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Shared governance, shared voices from around the world

November 2, 2017 By Käri Knutson

It takes many voices to represent the nearly 5,000 people who make up university staff. Those voices come from all over the globe, including this year, several who are English language learners.

Photo: Consuelo Morales

Consuelo Morales • Custodian, Facilities Planning and Management • Home country: Venezuela
“My goal is to make changes come through with all of the ideas that I share. I like listening to the voices of my co-workers to know their concerns,” Morales says. “In that way, I can take their concerns to (University Staff) Congress to make them aware with the hope to make some changes. “ Photo: Jeff Miller

The University Staff Congress meets the third Monday of each month. The congress consists of one elected representative and one alternate from each of 106 districts, consisting of employees of similar job type. The most recent congress assembled in July.

Consuelo Morales, a representative to congress and a custodian with Facilities Planning and Management, is from Venezuela. Her first impression of Wisconsin was that it’s pretty cold. But she has warmed up to the weather and also to being more involved as a member of the congress.

Photo: Januka Thapa

Januka Thapa • Custodian, Facilities Planning and Management • Home country: Nepal
Thapa says she wants to “bring working issues in the congress to discuss and communicate congress decisions to working groups (colleagues). Photo: Jeff Miller

“I like being informed of what is happening at the university,” Morales says. “My goal is to make changes come through with all of the ideas that I share.”

Terry Fritter, chair of the University Staff Central Committee, has been actively engaged in recruiting candidates to run for congress.

“I think that university staff shared governance has set an example of how outreach can lead to inclusion. We have purposely held events on the evening shifts and have cultivated relationships with workers from different ethnic communities among the English language learners,” Fritter says.

Photo: Dhonpa Phuntsokrapten

Dhonpa Phuntsokrapten • Custodian lead, Facilities Planning and Management • Home country: Tibet
Phuntsokrapten says he wanted to become a member of congress to make sure concerns of the community are heard. Photo: Jeff Miller

Shared governance can only be stronger by having a more diverse group of representatives and making a point to encourage participation, he says.

“We work closely with Cultural Linguistic Services to produce all our election materials in the various languages,” he says. “These workers have the least opportunity to engage directly with campus decision makers, and when we informed them that they would have access to the vice chancellor every month at the meetings of the congress, they responded magnificently. They want their voices heard, and I’m pleased to say that in turn, the administration wants to hear from them.”

Photo: José Torres Martinez

Jose Torres Martinez • Custodian, Facilities Planning and Management • Home country: Mexico.
Martinez says he joined congress to help his co-workers. “It is a good place to work. I have met people from all over the world.” Photo: Jeff Miller

Shared governance is a significant part of the university. Elected representatives are charged with keeping their constituents informed regarding proposals that impact campus in general and University Staff in particular.

The congress is the largest deliberative body and final decision-making authority in University Staff shared governance. At monthly meetings, which are chaired by Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller, representatives hear from and have the opportunity to ask questions of leadership. Policies and proposals are submitted for approval and are subject to debate and amendment by the congress.

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