should be taken into consideration. Caneba then discussed the written comments noting that the comments were very diverse. Nooshabadi asked how the comments were distilled into summaries. Caneba said he, not the entire committee, grouped similar comments to give an overall sense of the weight of such comments. Riehl asked if there were anything in the comments that might explain the observation that faculty scores were consistently lower than all the other groups. Scarlett said that because the survey was anonymous, the source of the comments were not known, therefore that information is not available.

6. Presentation: “Questions and Answers” by University President Glenn Mroz
President Mroz thanked Caneba for his years of work developing, designing and performing the survey. He provided feedback on employee comments about budget, benefits and climate at Tech. He said concerns about evaluations and grievances are senate responsibilities and, therefore, directly addressable by the senate. He noted the Benefits Liaison Group (BLG) is meeting on October 9th.

Horsch described the etiology and composition of the BLG, noting what she felt was the fiscal skill-set and mindset required to do the job. Hiller and Horsch presented to the Senate in April the three year benefit roadmap which included one health insurance plan and providing a larger opt-out for 2014. Horsch said data from Aon Hewitt, University health consultants, will be available and discussed at the October 9thBLG meeting, and at a later date, a set of recommendations by the BLG will be put together and given to the president.

Beck felt it was owed to employees to get their input ahead of the October meeting rather than after any decisions are made. He provided a brief analysis of the impact of suggested cost increases, including the annual salary and percent salary increase required to offset the increased cost of benefits to employees.

Horsch suggested that calculations such as these were being prepared for the upcoming BLG meeting for distribution to the committee for discussion.

Beck felt the reasons for the changes in the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) were not convincing and that more employees should have input prior to simply removing one option.

Horsch cited the Senate Fringe benefits survey taken by employees in the prior year.

Waddell asked when would be the appropriate time to bring up questions from University Senate Fringe Benefits Committee’s initial report.

Barkdoll opened the floor to all questions.

Horsch noted the October BLG meeting time was chosen because important additional data would be beneficial to making final healthcare coverage decisions.

Beck said that if the PPO is eliminated, there will be a $1.4 million loss in premiums, and he said that it has been suggested that adding premiums to the existing HDHP would be one way to make up for that loss.

Horsch said these suggestions are not finalized and more data is needed.

Beck noted an Aon Hewitt report indicates that the PPO and HDHP are actuarially similar in cost and wondered why the PPO would be eliminated. He sought reasons for such decisions. Not only would this make us the only university with only one health plan, but this could put strain on acquiring and retaining faculty. Beck reiterated that his main concern was that employees be involved in the discussion and decision-making process.

Mroz asked the dates for open enrollment.

Hiller said the open enrollment window starts in November and goes until four weeks before the deadline.

Mroz noted the decision needs to be done before November.

Mullins said the division between the Tech Fund and Tech appears to be virtually zero.

Mroz acknowledged the combined accounting, but said the Tech Fund is a separate 501(c)(3) and has its own board of directors. He added that it is wholly owned by the university, and Tech has to represent anything that could be an asset or liability.

Mullins said other universities ensure as much separation as possible due to the risk of the fund becoming overdraft protection for the administration during tough years.

Mroz said that will not occur, but the perception by legislator’s might be different when they see combined financials. He added that all that is needed to clarify things is to read the financial statement.

Mullins asked for confirmation that this will never happen.

Mroz reaffirmed that this will not occur.

Vable asked if the president’s evaluation has caused changes and asked for an example.

Mroz responded in the affirmative and provided the example of allocation of funds for raises.

Vable said the evaluation process requires a time investment by all, and if it is not having an impact or creating some change, then what is the purpose.

Mroz gave an example of offering additional training for employees at Gogebic to increase their skill-sets.

Horsch said University is working with the UAW on a certification program which will be done at Gogebic [Community College]. 

Seel said he looks at productivity in the areas of teaching, research and service. He noted that many post-tenure faculty focus more on their talents, some in research, others in teaching, and the reward structure of a department should reflect that.

Mroz said the raise for promotion increased, and there are now steps for promoting lecturers, both of which bring salaries up. He noted that increasing salaries for new faculty has added to salary compression.

Waddell asked when the Fringe Benefits Committee should present its report.

Barkdoll indicated that the report could be presented now.

Waddell approached the podium, read the charge of the Fringe Benefits Committee and presented a series of questions from the FBC and senate constituents. He noted that all the questions were made available to the senate, Horsch and President Mroz in the effort to have an impact on the decisions being made at the upcoming meeting.

Waddell read the Fringe Benefits Committee’s first question: The Aon Hewitt study, “Preliminary Health Care Strategy and Pricing for 2014,” commissioned by Michigan Tech concluded that “The PPO and HDHP design differences have narrowed over the last two years,” and, as a consequence, “The actuarial value between the two plans is nearly equal” (slide 14). If there is not a significant difference in the cost of these two options, what reason would Michigan Tech have for dropping the PPO option? [For the full text of the other questions, please see the attached Fringe Benefits Committee report.]   Waddell asked if Vice President for Administration Ellen Horsch was still present. It was indicated that she was not. Waddell asked if anyone from Benefits Services could answer the question.

Hiller Director of Human Resources, noted costs initially went down as people moved into the HDHP plan, although this effect has not continued as more employees moved into it.

Waddell asked if the conclusions from the Aon-Hewitt consultants were wrong because they said the costs of the two plans are similar.

Hiller said the costs of the two plans were initially different but are now closer.

Waddell asked if there was a reason to end the PPO if the costs are coming closer.

Hiller said there was no clear reason, so it was felt they need more data.

Beck said he would like to see a calculation of the numbers because if the PPO is more expensive, how much more the premium would need to be increased before it was at parity with the HDHP cost.

Caneba said the reasons why the costs are similar are important, and we need to understand what they are not limiting ourselves to one year’s data.

Waddell asked about changes in employee healthcare behavior associated with increased costs.

Hiller said the goal is to help people make informed healthcare decisions, noting there is an issue with postponing healthcare leading to higher costs later. She said the goal was not to limit coverage or decide which procedures to perform.

Seel, noting his PPO membership, said the issue is not limiting coverage but a person deciding which tests to perform due to costs.

Waddell cited a study that concluded that postponing healthcare ends up costing more in the long run. He cited the Aon-Hewitt analysis regarding cost drivers and healthcare behaviors that employees are making good healthcare decisions based on MTU costs for these variables being 20% less than the national average. He said this strongly suggests informed decision making and good healthcare consumption by employees and asked what is driving the need for changes to our healthcare plans.

Mroz affirmed people are making good healthcare decisions, but said the number of dependents per policy overshadows that, driving the cost up.

Waddell said he hoped this information can help in the decision making process. He asked if it was known who is choosing the PPO versus the HDHP, based on cost drivers including gender, dependents and age.

Mroz said that will be discussed at the upcoming meeting.

Hiller said many high-dependent employees moved to HDHP.

Waddell cited a study about healthcare consumption and associated costs.

Mroz noted wellness services costs are covered at 100% under both plans.

Hiller restated that preventative services are covered at 100%.

DeWinter said a biopsy is not considered preventative and if avoided could lead to cancer and, therefore, incur higher healthcare costs.

Phillips said codes change based on healthcare service provided and a given procedure may not be covered.

Waddell asked about cost shifting from university to employee versus saving money overall.

Mroz said state law means individuals must pay within a certain range (60 – 80%) and the policies are setup accordingly.

Barkdoll asked if 20% is the minimum that must be paid by employee according to state law.

Hiller noted that institutions pay 60-80% of costs as defined by state law.

Waddell asked if the proposed PPO elimination was unique among universities and whether this unique distinction will go against hiring and retention of faculty and staff, as described in our strategic plan.

Mroz said we could look at this and see what new employees are picking.

Hiller said most newly hired faculty seem to like the HDHP as those with limited healthcare needs can save money.

Waddell said that Senate constituents who submitted comments were uniformly concerned about PPO loss.

Beck said younger employees may prefer the HDHP.

Brown said having both health plans permits the option of changing plans as lifestyle changes.

Phillips said the physician’s office does not get coverage information to help patients make informed cost decisions.

Scarlett said new employees are happy to have a job, but then as their lifestyle changes, their perspectives on benefits change. He asked how employee retention is impacted by benefit changes that result in a net loss in compensation.

Barkdoll suggested that benefits changes could be described in terms of why it is good for employees.

Hiller said as PPO elimination was considered, transparency became important to communicate the data and the decisions.

Barkdoll said that was encouraging and that having more input will help that effort.

Mroz noted that where the stop loss begins is important and factors into these decisions.

Hiller said this year is favorable [financially], which may be due to changing providers.

Mroz said no one hit stop loss.

Vable asked if there was a move away from defined contributions.

Mroz cited a healthcare-cost-analysis worksheet and said employers are better than healthcare exchanges.

Hiller said Tech will have to pay a penalty if they do not offer coverage and that Tech offers a better deal to employees than exchanges.

Mroz affirmed.

Waddell said that in the interest of time, he would only ask one more question (question 7) from the FBC’s and would leave the remaining five questions for another time. He said that in a survey of employees conducted by the Fringe Benefits Committee last year, 65% of respondents commented that both benefits and compensation were important in accepting offers from Tech. He asked if this fact will influence benefits decisions and asked if additional analysis of the survey data would be helpful

Mroz said there are other benefits, such as the TRIP program.

Waddell repeated the question.

Mroz said the information currently available from the survey was good enough.

Seel asked if the main point is that many employees want both PPO and HDHP to continue.

Waddell affirmed and said dropping the PPO and adding premiums to HDHP are the major concerns.

DeWinter said this is based on the benefits survey completed last year.

Riehl asked about question #8 (salary allocation) and noted everyone thinks executives are getting highly compensated, including administration. He added that it is the perception of all, not just faculty or staff but administration, too.

Mroz said some are hired at market value and some deans came in at current value and not the lower salary of exiting deans.

Seel said he would examine that.

Snyder asked what constitutes research activity at Tech as digital measures limits what is referred to as research activity to be funded work.

Seel described what constitutes research and said digital measures includes the persons CV which also describes a persons research activity.

Snyder said pay raises are limited to what appears on digital measures and most activity that is research is not defined by digital measures as such. He added that there is no place to put most research activities and that funding is not necessarily research activity.

Seel said funding, publications and other products are ways to measure research activity and that he will follow up on that.

Barkdoll thanked the executive team members who were present.

7. Report from the Senate President
Barkdoll said the senate must evaluate itself and has prepared a report for review. Vable said the proposal was passed two years ago and starts with the senate president. The report goes to executive committee, which is then brought to the senate. The evaluation is about senate processes not people. Barkdoll said it will go to senate constituents and it will be good to know what they are thinking.

8. Reports from Senate Standing Committees
Academic Policy Committee. None.

Administrative Policy Committee. Vable notes they were working on the 0% appointment proposal.Modifications to chair and dean evaluations are being reworked. Seel clarified that this change originated from the chairs and deans and this change is to get the process in the right order. Vable asked to address vehicle discrimination on campus. The first step will be to figure out what this means.

Curricular Policy Committee. Phillips said Charlesworth is the new chair. She added that the committee is using software for tracking proposals sent to the committee. Several proposals were reviewed and discussed. When these are ready they will be brought to the senate.

Elections Committee. Riehl put forth his nomination for ombudsman and asked if there were any additional nominations. There being none, Riehl moved for a voice vote. Scarlett seconded. Nooshabadi was elected unanimously on a voice vote. Riehl is looking for candidates for Committee for Academic Tenure, Promotion and Reappointment (CATPR). Barkdoll asked if this was only senators. Riehl clarified that a candidate was from among the senate constituency. Seel clarified CATPR requires tenured faculty, not necessarily full professor.

Finance Committee. Morin said the committee will perform a review of finances after they receive the audit.

Fringe Benefits Committee. Report given above in Section 6 as part of President Mroz’s question and answer session.

Institutional Planning Committee. None.

Instructional Policy Committee. None.

Professional Staff Policy Committee. None.

Research Policy Committee. None.

9. Old Business

10. New Business

11. Adjournment. Scarlett moved to adjourn; Riehl seconded the motion. President Barkdoll adjourned the meeting at 7:20pm

Respectfully submitted
by Marty Thompson
Secretary of the University Senate