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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Employee Forum starts the year with discussion about resources

The Employee Forum kicked off the new year with a discussion on resources available to the campus community during times of crisis or uncertainty.

University Ombuds Dawn Osborne-Adams, Brandon Washington, director of equal opportunity and compliance, and Desirée Rieckenberg, senior associate dean of students, were on hand to share information and answer questions to help employees navigate through turbulent times.

Osborne-Adams gave a brief overview of the University Ombuds Office, describing it as a safe place where all Carolina staff, faculty, students and administrators are welcome to talk in confidence about any campus issue, concern, problem or dispute. Last semester, a growing number of people visited the office, not for help dealing with their own immediate problems, but to seek advice on how to help a friend or people to whom they felt responsible or to address a concern where they felt little or no control over the outcome, she said.

There are no easy answers, Osborne-Adams said, because each situation is different. But the ability to respond well to each other in times of crisis hinges on the quality of the relationships an employee has with co-workers and managers before the crisis begins. 

Washington agreed that trust is a key factor in shaping how well people can help each other get through good times and bad. It’s all about relationships, he said.

Every member of our campus community is entitled to live, learn and work in an environment that is inclusive and welcoming. The EOC offers many programs, both online and in person, that can help provide information about policies, resources, reporting options, and the types of conduct that are prohibited at Carolina.

It is important for managers to create an environment in which employees can disagree with their managers without putting themselves at risk. It is just as important for employees to learn how to “disagree agreeably,” Washington said.

Rieckenberg, who has been with the University for nearly seven years, said last semester was defined by high-interest events that created a higher level of anxiety, uncertainty and anger. Part of the mission of the Office of the Dean of Students is to empower students to succeed in navigating the University environment. 

“Our students, our staff and our faculty are incredibly resilient and incredibly invested in this University and they have a desire to find their place and figure out how they can contribute,” Rieckenberg said.

Employee Forum Chair Shayna Hill said staff employees often find it difficult to be heard in the bigger conversations taking place among students and faculty members, though they do try to get involved. “There is positive advocacy that is different from venting or complaining,” Hill said, and that vital difference needs to be better understood. 

The conversation was part of a new feature that will be added to Employee Forum meetings this year: a  panel discussion to explore a topic of interest to the campus community.

In other news, delegates heard the first reading of a resolution on adverse weather leave that seeks to allow employees to use sick leave to make up for time not working during Condition 2 when University operations are suspended. The resolution will be voted on for final approval at the next meeting. 

With the Employee Forum meeting focused on resources, employees can check out these websites to learn more:

University Ombuds Office

Office of the dean of students

Equal Opportunity and Compliance

Tuition waiver

Fitness classes

Weight watchers

UNC Perks