February 1, 2011

Examination and Reclassification
of AP Positions Required by Law

By Monica M. Walk

AS THE University of Illinois works to comply with the State Universities Civil Service System requirements for position classification, Academic Professionals (APs) could find their positions recommended for reclassification to Civil Service. Executive Director for Human Resources Maureen Parks wants all employees to know, “Our goal is to be as employee friendly and transparent as possible” during the job analysis and conversion process.

VITAL FOR Academic Professionals to understand is that the University will uphold all notice rights.

“THEY HAVE a contract as Academic Professionals, and that will be honored,” Parks said, explaining that many Academic Professionals have a contractually agreed-upon period of time during which they must be notified if their job is ending or being changed. Academic Professionals are employed by an annual contract with the University, and the contract is renewed yearly.

SO, WITH the conversion of an Academic Professional job to Civil Service, the employee will have decisions to make, including the choice to convert immediately to Civil Service or to wait until his or her Academic Professional notice period is up.

“THEY ARE not being forced to convert immediately,” Parks said. “There is time to make the transition. We have really good employees, and we want to retain them—not get rid of them. But we must comply with the audit.”

CIVIL SERVICE employees can be found in Federal, State, and local government agencies across the US. Initially the university system was enacted for public higher education institutions after World War II to limit patronage in public employment and to increase the use of merit hiring for jobs in public universities.

THE CIVIL Service agency that regulates hiring and employment at all state universities in Illinois is called the State Universities Civil Service System (SUCSS). When SUCSS conducted its biennial audit in 2008, the UIC Campus received a number of audit findings.

“WE HAD serious audit findings,” Parks recounted. “Too many positions were classified outside of the Civil Service System that were concerning. The System has specific exemption protocols, and too many positions at UIC were inappropriately exempted.

“MANY OF the position classifications were written in 1954 and don’t fit our needs today,” Parks noted, “especially in Chicago where we work in medicine and a different hiring market. It is a competitive environment in which we must comply. For a number of years on the Chicago campus, we hired employees in a way that exempted them from the Civil Service System. That seemed to be OK for a period of time but not today.”

THE 2008 audit made it clear that change was required. Parks believes there are approximately 1,200 Civil Service classifications; the University of Illinois Chicago currently uses fewer than half of these. Making changes necessary for compliance requires a process of reviewing all Academic Professional positions on the Chicago campus.

 Is this lab technician an AP or Civil Service employee? Examination and possible
reclassification of her position and others  is required by law. (Photo courtesy AADE.)

Methodology and Process
DUE TO the scope of the review process—there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Academic Professional employees on campus—HR has licensed use of a tool used for job analysis and hired several temporary professional job analysts to assist with the project, which began in late Spring/early Summer 2010 and is expected to continue for the next 18 months.

ANALYSTS ARE meeting with each unit and department to interview supervisors and employees to understand the scope and function of employees’ jobs, complete with discussion and agreement about the job duties by the individuals involved. Parks said supervisors also will be asked, “If this person quit or retired now, what type of education, certification, qualifications and competencies would be needed to replace him or her today.” The data is then fed into what Parks described as a “state of the art system.”

“THROUGH THE interview and the tool, we get a summary of the employee’s job. Analysts then review and write the job description, and determine if Civil Service has a job with these functions,” Parks explained, noting that she wants employees to know about and understand the methodology and process. Participants in the review process complete some preparatory work and do submit a pre-interview survey to help prepare for the interview with the analyst. “The law says that if the Civil Service System classification matches, then it has to be a Civil Service job,” Parks said.

AN INTERESTING twist in the process lies in the fact that University positions at the Chicago campus have not always had written job descriptions traditionally used at other universities and by other state universities.

“WE ALSO will get data on the jobs on campus, and will be able to create job families and a compensation structure based on factual information,” Parks said.

THE MEDICAL Center has most recently gone through the interview process, and job descriptions are being drafted and reviewed by management. Outcomes of the process will be shared soon.

A TIMEFRAME for additional units under review is not available. “Each unit is unique, so we have to be flexible regarding the project timeframe,” Parks said.

Review Reports
AS THE reviews continue, each Vice Chancellor will meet with HR to discuss the process, steps, and goals for their area. Town Hall meetings will be scheduled with HR for each Vice Chancellor area to explain the process, timeframe, outcome, and expectations if positions are recommended for conversion. Individual meetings with HR representatives also are available for employees who request them.

UIC HR also is doing the job analysis review and in its own unit, Parks reported. Other units had employees who converted already. Approximately 25 hourly, temporary Academic Professionals who did not have contracts, and another half-dozen employees who chose to convert voluntarily to a Civil Service class that was an exact match for their positions, did so last summer.

PARKS ACKNOWLEDGED that she realizes Academic Professionals fear losing advantages in a transition to Civil Service.

“BUT, THEY have greater protection as Civil Service: Academic professionals have a one-year contract at the university that has to be renewed annually,” Parks said. “Civil Service positions have security if there are cutbacks. There is seniority if there are cutbacks. They could be bumped into a different departments with the same title and general duties”.

THEY MAY also have better benefits. While health, dental, and retirement benefits remain the same for both employee groups, Civil Service employees can get a tuition waiver at any state school, while Academic Professionals get a waiver only at the campus on which they work. Academic professionals have 24 vacation days per year, while some Civil Servants earn up to 28 vacation days annually. For the majority of positions, Parks expects no salary change. Some Academic Professional positions changed to unionized Civil Service positions may need compensation details worked through with unions.

“OUR INTENT is to classify appropriately,” Parks emphasized. 

FOR MORE information about the Civil Service Audit and job analysis, see http://www.uic.edu/depts/hr/UIC_Civil_Service_Audit_Job_Analysis/index.shtml. For more information about UIC SUCCSS audit compliance see http://www.uic.edu//depts/hr/compensation/sucss.shtml.


  1. What about all of the problems associated with the conversions?

  2. What problems are you referring to?

  3. Will seniority be lost during the conversion?

  4. While SUCSS likes to think of "bumping" as a perk, it is in fact nothing but a problem. It's rare that a bumpee is a good fit for the supposedly "same" job title in a different unit/department. In fact, this kind of thinking supposes that all employees and positions are interchangeable, when they are not. Instead of creating equity and fairness, it imposes a burden on the receiving units of these bumps. Often a poor employee simply gets carried for years, simply because of the seniority issue. This is one reason why so many units converted positions to AP in the first place!

  5. Heard Maureen Parks talk about how she regularly is in touch w/ all the stakeholders on this issue...SUCCS, LABOR UNIONS, and various others. Conspicuously absent were academic professionals or their campus representatives. Does UA not consider academic professionals or their elected representatives stakeholders on this issue?