University Senate

Meeting 537 Minutes

The University Senate
of Michigan Technological University

Minutes of Meeting 537
9 October 2013

The Senate

  • Presentation: “Update on Fringe Benefits” by Ellen Horsch and Renee Hiller

1. Call to order and roll call. President Brian Barkdoll called the University Senate Meeting 537 to order at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, October 9, 2013. The Senate Secretary Marty Thompson called roll. Absent were Senator Cadwell and representatives of Army/Air Force ROTC, Chemical Engineering, Academic Services A, Administration, Advancement, Finance, Technology, Graduate Faculty Council, Graduate Student Government and Staff Council.

2. Recognition of visitors. Guests included Ellen Horsch (VP for Administration), Laurie Cooper (Aon-Hewitt), Renee Hiller (Human Resources), Theresa Coleman-Kaiser (Administration), John Hackmeier (Chemical Sciences), Michael Monette (Wadsworth Hall), Karen Hext (Human Resources) and Ellen Marks (Library).

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

4. Approval of minutes from Meetings 536. Scarlett motioned to approve the agenda; Wood seconded; it passed unanimously on a voice vote.

5. Presentation: Presentation: “Update on Fringe Benefits” by Ellen Horsch, VP for Administration and Renee Hiller Director of Human Resources
Horsch introduced Laurie Cooper, an Aon-Hewitt Consultant, and noted the role of consultants in helping Tech make decisions regarding benefits, including; healthcare, vision and dental plans. She then discussed the recommendations made by the Benefits Liaison Group (BLG) and were preparing to forward to University President Mroz. Horsch went over eight key points coming out of the meeting.

(1) Tech is on track with the original cost projections of a net cost of $14.0 million to the university for calendar year CY13.

(2) The BLG will recommend retaining the PPO and HDHP for 2014, although the design and the premiums will have to be examined. Beck clarified that the premium was on the PPO only and not the HDHP. Horsch confirmed that was what the BLG talked about. Moran confirmed that the recommendation of the BLG was no premiums on the HDHP. Horsch affirmed.

3) Use the annual enrollment period to provide more educational opportunities for employees to understand health coverage.

(4) Reinstating the declining balance for the vision plan. The balance will reset 01/01/2014and there might be a cost increase.

(5) No cost increase for the dental for 2014 was proposed.

(6) Horsch noted the large increase in stop loss insurance and that they are reexamining how to ensure Tech is covered in a more cost effective manner.

(7) A discussion of increasing the amount to opt out [of healthcare insurance] suggests that more information is needed, such as the details about the public healthcare exchanges. Cooper noted the projection is for CY2013 and not CY2014 as stated in the presentation. Horsch said the $14.0 million is after premium contributions are factored in. The gross healthcare cost is $15.3 million. Breffle asked if the premiums only applied to the PPO and not for the HDHP. Horsch said the recommendation is that we maintain the current plans as each currently exists. Barkdoll reiterated there would be minor changes but not the issue of concern [premiums on the HDHP]. Moran asked about the CY13 and asked if the difference between the net and gross was attributable to the PPO premiums. Hiller confirmed that the roughly $1.4 million difference is from premiums on the PPO. Velat asked if the $15.3 million figure includes copays. Hiller said that these are costs to the university and reflect costs after copay. Velat asked if there was any data that cites copays. Horsch said a total cost share analysis was generated and presented to the senate last spring has information on all costs including copay amounts. Velat asked if the university was within the 20-40% bracket of what employees are required to pay. Hiller said at Tech is approximately 75% employer pay. Cooper said the federal minimum is closer to 80% employer pay. Barkdoll thanked our guests and asked about when a decision will be made.

(8) Horsch said the week of 10/14 final recommendations are expected. Hiller said President Mroz’s decision will be made before open enrollment.

6.Report from the Senate President
Barkdoll noted that senate policy requires we evaluate ourselves. He provided an update on the progress of the evaluation process. Vable asked senators to look at the report and the instrument so if any questions are to be added it can be done in a timely manner. Barkdoll noted this evaluation could result in useful feedback from constituents.

7. Reports from Senate Standing Committees

Academic Policy Committee.  Scarlett said members of the committee met with the intellectual property (IP) lawyer Mike Meyers (Director of Center for Teaching and Learning) invited to Tech to discuss legal issues surrounding blended learning. He noted most constituents were very concerned by the lawyer’s interpretation of the law. Scarlett said the committee is looking at IP laws and issues, but expect the process will take much of the year as we get educated on IP issues. A major concern is the committee are not lawyers, yet are being asked to craft a legal document. He noted the importance of a good policy and said the first step is to create an information packet to educate and inform constituents, as well as get some feedback. Barkdoll said Provost Seel is supportive of crafting a mutually beneficial policy because blended learning is the direction most universities are moving and we cannot be left behind. Nooshabadi said that all rights should be given to faculty. Scarlett said we signed IP documents when we were hired, but questioned their relevance due to changes in academia over time. Nooshabadi repeated his statement. Barkdoll noted we can pass any resolution we want, the administration may not agree, but that should not influence our position. Wood said no one has a copy of the original documents we signed when hired except the administration. Scarlett noted the lawyer gave a general sense of the complexities of the law and sought to inform people. Barkdoll said we need a policy but should not make a legal document. Scarlett says unless the Board of Control signs a policy document it is not enforceable. Barkdoll agreed, but noted that a visible policy originating from the senate is important. Moran reiterated that giving full rights to the faculty is a good idea, we should start there and work backwards from that if need be. Scarlett said he seeks everyone to have a basic understanding the issues before acting on anything. Barkdoll agreed that was a good first step in this process. Snyder, citing P&T, came through senate as policy, but worked with university lawyers to ensure it was a legally binding document. Scarlett noted they are university lawyers and have the universities concerns foremost in mind. Snyder said they were Board of Control lawyers but that the policy needed to be enforceable. Scarlett said the issue is complicated and repeated his primary goal is to inform faculty of the key issues. Velat asked from where the complicating legal issues originate. Scarlett said blended learning is interwoven amongst various intellectual property issues and therefore hard to partition. Velat asked if that includes research. Scarlett said it could. Velat asked to whom this information will be distributed. Scarlett said he would distribute it to all constituents.

Administrative Policy Committee.  Vable described the proposals currently being worked on and their status.

Curricular Policy Committee.  Nooshabadi described the proposals currently being worked on and their status. Barkdoll asked how many proposals were under consideration. Nooshabadi said 3-4. Oliveira noted one additional proposal and said it has to move onto the Finance Committee. Barkdoll said he asked that curriculum proposals be sent to the Finance Committee and Curricular Policy Committee simultaneously.

Elections Committee. Riehl discussed three nominees for the Committee on Academic Tenure Promotion and Reappointment (CATPR). He asked if there were any additional nominees. There were none. He proceeded to describe the charges to CATPR and listed the nominees. Barkdoll confirmed all nominees were willing to serve. Riehl affirmed and asked for a vote. Vote was performed by clicker. Mayer won with a majority of the overall votes.

Finance Committee. None.

Fringe Benefits Committee. In an effort to clarify any confusion about the respective roles of the University Senate’s Fringe Benefits Committee (FBG) and the Benefits Liaison Group (BLG), Waddell said that the charge of the FBC is defined in Senate Constitution and Bylaws, which are approved by the Board of Control.  On the other hand, Waddell said that the BLG is largely an administration-dominated group. Nevertheless, Waddell said that, currently, the health-care-insurance recommendations coming from both groups are similar. Waddell said he had presented the FBC’s recommendations to the BLG and to University President Mroz at a BLG meeting earlier in the day.  He said that the issue at hand was the possibility of cutting the PPO option and adding premiums to HDHP. He offered six reasons in support of the FBC’s recommendation:

1. 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).

2. The risk of behavioral hazard (health-care-consumption choices that are made to save money or avoid inconvenience in the short-term and wind up costing more money in the long term) may balance or outweigh the risk of moral hazard (health-care-consumption choices that are made frivolously because the consumer bears no financial cost for these choices). Beck said 51% of employees go to their free annual physical. Waddell said the behavioral hazard is not a concern because the perception is that there are no costs associated with such actions. But in reality, not seeking treatment ends up costing up to $290 billion per year because of untreated complications. Oliveira suggested that avoiding peripheral costs that accompany a free annual physical may contribute to why people do not go to their free annual physical. Peng said it should be a protected test that should not be charged. Oliveira said just seeing physician may incur added costs for tests or other procedures in addition to the physical exam. Phillips said different codes used during an office visit are processed and charged differently. Waddell said no demographics exist on those not taking of advantage of free annual physicals. He asked if scheduling reminders might help. Vable said physicians often prescribe tests without telling you costs and oftentimes they do not know the costs. He suggested the university publish a price list for different tests or procedures. Scarlett said the medical staff may perform tests based on a perceived need, but a patient isn’t there to consult. Vable agreed, but said a general price list would provide at least some guidance. Moran said he does not use the annual physical benefit. Riehl added that if cost assessments indicate having the annual physical is a net savings then maybe an incentive like the $75 health risk assessment would be helpful. Velat said the incentive exists but it is not being communicated.

3. Of the 824 faculty and staff who completed the Fringe Benefits Committee’s 2013 Fringe Benefits Survey (a 64% response rate), 66% indicated that salary and fringe benefits are of equal importance in their compensation package, and 56% said that the benefits package was a very important factor in their acceptance of an offer of employment at Michigan Tech.

4. This reduction in health-care benefits may have unforeseen and negative impacts on Michigan Tech’s ability to recruit and retain top faculty and staff (goals articulated in Michigan Tech’s Strategic Plan).

5. Senate constituents who have responded over the past two weeks to a Fringe Benefits Committee request for feedback overwhelmingly oppose these changes in health-care insurance, many pointing out that having two plans available allows people to choose the option that best suits them at a given stage in life.

6. No reason other than cutting costs—which now appears uncertain—has been given for pursuing this course of action. In consequence of these six reasons, the University Senate Fringe Benefits Committee recommends that these changes in health-care insurance (cutting the PPO and adding premiums to the HDHP) not be implemented at this time. Waddell said that he had submitted the FBC’s recommendation to President Mroz. He added that comments made during the BLG meeting suggest a perceived need for secrecy in the BLG’s deliberations. Nooshabadi asked what reason was given or implied for the need for secrecy in BLG deliberations. Waddell said that he believed that there was concern that greater openness might restrict the free exchange of ideas within the group and might lead to alarm outside the group about proposals that were only in their formative stages. Barkdoll said when he asked if the slides from the summer BLG meeting could be posted on the senate website they told him he could not because without background information the slides would be confusing. He noted we wanted to get input before decisions are made. The FBC was commended for their hard work. Barkdoll said everyone knows Senate was proactive and made their voice heard. Moran asked Waddell if he thought the FBC’s reports and recommendations had had or would have any influence on the President’s decision. Waddell said that he didn’t know. Beck said the similarity between the BLG recommendations and the FBC recommendations was not a coincidence because administrators read the comments in the FBC reports, and a lot of people had commented. Barkdoll said that since University President Mroz has not yet made his decision, people should continue to offer comments.

Institutional Planning Committee. None.

Instructional Policy Committee. None.

Professional Staff Policy Committee. Discussing the goals for the year. Waddell asked if the senate could have a policy that a VP liaison is invited to each committee meeting. Barkdoll said a policy can be drafted to address this concern. Barkdoll read a list of liaisons to each senate standing committee.

8. Old Business
Proposal 25-13: “Proposal to Amend Senate Policy 701.1”
Vable, Chair of the Administrative Policy Committee, described the zero percent appointment policy. He solicited comments from constituents and compiled and circulated them to the senate. He noted two key issues; 1. Details of the proposal need work; 2. Very strong concern about the idea of 0% appointments. Vable asked the senate if this proposal should be developed or tabled. Table motion requested. Snyder moved the proposal be tabled. Moran seconded. Barkdoll asked if there was any discussion. Nooshabadi said he did not support the proposal due to confusion about the definitions of adjunct and zero percent appointments. Wood asked what the arguments are for this proposal. Barkdoll defined the zero percent appointment as defined in the proposal. He noted the argument for the proposal was it will help the appearance of collaboration and enhance funding probability. The arguments against the proposal center on it appearing disingenuous. Moran said there is no guarantee that it actually works. Woods asked who is promoting this. Vable said it is coming from two groups (Department of Biomedical Engineering and School of Forestry). He noted the negative comments were quite strong. Nooshabadi asked why the adjunct was not adequate. Barkdoll said the adjunct is viewed more as teaching than research. Nooshabadi reiterated the definition of terms was lacking. Vable wanted to know if the proposal should proceed. Barkdoll restated the question to table. Wood asked if other universities do this. Barkdoll said there are examples of this at other institutions. Peng said if a department can do it then do it. Barkdoll said they cannot without senate approval. Vable said departments cannot. Scarlett said a department can list a person as adjunct, but not as faculty in the department. He added that his constituents were split but most were not in favor. Oliveira said the NSF would not be influenced by such an affiliation. Moran said an adjunct means you can advise graduate students in that department and as an adjunct you do not need the zero percent appointment. Vable said adjuncts cannot be external committee members. Scarlett said professors of practice have been external committee members. Vable said adjuncts are not able to serve as external committee members. Vable said the graduate faculty council will have to decide on the role of advising if a zero percent appointment proposal passes. He added that preliminary discussions suggest a zero percent appointment would be treated like an adjunct. Beck said a 10% appointment eliminates one as an external committee member. Riehl said if we table this can we recommend to the departments seeking this proposal to clarify the need. Snyder reminded everyone motions to table are not debatable so we must stop and vote on the motion. Barkdoll restated the motion to table the proposal and asked for vote. The vote was 15 to 8 in favor of tabling the proposal.

9. New Business

10. Adjournment.  Moran moved to adjourn; Scarlett seconded the motion. President Barkdoll adjourned the meeting at 6:48pm

Respectfully submitted
by Marty Thompson
Secretary of the University Senate