In a year marked by global recession, provincial operating grants that were stagnant or falling, and cross-campus budgetary shortfalls, the University of Calgary introduced a number of new initiatives which focused on improving staff well-being, including:
President Murray Fraser appointed a committee to “develop in some detail a feasible strategy through which the university can best meet the child care needs of its students, faculty and staff”. The appointment of the committee signaled the university’s intention to become more actively involved in resolving outstanding child care issues. While a Senate Task Force Report had recommended capital costs be funded by corporate contributions, fund-raising attempts had shown this was not feasible and other approaches needed to be considered by the committee. The campus daycare had 66 children from infants to age 5 – the waiting list stood at 476 children. The majority of children belonged to student-parents, with the remainder of the parents being either faculty or staff
Job rotation program:
A new job rotation program was launched as a pilot project, allowing university support staff in different campus units to exchange jobs for a period of 6-12 months. The program was part of the university’s ongoing effort to improve career development opportunities for staff. Employees with similar job classifications and duties exchanged jobs and then returned to their original positions with new skills, increased adaptability and motivation. The outcomes were intended to benefit both the individual and the university which would be better able to make good use of staff skills and talents. It was anticipated that external job rotations involving other post-secondary educational institutions would be possible, as well as international support staff exchanges.
Staff Assistance Program:
A new staff assistance program was established when the university contracted a consulting firm to provide counselling and referral services to employees needing help with a wide range of concerns, such as financial problems, alcohol and drugs, stress and marriage difficulties. The program – similar to those beginning to be offered by other larger employers in Calgary -- was initially considered by Deans’ Council and later became part of the collective bargaining process with both faculty and staff. Kelly, Luttmer, Schram and Associates Ltd, which provided the service to campus employees, indicated that staff assistance programs contribute towards lower staff turnover, fewer grievance procedures and less absenteeism. In its first six-months of operations the program received 100 requests from employees.
Sexual Harassment Advisor:
Following extensive review and consultation, revised university policy and procedures concerning sexual harassment were approved, necessitating the appointment of a sexual harassment advisor for the university. Serving as the first official university contact in allegations of sexual harassment, the advisor was required to “be able to deal in an objective, impartial, empathic and confidential manner with complainants and respondents”. The position was intended to be a half-time position, released from the individual’s current position, without additional remuneration. Donna Ferrara-Kerr, a lawyer and instructor in the Faculty of Management, accepted the position for a two-year term and was charged with educating the university community about sexual harassment through workshops and seminars, in addition to investigating and seeking resolution to complaints and reports of sexual harassment on campus.
Campus Women’s Centre:
A volunteer-run Women’s Collective and Resource Centre opened in MacEwan Hall, following a determined two-year struggle to secure space and funding to allow it to operate. The mandate of the centre “is to work to overcome discrimination against women” by providing a forum for networking, the exchange of information and education. Julie Kearns, former chair of the Status of Women Committee, indicated that, given the large number of women on campus in the student population as well as in faculty and secretarial/clerical positions, the centre could play a dynamic role in supporting the goals of women and advancing their position.
The University of Calgary was the first university in Canada to adopt a policy allowing graduate students to take parental leave without jeopardizing their studies. The Faculty of Graduate Studies urged national granting agencies, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, to follow the UofC’s lead. The policy, which affirmed the principle that graduate students of both sexes must be given adequate opportunities for pre- and post-natal care, allowed students a variety of options to take leave from their studies without penalty or payment of fees. Prior to the adoption of the policy, parental leave was negotiated on a case by case basis resulting in students who were unaware that leave could be granted running into difficulties in their programs.