Unclassified staff to have representation before regents for first time

Joint effort of KU, Wichita State University creates new council

Unclassified staff, one of the largest groups of employees at Kansas Board of Regents institutions, will soon have representation in front of the board for the first time.

An effort by unclassified staff senates at KU and Wichita State University to form an Unclassified Staff Council was approved at the regents’ September meeting. Faculty, students and university support staff have had representation. The council will now report to the regents twice a year about issues of importance to unclassified staff.

Phil Wilke

KU and Wichita State are the only two regents institutions with governing bodies for unclassified staff. Phil Wilke, media coordinator at Kansas Public Radio and president of KU’s Unclassified Senate, said the idea started on campus a few years ago, when an Unclassified Senate member suggested contacting colleagues at other institutions to discuss concerns of staff. He then learned Wichita State was the only other school with a governing body similar to KU’s.

Wilke began working last spring with Grady Landrum, director of disability services and president of Wichita State’s Unclassified Senate to begin communication with the regents.

“We’re the largest group of employees, but we didn’t have anyone reporting to the regents about our concerns,” Landrum said. “We thought it would make sense to form a group represent us.”

The regents’ Council of Presidents — a board of chancellors and presidents — voted to approve the idea in July. It was then officially proposed to the regents and approved.

Wilke said the council’s first order of business would be contacting colleagues at all regents institutions, informing them of the new council and inviting them to take part in the council and form governance bodies for their unclassified staff. They will report on those efforts in January.

Because the group is brand new, Wilke and Landrum said, it is not yet clear exactly how the council will take shape but that the flexibility is an opportunity.

“Since we’re starting our group from scratch, it can grow into anything,” Wilke said. “We want to get this council up and running quickly and make it a viable organization.”

A representative from the institution that is chairing the President’s Council will chair the staff council. This year, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is chair, and Wilke assumed the chair role for the Unclassified Staff Council. The position will rotate annually.

Wilke said he hopes to set a meeting among council representatives next summer to discuss ideas and information to take back to their constituencies. He recommended anyone with questions about or ideas for the council contact him or any unclassified senator.

For more on Unclassified Senate, visit unclassifiedsenate.ku.edu.

Campus closeup
Patricia Denning, Chief of Staff, Student Health Services


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