Staff meets with the Chancellor's administration

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COLUMBIA - MU staff members spent Monday afternoon discussing how the university could become Columbia's "employer of choice" again with Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and his administration.

Staff members say the university will struggle to maintain if it does not improve its ability to pay and retain top tier employees. However, the administration says it cannot begin to offer better benefits, pay and security until after the overall efficiency of the university is improved. 

A master electrician and member of the Staff Advisory Council, Steve Stockman, said the university is close to being understaffed.

"It's, what I would call, 'critical mass'. We're getting to the point where we have just enough of those tradesmen to take care of those day-to-day maintenance and issues," Stockman said. "We've had some other issues over the last year of two that have required excessive manpower - we're not going to be prepared to handle those situations."

At the forum, the Vice Chancellor Operations and Student Affairs, Gary Ward, said the questions Stockman raised were valid, but the situation is not as simple as just giving out raises.

"We have to change the institution around to where our reputation is that of the employer of choice and that's going to be with security, good benefits, and also good pay," Ward said. "We're still repairing an image and we are taking a hit for it."

Stockman said this issue differs from the university's larger efforts to address budget cuts.

"It's not something that, as we work on our finances and all these things, we can work our way out of this," he said. "It's a situation that has to be dealt with right now.

Stockman said the problem could be resolved if they hired more laborers and fewer supervisors.

"If you have too many people above you that are making way more than you, well that's keeping you from getting a raise," he said.

Ward said he was pleased the forum was addressing issues like this, because he believes they can be fixed with more attention.

"I am, for one, more optimistic then I have probably been in about the last 15 years," he said. "We are going to be making some of those changes that we should have started 30 years ago."

The university is hosting another town hall Tuesday to gauge the campus climate on issues related to the forum.