Response to the Just Employment Task Force
September 21, 2017
Dear Just Employment Task Force Members,
I want to thank each of you for the thorough report you submitted in June. We have had the opportunity to review, discuss and thoughtfully reflect upon the various elements of the report and your recommendations. Your report was shared with members of the President's Cabinet, and will be shared with the Council of Deans and other university leaders in order to disseminate the important information contained within it, and to ensure continued conversation and attention to the promotion of just employment across the institution.
Your report does an excellent job showcasing many of the current benefits and policies we have in place to support full-time and part-time employees, contract workers, and student workers at Loyola University Chicago. Your report also highlights Loyola's deep commitment to human dignity in the workplace and how Loyola's Jesuit, Catholic mission is the cornerstone of our institutional identity and community. Our mission compels us to balance offering an affordable, transformative education while at the same time ensuring competitive and fair compensation to all who work at the institution. It is important to note, I think, that we are truly in a privileged position to be able to focus our attention on deepening our commitment to a more fair, competitive, and socially just workplace. In light of the many challenges facing all institutions of higher education today, and in recognition of the significant financial and other hurdles that many of our students overcome to enroll at and succeed here at Loyola, we are fortunate to be on a strong financial footing to have these important conversations.
The many individuals who read and commented on this report highlighted the importance of one overarching element which is especially noteworthy: It is all of our responsibility to ensure an increasingly fair, competitive, and socially just workplace. While aspects of this work are the responsibility of some key administrators and units, it is, in fact, the responsibility of all employees, students, and contract workers to ensure that we are each contributing to a just community. The same can be said of our mission and our commitment to social justice both on our campuses and throughout our communities. This kind of shared commitment is what makes Loyola University Chicago both unique and uniquely prepared to transform students who will graduate from here and make significant contributions to our world.
In response to your specific recommendations for this academic year, and based on the numerous conversations that have taken place regarding these recommendations, allow me to briefly respond to them in turn:
The Human Resource Division, headed by Winifred Williams, will review the "living wage" proposal and respond to me and the Task Force members with additional information later this semester. As part of this work, the division will study the MIT Living Wage Calculator referenced in your report as well as additional calculators and resources related to "living wage" levels.
The Council of Deans have been asked to undertake an initial review of the distribution of workloads in academic units and departments throughout the university, and will detail their findings and recommendations to provosts John Pelissero and Margaret Callahan later this semester to help inform our conversations regarding just distribution of workloads, including consistent job descriptions and position expectations, as well as training and support to help promote more just distribution of workloads throughout the institution.
We support the recommendation to add additional health care premium levels for employees with higher compensation levels as well as the recommendation to revise the employee contribution for group-insurance benefits. I have asked Winifred Williams to review your recommendations and to propose new employee health care premium contributions based on salary tiers which will be implemented on January 1, 2018.
The feedback that I uniformly received regarding the recommendation to launch an "awareness initiative" was that our institutional strategic plan, Plan 2020, is the most potent tool we have to do this important work. The Plan implementation steering committee continues to make significant progress on the Plan's goals, with the assistance of many Loyola faculty, staff, students and administrators. As was just announced, John Pelissero has named Dean Don Heider as associate provost for strategy and innovation. In this role, Dean Heider will spearhead implementation of Plan 2020 initiatives, and I have asked him to consider additional ways that Plan 2020 can educate and inform Loyolans regarding our just employment initiatives and goals. We will communicate our progress furthering these important just employment goals through our Plan 2020 communications with the university community.
In regards to just employment practices at Loyola, I will work with Winifred Williams, Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer, to clarify the role and responsibilities of that unit to lead and implement this important work on behalf of all of us at the university. I have asked the Finance Division, headed by Wayne Magdziarz, to review the feasibility of leveraging our internal audit function and external auditors to periodically review and assess our progress related to just employment.
After careful consideration, we do not support the creation of a new advisory committee for contract workers based upon a number of reasons, including concerns that you mention in your report and recognizing that contracted employees fall under the responsibility of the university's Chief Financial Officer/Chief Business Officer. However, there is widespread agreement that we can improve on our efforts to vet and engage vendors. We must more closely and directly communicate our just employment expectations to our vendor partners and ensure that they understand and embrace our social justice mission. I have asked Wayne Magdziarz and Brian Slavinskas in the Finance Division to develop a more robust RFP process that explicitly communicates our Jesuit, Catholic mission; our commitment to social justice and the common good; and our expectations for companies and contract workers who partner with Loyola.
The additional recommendations you propose in your report warrant additional review and discussion. I have asked both provosts to review the recommendation regarding better processes for coordinating with university governance bodies and the recommendation regarding preference for full-time faculty positions over part-time. Beginning this year, we are offering more multi-year contract renewals for non-tenure-track faculty. Human Resources has been assigned the work of looking at benefits for part-time faculty, as well as the recommendation regarding a review of current formal grievance procedures.
We can always improve our communications, especially given that we are a large, complex, multi-campus institution. With that in mind, we will publish both the report as well as this letter on our university website. It will also be shared with our community via Inside Loyola and other channels.
Again, thank you for preparing this Task Force report and recommendations. Our university community, and most especially our students, will be the beneficiaries of these extraordinary efforts.
Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD