March 2007 meeting minutes

Minutes of the Pleasantville/Briarcliff

Administrative Staff Council Meeting



Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Butcher Suite, Kessel Student Center, PLV




·         Daffodil Days – Marianne Hricay announced that the forms were sent to Document Services and should be out by the end of the week. Delivery is scheduled for Thursday, March 29, 2007. Please contact Marianne, at, if you are able to volunteer to help wrap/deliver the daffodils on that Thursday.


·         Picnic – The date is June 15, 2007. It was suggested, because no one has volunteered to Chair the committee, that we have a simple barbecue – no MC, no decorations. The suggestion was adopted by those assembled. The only raffle will be a money raffle conducted by Heather Novak on behalf of the Council. Christine Stephens volunteered to bring in a large jar of pistachio nuts – the person that guesses the correct number of nuts inside the container will take the jar home. The executive officers will assist Heather with the food planning. Everyone should plan to bring a dessert.


·         The date for the United Way/Earth Share Auction is May 1, 2007. The campaign will begin on April 2nd and will run until May 1st. More information will be available next month. Donations are welcome. A committee has been established, but more volunteers are needed. Please contact Janice Russo, at, if interested. There will be a kick-off breakfast on March 8, 2007, at 9:00am, in the Gottesman Room. Tasks will be assigned at that time.


·         Nominations for Co-Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary Council positions will be held at the April 4, 2007 meeting. Voting will take place at the May 2, 2007 meeting. A quorum is needed at both the April and May meetings, so please plan to attend.


Committee Reports


·         Faculty Council – Karen Desantis reported that the March 2, 2007 Faculty Council meeting was closed to visitors. The Joint Faculty Council meeting will be held this Friday, March 9th. Faculty will be discussing admissions, the Faculty Handbook, and employee benefits. More information will be available following this meeting.


·         Service Committee – The 8-hour release time for those wishing to volunteer has been extended into 2007. If departments or individuals are looking for service opportunities, please contact Dan Botting at


·         Benefits Committee – Phyllis Bradbury reported that the Benefits Advisory Medical Plan Review subcommittee, that was formed in March 2006, has been reviewing plan design changes, contribution strategies, carriers, product offerings, and funding arrangements.  A consultant was hired and an RFP was sent out in December 2006 to Healthnet, Aetna and Oxford/United Healthcare.


In January, this sub-committee, along with others who were invited to attend, met for almost a full day with representatives of these three vendors. In February, focus group meetings were held on all campuses (94 employees attended) and 2 e-surveys were sent to all employees.  Since then, several meetings of the sub-committee have been held with many options being discussed.


This past Monday, the entire Benefits Advisory Committee met –with Michele Russo moderating - and she presented the final draft.  No final decisions were made at the meeting and neither the committee nor the sub-committee were asked to vote on specific recommendations. 




  • Consolidating carriers – just Oxford/United Healthcare offering an HMO and 2 POS plans.
  • Will eliminate all other carriers.
  • Contract will be for 18 months – through 12/08.
  • Intent is to keep health care affordable for both the University and its employees.
  • Oxford offers extended coverage and is a nationwide carrier; merged with United Healthcare – employees will have access to both networks.
  • There will be an increase in employee contributions, but the University is attempting to keep them in line with what we would have been paying with a similar increase in HealthNet premiums.

·      Yvonne Ramirez and/or Michele Russo-Ramirez will attend Council meetings as soon as the plans are finalized.  They will also be holding information sessions throughout the University. Yvonne will speak at the April 4, 2007 Westchester Administrative/Staff Council meeting.


New Business


·          Westchester and New York Administrative/Staff Councils Executive Officer Meeting with Yvonne Ramirez, Thursday, March 1, 2007.  Update: These notes were read aloud at the March 7, 2007 meeting; however, Yvonne Ramirez has no objection to having the entire transcript appear in the Westchester Administrative/Staff Council minutes.



Attendees: Peggy Caraccio, Carmen Franco, Carolyn Lengers, Aracelis Norberto, Heather Novak, Yvonne Ramirez, Mary Stambaugh, Gail Weldon


·          This meeting was the result of a request made by the Westchester Administrative/Staff Council executive officers to Yvonne Ramirez following the February 7, 2007 Council meeting. During that meeting, it was reported that a faculty member mentioned, at the recent Faculty Council meeting, that there would be no merit increases for faculty or staff in September 2007 due to the University’s financial situation. Yvonne will speak on this topic at the April 4, 2007 Council meeting in Westchester, but wanted to respond in advance of the March 7, 2007 meeting (which she is not able to attend). The New York Council’s executive officers were invited to attend today’s meeting also.


·          The attendees asked Yvonne to address rumors that have been circulating in both NY and Westcheser.


Response: There are probably many rumors circulating and that is probably because there are a variety of suggestions and ideas being evaluated.  In fact every program and every budget is subject to review.  But, no decisions have been made and when proposals are made that concern people they will be carefully and sensitively evaluated.  President Caputo has worked very hard to do everything possible to avoid layoffs of staff and faculty.  Even if the future requires position restructuring we are prepared to work very hard to mitigate its impact on staff and we hope that we will be able to optimize staff transfers and promotions to opportunities elsewhere in the University.  We will also be prepared to assist staff who decide they want to transition out of the University.  But, and this is important, those decisions have not yet been made.


If you have concerns, talk to your supervisor.  If you are not comfortable talking to your supervisor, contact me (Yvonne) or the Ombuds Office might also be helpful to you.


The only decisions made are the amount of budget reductions assigned to the Academic Affairs area, the Finance and Administration area, and to all the other areas reporting directly to the President  - such as DoIT, HR.


·          Yvonne asked for feedback regarding today’s e-mail, entitled “2007-2008 Budget Update,” that was sent by President Caputo to all members of the University community.


A comment was made that the e-mail appeared to be one-sided in that it did not specify what the University’s Officers, Provosts, and Deans will be asked to do during this time of financial hardship. Will salaries be frozen at that level? Will existing higher level positions be combined and/or eliminated?


Response:  Employees at all levels of the University will be impacted by the decision not to fund a merit increase for 2007-08.  In addition, the President is looking very closely at the senior administrative structure and at other programs and services in the areas reporting to him to determine what streamlining and elimination will be implemented, if any.  It is likely that he will be able to address this directly when he meets with the University community in the next few weeks.


I also want to speak to the issue of no increases and the future.  The President has provided the Board with a budget model that restores compensation increases in year 2 and 3 of the modeling.  We are committed, as we have in the past, to rewarding the contributions of our staff and faculty and to keep their compensation and benefits competitive.  We have always maintained this commitment during good budget times, and even during some difficult budget times.  We do this because it makes good business sense to be able to recruit and retain the best academic and administrative support personnel possible.  We have a good track record and we hope to return on this track as soon as we are financially able to do so again.



·          A comment was made that the University must think about ways to retain existing staff. For example, offering more (paid) time off, as well as free Fitness Center memberships during the next year and a half.


Yvonne mentioned that staff may be offered the opportunity to work an 80% schedule on a voluntary basis. She also asked for additional feedback from staff regarding suggestions for ways to lessen stress during this time and improve work life.


Response: The President and VPs, Deans, and I are committed to finding creative ways in which to show you the staff that we value you, that we need your help and commitment to help the University progress and that we will look for ways to reward you appropriately.  That may come in different forms, not necessarily more time off but perhaps some additional flexibility in scheduling, formal and informal opportunities to make you feel appreciated, opportunity to have direct input into important decisions that impact you.  This is evident from the President and Board’s commitment to add a staff committee to the Board.  You should be hearing more about the status of this committee in the next couple of weeks.


·          A comment was made that future communications to staff need to be clear. Yvonne stated that VPs and Deans will be asked to speak with all staff members in their areas to be sure that questions are answered.


Response:  Agreed, I will ask all VPs and Deans to meet with the staff in the area to provide timely update and feedback on the state of University affairs and to make sure to provide you with opportunities for input.  The executive council is meeting on March 7 and that will certainly be covered on the agenda.


·          Closing thoughts: The University is looking at ways to communicate to people that they are still valued. Suggestions from staff are welcome – please send them to Yvonne or to President Caputo directly.


·          The President will detail a more comprehensive plan in his State of the University address this month.


·          Michele Russo and Alba Shane are present and can answer specific questions you might have today.  Michele is available to provide you with a quick update on where we are with the medical plan changes.


·          At their March meeting, the Councils are asked to come up with suggestions, comments, and questions for Yvonne to address at the April meeting.


Please e-mail Peggy Caraccio, at, with suggestions, comments, and questions for Yvonne to address at the April 4, 2007 Council meeting. These will be sent to Yvonne on March 14, 2007. All suggestions/comments/questions, positive and negative, will be sent anonymously and verbatim.