by Anselmo Watkins
In the latest move designed to minimize the potential for confrontation between faculty/administration and the staff that work for them, the University of El Dorado Office of the President announced Tuesday that they will institute a new system-wide personnel policy that borrows liberally from the Indian caste system. Beginning September 1, staff members who are not considered administrators and who are not represented by a union will be reclassified as “untouchables.”
“About five years ago, we noticed that many of our staff members were beginning to express opinions and views towards the faculty and administration, rather than just doing the typing and copying that they are paid to do. This is, of course, unacceptable.” said Jan Marsh, Ph.D., director of HR for the UED system. “We felt it was necessary to implement this plan to ensure that these staff members understand their place in the world. On the whole, they are replaceable automatons, and we must have in providing enough clarity about their status.”
Under the new guidelines, untouchables within the 10-campus system will not be allowed to make eye contact with or speak directly to administrators or faculty. Meal periods will be staggered to reduce the risk of accidental interaction, and staff members will be required to park in remote off-campus lots and walk to their offices. Salaries will not be directly affected, though Marsh said the plan will save the university money by making it almost impossible for untouchables to gain recognition for good work and thus earn raises or promotions.
“The parking situation alone makes this appealing to faculty,” system-wide Faculty Senate Chair Professor John Dirsche said, adding that the administrators and faculty decided against referring to themselves as “elites” to ensure that they did not come across as crass.
Marsh said that she, Dirsche and a team of HR professionals worked for several weeks to instill safeguards into the new policy.
“For example, in the unlikely event of an untouchable coming up with and expressing a viable idea or helpful thought, we have a mechanism in place to ensure that the credit will be given to the appropriate administrator or faculty member,” Dirsche said. “Conversely, fault or blame can be assigned to any untouchable at the point of a finger.”
Groundbreaking ideas of this type are nothing new for the UED system. In 2009 the university made national news with their Faculty/Administration Impeccable Ideas Legislation. Marsh said that the policy came about following a heated discussion between a department chair and an “uppity” female student affairs officer.
“The department chair, a brilliant man named Rena Abezez, was simply telling her how she had failed in her job and life and was making suggestions on how she could improve both. The staff member disagreed, became indignant and shouted ‘Where is it written that you guys are always right?'” Dirsche recalled. “That’s what set the ball rolling.”
The F/AIIL policy came together within days and was incorporated into campus law through the UED principles of “shared governance,” in which the faculty and administration each have an equal say over how the campus is run. The simple verbiage reads “In any discussion between a Faculty/Administrator and a staff member, the former is always right.” This simple idea has spread over the last year and the F/AIIL policy is now a part of campus doctrines across the country.
Dirsche added that the long-term hope for the caste-system policy is that the university will be able to apply it to union-represented employees during the upcoming contract negotiations.
Edda St. Clair, union rep for the Organization of Professional Workers of El Dorado said that the measure might face some objection from her constituents.
“It could be a tough sell. Our union leaders have traditionally played the role of superiors over the unwashed… er… workers,” she said. “However, I am sure that something can be worked out if the money is right.”