Seattle U Staff feel underrepresented on Campus

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Staff members work in conjunction with faculty members and upper level administrators to help the overall experience of the student body at Seattle U. They are some of the most recognizable faces to the students, and the ones who interact with them the most, but are often left out of conversations regarding the decision- making processes of improving campus culture for these students.

Staff underrepresentation is not a new issue that Seattle U is tackling, but it is becoming more prominent among the community. ere are nearly 30 more staff members than there are faculty members, and yet, staff find themselves being left out of important dialogues that would allow them to express their lived experiences on campus.

The College of Arts & Sciences has realized this gap that comes from not involving staff, and is working towards a staff advisory council that would directly hear from members whose voices are not usually heard have to say. The college already has a Faculty-Staff Senate in place. While these groups are steps forward in the right direction, Core Administrative Specialist Stephanie Lewis still believes there needs to be more attached to what that entails exactly.

“There needs to be sort of trust re- established, because at this point, I feel like the staff go to each other or they go to faculty members that they do trust and have a relationship with, but right now it’s just emails coming from the top-down,” Lewis said.

The College of Arts & Sciences is the only college that has an implemented second governing body, and many staff members are looking to follow their model and create a similar organization within the other colleges and departments.

Staff members have rarely been included in committees, or in conversations around search and hiring teams or human resource policies. When they are, they o en do not fully represent a holistic staff experience because they’re mainly comprised of higher level staff members.

Kimberly Gawlik, the Senior Administrative Assistant for the Institute of Public Service, mentioned that supervisors are usually the ones reporting back to upper level administrators without fully understanding the entire depth of staff members’ problems.

“It’s a very paternalistic attitude that says, ‘I supervise a hundred people, I understand the needs of those people,’ and so that’s probably just a disconnect,” Gawlik said. “They failed to recognize the importance of that voice, and when they do consider it, they consider it from an upper level bird’s eye view.”

Program Coordinator for Sports Administration and Leadership Rose Kaser shared this belief as well.

“At the end of the day, they’re gonna be like, ‘You’re represented, it’s right here.’ But we don’t share the same issues, even though we should,” Kaser said.

The lack of communication has caused strains on relationships within the levels of faculty, staff, and administration members. Faculty, staff, and administrators are not finding the time to talk with one another to understand what each line of work is dealing with and what could be improved in timely fashions.

“If you’re not part of the decision making and you’re not compensated at the same level that upper administration is, then things are gonna change,” Kaser said. “Then we’re gonna end up with the culture that we have right now of no participating, of uncertainty, of dissatisfaction, of frustration.”

“All of these changes are being implemented, [but] we forgot to communicate,” Kaser said. “We forgot to actually find out what you do that helps my purpose that ultimately is going to help serve our students. We all have the same goal, and that’s what we tell ourselves, but we’re not working the same way. We’re not communicating.”

When asked what solutions they would like to see implemented to improve the current culture surrounding staff underrepresentation, all of these staff members pointed to one thing: shared governance.

“I would like to see, eventually, that instead of a governing at the university that takes into account issues and ideas and thoughts that come from sta council, to be a body that doesn’t need a staff council because it incorporates all of those positions and all of those voices,” Gawlik said.

Staff are left with the decision to either stay or to leave, and while there are many talented people who choose to part ways with Seattle U, a large portion of them want to stay because they are heavily motivated to see the success of the students.

“We just love the students,” Lewis said. “We love working with you guys and we just want to do our jobs well to be able to serve you and to help you and to have that recognized.”

Frances may be reached at
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