Faculty Senate once again postponed voting on the revisions made to the University of Idaho”s employee leave policy by the Faculty Affairs Committee.
UI Provost and Executive Vice President John Wiencek had a few concerns with the proposed changes, which led to the vote being pushed back until further notice.
Wiencek, who was absent at the previous Faculty Senate meeting when the revisions were first introduced and discussed, took issue with the portion of the policy that covers how employees can take extra leave when their allotted parenting leave period runs out. The policy states that an employee can use a combination of annual leave and unpaid leave after they run out of their time for parental leave and sick leave.
Wiencek said there are financial risks involved with allowing employees to leave their annual leave unspent, and asked Faculty Senate if there were any situations where an employee would want to take unpaid leave over annual leave anyway.
“Why would anyone want to not be paid?” Wiencek said.
Wiencek also had a had concerns with the portion of the policy that would grant Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to employees from their first day on the job, because he said that applies to all types of leave even though the proposed policy is supposed to just address parental leave.
Faculty Sen. James Foster said situations like this – when the president”s council won”t allow change because they don”t fully understand why faculty want the change – can damage faculty morale.
“I think the message that people are getting is that “We, the administration, will tell you what sorts of benefits we think you should have, and we”re going to do as little as we possibly can,”” Foster said.
Wiencek said he thinks it won”t cause a decrease in morale. He said the presidential cabinet is the group that brought up the topic of improving the university”s parental leave policy in the first place. He said he isn”t against many of the ideas mentioned in the revisions either, but said they need to be discussed separately from parental leave.
“It will only have a negative impact, because Faculty Senate will make it a big deal that this happened,” Wiencek said.
Faculty Senate Vice Chair Liz Brandt said Wiencek made some good points, but she was still concerned by the lack of communication between the administration and the rest of the faculty. She said she felt discussing Wiencek”s concerns right before Faculty Senate”s vote on whether to accept the changes upset the process.
“We find ourselves in February of this second year of this process, saying we need to have more communication,” she said. “And I guess I”m struggling with that a lot.”
Faculty Secretary Don Crowley said he agreed with Brandt. He said he reached out to the administration much earlier on and was ignored until he spoke to Wiencek directly. Wiencek acknowledged that communication between the administration and faculty should be better on this issue.
Though Faculty Senate did not set a date to discuss the leave policy in the future, Wiencek asked if it was still possible to address the issue again this semester and Teal confirmed that it could be brought up again before the end of the academic year.