By Mallory Sherwood, Features Editor
Loud cheers and applause were heard when Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, announced the campus would be closed with pay during the break between Christmas and New Year’s Day for university employees.
“Christmas Closure,” as the administration will call it, is one of the many changes to take place during the next three years for faculty and staff because of a campuswide survey conducted last fall by the Quality of Life Task Force.
Money addressed more than 300 faculty and staff Thursday afternoon in Hart Auditorium, discussing the recommendations of the task force he developed at the beginning of the academic school year.
The 12-member team of faculty and staff members encompasses all areas of the university, said Mary Reyes-Stracener, administrative assistant to the vice president for finance and member of the task force.
Money said he formed the team last fall because he and the university cabinet members felt it was hard to feel plugged in with the other employees. The committees’ tasks were to assess the current state of employee morale and to provide ideas and suggestions to improve.
Their recommendations were submitted to the president and announced at the meeting.
Scott Perkins, assistant professor of psychology and task force co-chair, said strengths and weakness were seen from a survey more than 60 percent of the university employees participated in. He said 87 percent of participants said staff and faculty mentored and modeled Christian values before the students, the supervisors treat their employees with respect, and they were proud to work at ACU.
The four main concerns the task force found among employees were comments about low salaries, trust between faculty and staff and their administrators, an overwhelming workload, and lack of resources and personnel to do their job effectively.
Money said morale on campus was lower after faculty and staff did not receive a pay raise at Christmas for the first time in 15 years, but the administration is working to recover the pay gap.
“The decision for not giving employees of the university a raise at Christmas came because of financial pressures,” Money said. “Our first priority was to preserve the financial integrity of the university. Now we have got our feet back on the ground, and we can reposition ourselves to come back and focus on taking care of our people.”
Money announced that over a period of three years, $4.5 million will be invested in increasing the salaries of staff and faculty so that it is above the national average for universities the size of ACU. Right now, faculty and staff salaries are 5 percent to 10 percent below average.
Other changes will also occur to take care of the employees.
Dr. Nancy Shankle, chair of the English Department and task force co-chair, recommended that a shared sick and vacation leave bank be formed for faculty and staff to borrow if a catastrophic illness occurred in their family. She also proposed that faculty and staff not be charged to use the exercise facilities on campus or for interlibrary loans.
Money announced that these policies will change June 1.
Amber Peck, director of Alumni Relations and task force member, recommended that a further study on the workload of faculty and staff be completed and a place be made available for cross-department lunches. Peck also recommended faculty and staff meet monthly for Chapel and that an “adopt-a-student” program begin for staff.
“All faculty on campus get the opportunity to impact lives on a daily basis,” Peck said. “The staff here are all jealous of the relationships that you get to form with the students and how you can make a difference. We want to get more involved.”
Money said he was surprised the task force decided on this change but was excited they wanted it.
“This is why we’re all here: to interact with students,” Money said. “I love people who want more contact with students.”
Other proposed changes and recommendations can be found at www.acu.edu/qualityoflife.
Money said he hopes these changes will help boost morale for employees on campus, and he wants to continue to have an open forum between faculty and staff and the Board of Trustees.
“God is doing great things, and I am in a role to see from the front row what God is doing on this campus,” Money said. “Let me tell you, the view is incredible.”