University of Wisconsin’s behind-the-scene workers will be able to increase their visibility on campus, as they receive the ballots to their first election appointing representatives to the UW Classified Staff Shared Governance Body Thursday.
In September, UW System Board of Regents passed a policy to allow for the creation of Classified Staff Governance in effort to give classified staff the opportunity to participate in institutional governance.
State statutes currently provide governance rights to UW System faculty and academic staff, giving them primary responsibility for the formulation and review of policies and procedures, but no such provision exists for classified staff employed in the UW System.
Classified staff are a wide range of support staff at UW, ranging from “blue-collar type” occupations to jobs that require advanced degrees, Interim Secretary of Classified Staff John Lease said.
UW has roughly 5,000 classified staff, he said.
People falsely assume classified staff are only doing entry level work, Kate Kaminski, human resources manager at the UW Space Science and Engineering Center, said, who added their “intelligent work” goes unrecognized.
“Classified employees are the backbone to the work that’s done at the university,” Kaminski said. “They do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work. Faculty and academic staff a lot of times are the ones who get the accolades or they get acknowledged more when a lot of times they have a classified staff employee behind them gathering all the facts, papers, checking, editing, previewing.”
As a large part of the university, classified staff were previously represented on campus through unions and the Committee of Non-represented Classified Staff, Kaminski said. The shared governance body brings all groups together so classified staff will be represented as one group, she said.
While classified staff were also part of different committees throughout campus and partook in discussions and gave input, they did not hold voting seats, Kaminski said. With the creation of the shared governance body classified staff will have voting rights, she said.
The voting rights will hopefully reach a broader perspective or a broader area when historically there was limited communication or limited voice for the classified, Kaminski said, adding she hopes campus groups will get a different perspective of classified staff.
The Classified Staff Shared Governance Body will consist of nine seats that will represent a variety of different groups of classified staff, Kaminski said. More than 90 people are vying for the spots, she said.
“Participation has been really overwhelming but it has been super exciting because it shows people are interested in having a voice on campus and being part of this change,” Kaminski said.
Initially, the elected body will be setting its own bylaws, and then it will deal with anything concerning other governance issues and sharing concerns or opinions about other matters across campus, Kate Skogen, Lab Tech Support Supervisor in the Department of Zoology, said.
Classified staff will now also be able to sit on search and screen committees across campus, Skogen said.
“This is really groundbreaking. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the classified staff to come together, and I am excited for the potential,” Kaminski said.
Ballots must be received by Oct. 30 and the first committee meeting has been tentatively set for Nov. 14, Kaminski said.