Smoking, Retirement Incentives, UAConnect Discussed at Sander Town Hall

The president's final town hall was held at DuVal Auditorium so employees on the north side of Speedway could have a chance to talk to him.
Dec. 14, 2011
University President Eugene G. Sander addresses a crowd of about 60 people, many from the health sciences campus, at his final town hall on Dec. 8 at DuVal Auditorium. (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/University Communications)
University President Eugene G. Sander addresses a crowd of about 60 people, many from the health sciences campus, at his final town hall on Dec. 8 at DuVal Auditorium. (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/University Communications)

For now, main campus won't follow the lead of the Health Sciences campus, which is about to implement a smoking ban, University of Arizona President Eugene G. Sander told employees during his final town hall forum of the semester.

The forum, part of a series, was held Thursday at The University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus.

Around 60 people attended the session, about the same as at the other forums Sander has conducted on the main campus this semester. This time around, Vice President for External Relations Jaime Gutierrez served as moderator – a role filled by Provost Jacqueline Mok at the previous two town hall events.

The Biomedical Communications department streamed the event live online and archived it for viewing by people who couldn't be there or watch while it was going on.

Here are some of the questions that prompted dicussion from Sander:

Has the University discussed backing out of full adoption of the UAConnect email system?

Senior Director for Infrastructure Services Derek Masseth said a campus-based solution has been found for the 20 percent of the population that has struggled with UAConnect, and those people can move to the new on-premises system beginning in January. He added that UITS is exploring how to extend the system to host the entire campus.

The Arizona Health Sciences campus will be an entirely nonsmoking campus beginning Jan. 1. Will the UA main campus follow suit?

"If you can't enforce the rules, then it seems to me you better be pretty judicious in terms of putting them into place," Sander said. 

He said he can understand why the Health Sciences campus would find such a rule a good idea but added that it would be very difficult to implement on the main campus.

"I'd like to walk up to every kid that I see smoking and say, 'You know something? I had to be close to 60 years old before I could do that (quit smoking). And I know full well that I probably would have died had I not. ... Stop while you can,'" Sander said.

If the UA considers another round of retirement incentives, could you extend the offer to people who are not yet 65 years old but have worked at the UA for many years?

Sander said when the retirement incentive was offered last year, only about a quarter of the eligible employees accepted it. The feedback he's heard indicates that people didn't like having such a short time frame in which to make a decision about leaving the University. The University decided it would be more effective to let college deans and department heads have the flexibility to work with people who might want to retire soon and taper their work schedules.

"I know some people who were eligible for that program," he said. "I know a lot of people who simply said, 'There's no way. I'm not going to walk off and leave a lab full of people hanging with no employment.' "

There's a rumor that the Arizona Board of Regents is considering eliminating the Qualified Tuition Reduction benefit. Do you have any information on this subject?

"That's a rumor that I've heard off and on for nearly 25 years," Sander said. "No, I know of nothing, and I wouldn't support it." (Visit the Human Resources website to learn more about the program.)

What do you hope to achieve with the state Legislature in the upcoming session?

Sander said he's sure in his heart there will be no more budget cuts, and he said the University's asking budget was meant as an educational exercise, to let lawmakers know there are things the University needs when the state becomes healthy enough to provide them.

"We were flat told 'no salary increases,'" he said.

The only cut on the horizon is a carryover from former President Robert Shelton, who chose to divide a 10 percent cut in University-wide departmental expenses into two years of 5 percent cuts. Sander said he's working to make the second year of cuts come out to less than 5 percent.