ILLINOIS STATE Senator Chapin Rose (R-51st Decatur) recently introduced Senate Bill 1724, which has prompted concern among Academic Professionals and human resources managers at UIC. If approved, the bill would change the composition of the Civil Service Merit Board. The proposed legislation gives the Governor authority to appoint new members to the Board, and to terminate the terms of current members.
THE NEWLY appointed members would include four individuals exempt from Civil Service, four Civil Service employees of State universities, and three members who are representative citizens and who are not current or former employees, or current or former members of the board of trustees of a state university. The bill would impact all State universities. Currently, members of the Merit Board are appointed by their respective university governing boards.
OTHER PROVISIONS of the bill include a change to exemption authority. In the proposed legislation, exemption authority is returned to the executive director of the State Universities Civil Service System (SUCSS), Urbana, and cannot be delegated otherwise. The bill also allows the SUCSS executive director to determine the Designated Employer Representative (DER) for each campus. At the present time, the DER is determined by the University president.
REMOVING EXEMPTION authority from the campus and giving exemption authority to SUCSS could impact the efficiency now experienced by conducting the analysis on a local level. Sending each new position to the SUCSS office for a determination could impact the ability of UIC human resources to respond in a timely manner. The SUCSS office is comprised of fewer than 15 individuals.
MANY ACADEMIC Professionals at UIC, some of them HR managers, are very concerned that the hiring process will become more onerous and lengthy, according to Colleen Piersen, APAC interim chair, assistant head for administration, Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy. The reason: SUCSS staff cannot be expected to understand the intricacies of all the principal administrative positions at all state universities.
“APAC BELIEVES that Academic Professionals fulfill vital and unique roles in coordinating and synthesizing various functions within and across units at UIC,” Piersen said. “The retention of exemption authority by the campus is critical to its ability to hire Academic Professionals who address an ever-changing balance of teaching, research and service priorities. In effect, SB 1724 legislation threatens the ability of UIC to react nimbly to external forces or take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities.”
REMOVING EXEMPTION authority would have an enormous impact on UIC and the entire Illinois university system, agrees Maureen M. Parks, associate vice president, University Human Resources, University of Illinois. “There are 20,000 Civil Service employees in the State of Illinois. There is no way the Civil Service system could review every position open at UIC, every time an opening comes up, and make a decision on whether it should be a Civil Service position or exempted. All state universities would be negatively impacted.”
SENATOR ROSE introduced the bill because he wanted to “start the conversation” about changes that need to take place in higher education, according to Parks who met with the Senator earlier this year. Rose did not respond to this reporter’s request for an interview.
“WE DO need Civil Service reform,” Parks explained. “The Civil Service system, developed in the 1950s, is very complex and many of the procedures are not modern best practices in HR recruitment. However, SB 1724 would make things worse. The goal of Civil Service is to serve State universities; this bill would do a major disservice. It would actually increase costs for State universities.
“I EXPLAINED that to Senator Rose and I believe we had an eye-opening conversation,” Parks added. “He was surprised to learn that there currently are not any SUCSS Audit guidelines or a structured audit time frame. Instead, the Civil Service office decides how long the process takes.”
THE UNIVERSITY’S human resources directors have been talking to Tom Morelock, executive director of SUCSS, for eight years about changes that need to be made to modernize the system, Parks added. “In the fall of 2014, UIC’s HR directors sent him a formal document specifying five changes that need to be made. That document is now being reviewed.”