UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE ROUNDUP >>

Governance groups discuss health coverage, faculty handbook, transportation updates

By Kimber Williams and Leslie King | Dec. 2, 2013

University Senate

The University Senate endorsed proposed changes to the Emory retiree health plan at its Nov. 26 meeting that are intended to expand coverage options at a lower cost for faculty and staff retirees.  

In summarizing the new plan, former University Senate President and Biology Professor Gray Crouse noted that the proposed changes were motivated primarily by the fact that the current plan is so expensive — with costs considerably higher than those paid by active employees — that around 40 percent of Emory retirees elect not to take the benefit.  

Current retiree coverage is provided by Aetna, which doesn't always work well for retirees who leave the Atlanta area, Crouse noted.  

Under the new plan:  

  • Retirees will now be able to choose from a variety of medical and drug plans from a retiree health benefits exchange.

  • To help employees make the best choice for their needs, location and preferred providers, Emory will provide a "concierge service."

  • Emory will also provide an employee subsidy — estimated currently at about $1,000 a year for the employee and $1,000 a year for the spouse, with expectations of annual increases of about 4 percent a year — to help pay for the plan.

Crouse reported that the changes will be "cost neutral" for the University, but were proposed as an affordable way to expand insurance choices to retirees. "Almost all retirees would pay less than under the current plan," he said.  

Crouse noted that the retiree health benefits exchanges that will be used have been operating for years and are not related to public exchanges associated with the Affordable Care Act. Details of the plan's implementation, such as selection of the concierge service, have not been finalized, Crouse added. A final design is expected to take several more months to develop.

In other business, the Senate endorsed a proposal presented by David Schuster, associate professor or radiology and imaging sciences and co-chair of the Public Art Committee, to support the upkeep of public art on campus, which includes more than 20 outdoor installations.  

Employee Council President LaDonna Cherry and President-Elect Anita Yarbrough discussed Employee Council goals, including improved communication, increased employee engagement and more accurate representation within schools and units.  

In closing remarks, President James Wagner discussed positive accomplishments within the past year that underscore "how the University is valued," including:  

  • Early Admission I applicants are up 20 percent over last year.

  • Placement data show 85 percent of 2013 Emory graduates are pursuing a preferred plan, be it employment, graduate studies, travel or service.

  • Last year, 80 percent of faculty hires went to the first choice of Emory College search committees, a growing number.

  • Emory continues a strong performance with digital education.

  • Despite federal funding issues, external research dollars totaled over $500 million this past year.

  "So some things to be thankful for: students, faculty, staff, teaching, research and health care," Wagner said. "I think that's a pretty nice list for Thanksgiving."  

Faculty Council

A discussion of conflict of interest policies and the conflict of commitment clause within the Faculty Handbook dominated the Nov. 19 Faculty Council meeting.  

Brenda Seiton, assistant vice president for research administration who serves as director of the Conflict of Interest Office, led a discussion about current conflict of interest policies, which address a variety of areas, including research and relationships with vendors, industry and other external professional relationships.  

Seiton provided an overview of how the Faculty Handbook addresses conflict of interest issues and how the Conflict of Interest Committee determines a management plan.  

Discussions focused on language, clarity and intent within the policies. Faculty Council President-Elect Kathryn Yount moved for the creation of an ad hoc committee to provide recommendations on policy language, particularly for research areas not currently covered under the policy; the motion was approved. Language concerning the conflict of commitment portion of the Faculty Handbook — and whether it reflects current practice — was also discussed. Faculty Council Chair Deb Houry and the executive committee will work on a draft revision for the Faculty Council to review prior to the January meeting.  

In other business, Peggy Bartlett, Goodrich C. White professor of anthropology and faculty liaison to the Office of Sustainability, reported on progress across campus toward supporting continued learning about sustainability through coursework, research and campus life, as outlined in the University's 2005 Strategic Plan.  

SGA President Raj Patel and Constitutional Council Associate Justice James Crowe presented proposed revisions to the current Honor Council process. The proposed change would permit the Constitutional Council to provide a non-binding recommendation, which would be weighed by academic deans in a final decision. They were invited to return next semester for further discussion.  

In closing comments, President James Wagner addressed areas that "are very good" at Emory, including the University's appeal to quality students and quality faculty — which include a rising number who've been named as fellows to prestigious national academies — and the ability to recruit top faculty candidates, program and financial strengths, a strong involvement with digital scholarship, reputational quality, operational effectiveness, and programs that build character and shape culture.  

Employee Council

The new Professional Care Management benefit that launched Nov. 1 gives benefits-eligible University employees six hours of professional care management per year, Audrey Adelson of Emory Work-Life Resources Center told Employee Council members at their monthly meeting Nov. 20.

Employees caring for an aging or special needs adult — it doesn't necessarily have to be a parent, Adelson said — can access the benefit to provide assistance for anywhere in the country, a service that would otherwise cost $150 to $250 per hour and is not covered by Medicare or private insurance.

Adelson explained that a professional care manager is an experienced nurse or social worker who performs in-home assessments, reviews facilities like assisted living or nursing homes, helps facilitate the transition from hospital to the next best place and helps navigate the care system. "They can also help you figure out how you're going to pay for it," she said.

Adelson directed employees to the WorkLife Resources website

(worklife.emory.edu) to use the benefit that entitles employees to up to six hours per year of assistance. She also pointed out the website's WorkLife library, which offers additional information on all benefits and services from WorkLife with podcasts, webinars, recorded workshops and talks, calculators and cost-figuring tools.

Lisa Underwood, associate vice president for parking and transportation, updated Council members on past projects and ongoing ones. She noted the "kiss-and-ride" drop-off area at Means Street, which has eliminated 450 daily bus trips through there and facilitated carpool drop-offs. She also said Emory and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta consolidated buses running to the Clairmont Campus, taking six buses off the roads on a daily basis for a positive sustainability impact.  

Other projects in the works include:  

  • Updated lighting in the Lowergate Deck, after which lighting will be updated in all campus parking decks.
  • A focus group being formed to clarify information related to vanpools ("This came out of last year's Employee Council Town Hall," Underwood explained.)
  • Monitoring of new and improved signal timing on Clifton Road, a result of Emory's partnership in the Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association.

Underwood noted changes to the transit pass program for Emory Healthcare, but not University, employees. Those who use this transit program will have to choose which pass they want subsidized and they will also have to participate in the cost of the pass they choose, which would be, for example, $17.10 a month if it's a MARTA pass.  

Underwood asked Council members to urge their constituents to participate in the

annual transportation survey being sent through the all-Emory email in the next few weeks. "It's really important that we collect this data; it helps us with sustainability reporting, planning and feedback," she said.

The Council is also continuing a food drive until winter break. Boxes will be placed in buildings around campus to collect food to be picked up by the Atlanta Food Bank.