Discussion with Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy

On November 25th, the Student Affairs Division Staff Senators and I had the opportunity to sit down and have a discussion Vice Chancellor Hardy.  Dr. Hardy is so humble and down to earth!  She began our meeting by asking if there might be a time that she could come and present to the Staff Senate, like she does for the Faculty Senate.  She then continued our discussion by telling us about her beliefs that it “takes a village” in order to achieve student success and said she firmly believes the ECU village begins with the dedicated staff manning our front lines.

Dr. Hardy shared with us the plans for the new Student Centers (one on main campus and the other on the Health Sciences Campus).   She also emphasized that both Student Centers were still “in the air;”  the plans have been finalized; however there we still need approvals from the Board of Governors and other groups before it’s a “done deal.”  The plan is to begin “turning ground” by 2014-2015, but before then, there will be student surveys and focus groups to help determine exactly how the space will be used and the needs assessments.  I found it interesting to learn that the state will not pay for any construction or maintenance of student centers; we can only use state funds for academic buildings, therefore both the new Student Centers will be on 30 year payment plans and completely paid for by the Debt. Service Fees (part of the student fees collected).

The construction of the new student center on main campus will leave both the Student Store and Mendenhall (mostly) vacant.  The fate of these buildings is still uncertain;  Dr. Hardy said they will either have to be gifted to the university or taken over in order for state funding to kick in, at which time there are plans to renovate both spaces and institute a vetting process for the space allocation (both buildings will maintain their current names).

Other questions and topics of discussion included:

  • New transit program to assist students getting to and from RDU – This was a big concern of parents and students and even though Dr. Hardy admitted to being VERY nervous about transporting students in university vehicles (they are using the vans) on Interstates 40 and 440, the program has taken off and is receiving VERY positive feedback!  Since I have made staff-transportation to away athletic events a goal of mine, I asked if Dr. Hardy would consider an initiative to transport students to away games, and allow staff to purchase any available seats.  Dr. Hardy didn’t seem too excited about the idea (as stated above the RDU shuttle has her very nervous, so additional transportation = additional concern 😉 ).  But, she didn’t say “No” so I don’t think the idea is completely off the table (I’m chipping away, Penney!).
  • Initiatives designed to deter student drinking such as Pirate Nights, Barefoot on the mall, Midnight Madness, etc…have been hugely successful!  Dr. Hardy shared with us some insider information regarding inflatables (aka bouncy houses) – but with the internet being permanent record, I will limit my comments and encourage you to ask David Forrest, Jennifer Harris, or Suzanne McDonald for more information 😉 .  Dr. Hardy stated Midnight Madness (the ECU alternative to the downtown Halloween party) has become so huge (3000 – 4000 students attending!) that they worked with athletics and moved the party to the football stadium this year!
  • Expectations of the New University Wellness Committee – Dr. Hardy hopes the group will realistically look at how we can become a well-campus.  Things such as having a percentage of the vending machines dedicated to healthy options and increased information on how we can all make healthier choices which will help us to change our overall culture and mindset. She stressed realistically because she said if the changes are too intimidating, people will get turned off quickly – for instance, if the chocolate was suddenly removed from all vending machines, people would be VERY unhappy.  She then said “It’s a matter of quantity; a cheeseburger every few months is perfectly healthy but having one everyday is a different story.”
  • Reorganization/restructuring of the SALT committee in a manner such as the Staff Senate, which would allow members to serve for a pre-determined “term” then have a process to select new members.
  • There was a concern raised about employee morale and a request for ECU to consider adding back the third free class at a university level.    Dr. Hardy was receptive to this idea and said she is in support of it as there are other benefits that are university-based, but we would need to discuss this further with Chancellor Ballard.
  • The discussion about the classes led to a question about the possibility of ECU initiation a “home-grown” program, where the university would allow employees to earn their degree for free (or start a reimbursement program), and take classes during the workday using either a reduced schedule (maintaining regular pay) or flex schedules.  The employee would enter into a contract and be required to maintain their university employment status on a year-for-year basis (4 years of education = 4 years promised future employment or the employee is required to payback all education expenses).  The premise behind programs such as this is for the university to benefit from the employees education and also to maintain some of the intellectual capital employees gain when attending and working at ECU (it’s disheartening to see so many employees utilize the free classes, earn a degree, then leave and take their knowledge to another organization).  Dr. Hardy said she could definitely see the benefit of a program such as this, however she had not heard of any other universities offering such programs and we would need to investigate into this further and present her some data regarding the effectiveness and we would also need to make sure this was a possibility from a state perspective.

Dr. Hardy concluded our discussion with some information on Title IV – which deals with sexual harassment, assault etc…protection of women on campus.  Dr. Hardy explained that many people think Title IV is only for students, but it’s not, it’s a solid process for both staff and students.  She then asked again if she might come and speak to the Staff Senate Collective regarding this important topic, and Jennifer Harris and I have worked together to arrange for Dr. Hardy to present at our March 13th Staff Senate Meeting.

Many thanks to the Division of Student Affairs for allowing me to join in their meeting!  It was a truly interesting and informative afternoon!

For those of you in the Division of Academic Affairs, your opportunity to have a discussion with Vice Chancellor Sheerer is coming up on Monday, December 2nd, and I’m really looking forward to seeing you all there!