More than 50 University employees attended an open house Monday morning with Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper to offer suggestions for future reforms and hear about the work he has done so far in his nine months at the University.
Pepper, joined in the Hall of Graduate Studies by a number of his top lieutenants, spoke for about 30 minutes on how things have gone so far and his hopes for the future, including ways Yale can save money by reducing costs in facilites, procurement, energy, printing, student services, travel and expenses. After showing a brief film, Pepper spent an hour answering questions and seeking advice on a wide range of subjects about how to make the University’s administration run more smoothly.
“I came away with a number of good ideas and requests,” Pepper told the News afterwards. “As with any good meeting, I came away with about 10 new things to work on.”
The meeting was the first of four scheduled open houses with the vice president. Additional sessions will be held October, November and January, according to the Yale Organizational Development and Learning Center’s Web site.
One of the major efforts stressed by Pepper in his address was an upcoming pilot version of an employee satisfaction survey which will be distributed in October to a number of departments, including finance and administration, the Yale Health Plan and the library. The survey will be given to the rest of the University after winter break, said Yale Chief Human Resources Officer Robert Schwartz, who attended the meeting.
Among other things, Pepper said the survey will point out employees’ concerns as well as policies with which they are satisfied. In addition, he said, it will provide another level of communication between administrators and staff members.
“If you don’t listen to people or ask questions, the assumption is you don’t care,” Pepper said of the reason for the survey.
He said the survey will have 65 questions and take between 10 and 15 minutes to complete.
During the question and answer section, the vice president took his own notes and repeatedly asked follow up questions to clarify how audience members would seek to improve things. Those in attendence offered suggestions ranging from improving communication to promoting career development through mentoring.
There is a serious lack of training on the academic procedures in departments, American studies senior administrative assistant Victorine Shepard said. Many audience members nodded in agreement. Shepard said many workers receive their training through trial and error.
“You can do your job for years and do parts of it wrong for years, without knowing it,” Shepard said.
In a discussion that followed, Shepard and others said they would like to see more formal, stuctured training and more casual ways of passing on information.
The appointments procedure at Yale is “byzantine,” Classics senior administrative assistant Kay Claiborn said. For example, she said, when a tenured appointment goes through, the department produces and distibutes hundreds of copies of the professor’s cirriculum vitae. Almost all of the copies go straight in the trash, she said.
But Claiborn noted there had been a “huge difference” since Pepper arrived on campus. Many members of the audience agreed, praising his efforts to reach out to members of the community.
“It was a positive, refreshing eye-opener,” said Lanette Errante, a research assistant at the Yale Child Study Center.