• Doug Most

    Associate Vice President, Executive Editor, Editorial Department Twitter Profile

    Doug Most is a lifelong journalist and author whose career has spanned newspapers and magazines up and down the East Coast, with stops in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, New Jersey, and Boston. He was named Journalist of the Year while at The Record in Bergen County, N.J., for his coverage of a tragic story about two teens charged with killing their newborn. After a stint at Boston Magazine, he worked for more than a decade at the Boston Globe in various roles, including magazine editor and deputy managing editor/special projects. His 2014 nonfiction book, The Race Underground, tells the story of the birth of subways in America and was made into a PBS/American Experience documentary. He has a BA in political communication from George Washington University. Profile

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There are 88 comments on What Should the Future of Staff Work at Boston University Look Like?

  1. I sincerely hope the University allows some staff flexibility going forward, especially for staff who don’t work with students directly and have worked from home successfully. Some of us are more productive at home, and as the article notes, not commuting is a huge gift.

  2. I’m really grateful this conversation is happening, as staff have worked harder and longer during this pandemic. In our college, we have been even more productive and our one on one advising with students has been more effective via zoom. As a mother with a young child, this would change my quality of life completely.

    1. In order to stay competitive with other employers, and retain top talent, I believe they will have to allow more flexibility. Some positions are MORE effective remotely- and a healthy work/life balance will produce even more effective and dedicated employee. It’s as if the cat is out of the bag.

      1. Agree! The only question I have is- why are there not more Staff represented on the committee deciding this? Don’t we think more staff input is important?

          1. Who are the staff members? I don’t see any on the list of committee members posted in the article. Are you referring to the assoc. vp of IT?

          2. Frankly, it’s disturbing, but not surprising, that the cochair of this committee is not concerned by the lack of regular staff members on the committee.

          3. If I’m reading this right, the staff (some with deceiving titles) are:
            1. Diane Baldwin, associate vice president, Sponsored Programs
            2. Ira Lazic, associate dean for administration and finance, School of Public Health
            3. Janet O’Brien, senior associate vice president, IS&T
            4. Patricia O’Brien, associate provost for budget and planning
            5. Silifa Wallace, associate vice president, internal audit
            6. Juliana Walsh Kaiser, senior associate dean for finance and administration, College of Arts & Sciences

            The faculty members are:
            1. Kenneth Freeman, cochair, vice president ad interim for human resources, Questrom School of Business dean emeritus and professor of the practice (I’m putting Ken in the faculty list as his staff classification is temporary, he came to BU as faculty and assuming he doesn’t become the VP of HR will return to faculty)
            2. Natalie McKnight, cochair, dean, College of General Studies
            3. Jorge Delva, dean, School of Social Work, Paul Farmer Professor
            4. Mariette DiChristina (COM’86), dean, College of Communication
            5. Hee-Young Park, associate dean, faculty affairs, professor and chair, department of medical sciences and education, School of Medicine, Faculty Council representative
            6. Elise Morgan, Maysarah K. Sukkar Professor of Engineering, director, Center for Multiscale and Translational Mechanobiology, associate dean for research and faculty development, College of Engineering

            I do agree that going at least another layer or two down the org structure would be a better idea than only having such high level representation.

          4. I am curious if anyone on that Committee makes less than 200k a year, and/or has a staff of people who can help them manage their lives (cleaners, day care, grocery delivery, stay at home spouses).

            Where is the representation from the people who actually have to deal with the commute to BU, live paycheck to paycheck, and maintain BU’s massive and urgent productivity expections, no sense of prioritization from University Leadership while having their benefits taken away?

            Who on this committee represents the regular working people of this community?

  3. Without a commute and with greater flexibility, I’ve been able to put in longer hours and have had more productivity. I’ve seen the same from my colleagues. It’s hard to give up both the benefits to my home life and the benefits to my project if this flexibility is taken away.

  4. I do think it is important to be physically present, so I hope remote work does not become the norm for staff. However, I think this experiment (such as it was) has demonstrated that staff can indeed be productive from home, so I do hope we are permitted the option of occasionally working from home (during extreme weather, when we have a sick child or are expecting a delivery, when we’re sick but not sick enough to call in sick, etc.). We ought to be allowed the occasional, “I am working from home today.” I also hope the University will allow staff more flexibility in setting their own working hours (working 4 days a week on campus, working 10 to 6 vs 9 to 5, etc.). Historically, there has been a lot of rigidity in this regard … I hope 2020-21 has put an end to that.

    1. That’s exactly what I was thinking. BU doesn’t value staff, and that’s clear by those who were chosen for the committee. As a long-time employee, I really do hope they offer more flexibility. I am far more productive at home, and my stress level is much lower because I don’t have to commute into the city.

    2. BU: “As the name of the committee suggests, its focus is exclusively on staff.”
      Also BU: Loads the committee up with faculty.

      I’m sorry but BU faculty who will not be afforded more flexible work arrangements post-COVID have little incentive to recommend flexibility for staff whose roles and functions may be much different than their own.

      I’d like to think this was simply a poorly chosen committee but instead it feels it was done intentionally and strategically so that the ultimate recommendations will include less flexibility.

      1. Respectfully. . . the “staff” on the committee are very very senior staff. There are no analysts, administrative aids, or “worker bees” on the committee.

  5. This is long overdue. The stress of the commute into the city not only took more than an hour each way added to an already long day away from family. My family states I am less stressed than the last many years of commuting. I also feel that with less interruptions I remain more focused and more productive on the days I work remotely.

  6. As a mother and staff member, i have found working from home a lot more productive , i am able to focus more on the tasks of the day with less distractions and find i have gotten much more done . My stress levels are extremely lower due to being home and not in traffic or worried if the T will be on time. I really hope BU allows us this opportunity.

  7. This is a really a no-brainer in my opinion. Every position is different, and every employee has different preferences. If possible and desired, let staff work from home. Whether its 1, 3, or 5 days a week, whatever makes the most sense for that position. When they need to come in, they can come in. It really seems like something that should be decided on between the employee and their supervisor because they know what makes the most sense for them.

    People will be happier, traffic will be reduced, fewer commutes, office space will be freed up. For some, it can be even seen as a benefit when recruiting new employees. I see no drawbacks to allowing a more flexible approach, especially now that we have seen how well it can work and we have the infrastructure in place to make it feasible.

  8. this is LOOONG overdue for the university, and will benefit the university and staff in SO many areas: retention of excellent talent, improved productivity, happier employees, reduced congestion for the campus and city. The university has made NO efforts to improve salaries for staff, despite the ineffective “bridging BU” project that was supposed to bring BU staff salaries in line with industry standards, so increasing job flexibility, especially for those with children, is the only way to retain loyal employees.

  9. In a year where the University has had to stop with merit raises and didn’t make contributions to retirement funds, I think throwing staff a bone and giving them some remote flexibility would be HUGE for my (our) mental health. Like many others – my commute is over an hour both ways and the ability to work remotely this past year has given me a small relief in an otherwise hectic world. My quality of work has not suffered in the least while doing work from home and so if people at the levels making these decisions are actually reading these comments – please know that a gesture like this would not go unnoticed.

    BU is supposed to be an innovative University. Instead of sitting back and watching other industries or schools let their staff work remotely more often – get ahead of it and BE an innovator in the Higher Education community. It’d be appreciated more than you know.

      1. It is a good point, I made sure to mention it twice in the article, including here: “But staff members who have been effective and productive while working remotely for more than a year might wonder why BU can’t allow it to continue in some form. It would make work-life balance better, employees happier, be better for the environment with fewer people stuck in long commutes, and make it easier to lure and retain employees worried about affording the Greater Boston housing or rental market. “

  10. If there are two things that are certain to come out of this they will be that (1) the overarching policy will be far more strict than an overwhelming majority would prefer, and (2) some people will stomp their feet and claim something isn’t fair about it (equity, diversity, and inclusion after all)

    I also like how this article attempts multiple times to spin it to show the negative side of working from home. Sure when people are legitimately quarantined and don’t have the option for human interaction there are negative consequences, but surely no one is implying that in the future you CANNOT come to campus if you desire. Quit it with trying to pre-set the narrative and give workers the flexibility they all want. Give unit areas the autonomy to decide what is best for the area they serve and be as progressive as you claim to be.

    1. Thanks for your comment John. But as the author of the article, I have to challenge your claim that it was spun to show only the negative side. The story makes numerous efforts to explain the challenge of the committee is the balancing act, the good and the bad: “Flexible schedules, more family time, and cost savings on commuting have been a blessing for many. But trying to work while kids are remote-schooling, the monotony of virtual meetings, and the absence of personal interactions have proved exhausting for others.” … That line reflects both sides. Not one side.

      And this line also reflects your positive sentiments about working from home: “But staff members who have been effective and productive while working remotely for more than a year might wonder why BU can’t allow it to continue in some form. It would make work-life balance better, employees happier, be better for the environment with fewer people stuck in long commutes, and make it easier to lure and retain employees worried about affording the Greater Boston housing or rental market.” … I welcome this discussion and these comments. Thanks. Doug

      1. I appreciate your response, but I don’t see in my comment where I said the article talked about ONLY the negative side. Actually I granted that – of course – under circumstances of a legitimate lockdown (conditions we figure to not be existing under during fall 2021 and beyond) there are negatives to FORCED isolation, but bringing those up only serves to detract from the point that a true temperature reading of the staff would overwhelmingly support maximum flexibility in remote work options. Citing examples of negative outcomes of government mandated lockdowns is a red herring. We understand that BU Today is University sponsored propaganda, so it can only be assumed that inclusion of non-pertinent items such as these are meant to attempt to shape the conversation to benefit the desired narratives of your superiors.

  11. Heads of some very large departments at BU are already working against this. For instance, some are ready to declare that all of their unit’s staff are “essential employees”, making them ineligible to remain home even on weather emergency-closing days. They seem to feel that having their entire staff always on campus will prove their own dedication.

    1. I couldn’t agree more!! I, too, was declared “essential” in this pandemic, which was both surprising for me to learn and insulting to actual essential employees. In fact, some department leaders threatened staff with layoffs, furloughs, or pay decreases if those newly named essential employees did not return to campus back in July / August.

      If there is a university policy that comes from this committee, I hope it is enforced *at the university level* and not left up to department heads with their own agendas and misguided opinions of WFH.

  12. I foresee resentment and friction. This will certainly create two classes of staff. Staff who have no choice but to work on campus because they are student-facing or essential (e.g. dining, facilities) should be compensated differently than those who opt to work from home and thereby don’t need to pay for BU parking permits, monthly MBTA passes, gasoline, etc.

    It’s the only way to be truly fair. It’s not right to afford default cost-savings to some staff but not others, especially when there’s already so much discrepancy in how staff are paid across the university. Facilities and Student Affairs either never stopped working on campus during the pandemic or were the first to return, but where’s the financial acknowledgement of that sacrifice?

    1. I agree with Student Affairs, Facilities and BUPD staff taking the brunt of the work when trying to support and retain students living on-campus. They are present and their work is “essential” but how many times can you go to an already near-dry well? Additionally, Student Affairs staff don’t get paid for any overtime since it’s all part of salary. These staff members like their jobs and working with students, but heaping on more work because other staff members are not also on-campus has to be considered as well. So yes, it is important to have actual hourly and salaried staff members represented on this committee so a balanced response can be made for all.

    2. There are also costs to working from home, however. Heating and electricity costs have risen as more people are in their homes all day, and working from home requires consistent high-speed internet in many cases. Employees working from campus don’t necessary incur those costs the same amount.

      And even if an employee isn’t incurring the exact same commute costs, that’s not to say they don’t plan on ever leaving their homes and still may have need for an MBTA pass or occasional campus visit costs.

      1. True, but I also pay for heat and high speed internet at home despite working on campus daily since August. I understand your point about transportation but not having to pay for a monthly BU parking permit ($250/mo on medical campus) is a huge win. I don’t see how this will be equitable but the current system isn’t either, so it is what it is.

  13. “This pandemic was particularly hard on working women, and working parents, with small children at home,” McKnight says. “That’s something we have to address at BU. For parents of young children, juggling care impacts so much, and all good employers should be considering ways to help, especially if you want to recruit and retain employees.”

    A great way to recruit and retain employees with children moving forward would be to make the university childcare free or significantly discounted for employees much like a lot of companies do with in-house childcare. A lot of folks are typically essentially just working to pay these costs with very little left over for basic needs like rent and bills or emergencies. If you’re going to ask folks to come back to campus, then adjust the childcare here to help entice people to come back.

    As a staff member I love having the option and flexibility to work from home and not having to worry about the additional stress and costs incurred just from going to campus. It’s time to think forward and not stick to the ‘but this is always what we’ve done’ mentality because normal a year ago will never be normal again and I am very happy the university is looking into this.

    One thing I did notice about the list of those serving on the committee is that there is practically no staff representation lower than the dean level; having no “regular level” staff to offer their experiences and opinions is a huge disservice in getting a clear and well rounded scope of the staff culture. Managers and deans, as best as they like to think their relationships with their subordinates are, cannot actually understand what is going on with their staff and the disproportionate work experiences lived.

  14. Yes, I’ve also seen this. So that’s why there needs to be more guidance and oversight from, say, HR, so such managers can’t as easily squash remote work opportunities for their staff, simply because they personally don’t like it. Doesn’t seem very equitable to allow remote work opportunities solely at the discretion of each manager, and since BU seems somewhat dedicated to EDI, this would fall under that umbrella.

  15. Progressive thinking in this arena is long overdue, and if one good thing comes out of 2020 it will be the knowledge that the workplace can achieve a healthier work-life balance for those that seek it, without losing productivity. As a staff member and an alumnus, I fully support giving employees choices that enable them to optimize their experiences working for BU. The advantages in terms of commuting, family time, and sustainability have already been noted. Those who seek interactions will still do so, and a natural balance will occur. And any unspoken idea that working from home cheats the employer out of time is stodgy thinking and a throwback to a long-bygone era. Many of us gift the University extra hours already by working long days or during weekends. Now is the time to welcome the future. Give us back the hours of life wasted during long, frustrating commutes. Embrace flexibility around remote working and support the wellbeing of staff by helping to relieve stress, anxiety, and resentment. BU will be better for it!

  16. This is sorely needed, and I hope that the decisions made by this effort improve the work/life balance and encourage flexibility and reduced commuting. However, since the only example given in the article (working from home in the evenings to better benefit student schedules) would hinder work/life balance, particularly for employees who are working parents, I’m not optimistic. When, hopefully, my children are back in school in-person, I will not want to work through dinner and bedtime in order to gain a free afternoon.

  17. I think it’s important to note, as others here already have, that there aren’t any staff members on this committee that will represent ordinary employees. Yes, there are a few high-level senior staff on this committee, but that’s not representative of the staff who do not have the power and flexibility afforded these high-level administrators. EDI should factor in here, as well, as it pertains to representation. Something to think about.

  18. Many institutions in the area had well-developed flex work policies prior to the pandemic or have since developed them (Harvard, MIT, Tufts, BC, Bentley, Babson, Simmons…the list goes on). If BU wishes to retain talented staff, an official flex work policy is essential. This should be a no brainer decision that can easily improve morale, employee well-being, and productivity. I foresee a mass exodus to other area institutions or sectors should a formal flex work policy not be established come Fall 2021.

  19. I am grateful this conversation is happening, but I also hope this is not performative on the part of University Leadership. When Dr. Brown says things like “but did you get the work done optimally?” that makes me think no matter what the committee finds, he will find a reason not to support it.

    Like Joe Walker said, every position is different, and people have preferences- but the majority of people want to work from home. I am saying this based on all of the surveys that have been done – many, since COVID hit, but even more, prior to that. PWC, Harvard Business School, Boston Consulting Group, dozens of companies have all been tracking the changing expectations and demand for flexibility and remote work by millenials and now gen Z workers, and how these expectations affect where they choose to work.

    I believe BU has two options. Adapt and remain competitive in order to retain its top staff and attract the future workforce , or, don’t adapt, and witness a wave of staff leave and struggle to hire the next generation.

  20. There’s a strong and long overdue case to be made for flexible work arrangements from an EDI perspective as well. A lot of people find working from home to be a book to their mental health, or find arranging with from home makes it easier to work around other disabilities.

  21. This is very much an issue which our members are talking about. As Vice President of UAW Local 2324 at Boston University, I invite staff with perspectives on this issue to reach out to me with their input. Our bargaining committee is at work now preparing research, surveys and contract proposals, in preparation for upcoming bargaining sessions with the university for our new contract. It’s a good time to hear from you.

  22. I would love a more flexible work from home or on-site model.
    In most cases I am more productive from home, since I don’t have as many interruptions. I also use the time I would be commuting to do more work, and since I am IT I can do practically all of my work remotely.

    1. Same.

      Working in a communications role, I have found it easier working from home with fewer distractions than in the office. Also, while working from home there’s been no need to schedule meeting rooms or struggle to find collaborative workspaces – online tools such as Zoom have facilitated work with interns, vendors, and more. Our interns don’t have to spend time getting to our office and our consultants don’t have to trek into Boston.

      With no commute, life is easier not having to pack onto the crammed T during rush hour or deal with inclement weather. Plus, there’s less environmental impact with people who were driving now being able to work remotely. Three cheers for cleaner air.

  23. “Administration has set up the Committee on the Future of Staff Work”

    The committee formed has ZERO staff representation, This is appalling. How can we, as a staff member, get involved?

      1. I am reading all the comments and this is the third time I have seen this reply comment and the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen the objection from a reader. Maybe the list of committee members at the end of the article needs to be separated into two sub-lists; one faculty and one staff.

        I just reviewed the list and I can only clearly identify 3 committee members who represent staff. I believe you, but who are the 6? Can you clearly label them?

        Half the committee is still an awful lot of faculty representatives for a committee focused on Staff policies. And if you look at who the staff representatives are, some are really faculty minded folks. It is hard to see someone from the Provost’s office as representing staff, they are very closely aligned with faculty for instance and a former Questrom School Dean & faculty person representing HR staff still looks like faculty point of view and interest.

        Can we get a little more transparency on the committee members and which ones represent staff?

  24. Okay so if bu can consider this, then why not the employees it’s currently not letting work remotely this semester? What about those with health problems to consider?

    It sounds nice but I can’t help but be suspicious. Not to mention there’s no lower level staff on this committee. It seems like a gesture that’s for show only.

  25. President Brown’s comment that work at home may or may not have been done optimally is a draconian, subjective assessment of work. Most modern companies, including consulting and law firms that specialize in the Future of Work and employment/labor, have moved beyond the “9-5 at your desk” mentality and embraced a project/outcome-based assessment that allows for much more flexibility in work schedules, remote work, and collaboration to occur.

    The university does NOT need a universal staff policy that covers everyone except one that delegates the responsibility (and subsequently accountability) to unit and department managers to make the decision that best aligns with their team(s). If a team that isn’t student/residential education facing has several members who have young children, then additional flexibility can and should be given to allow for more flexible work schedules while still holding them to their assessment metrics and projects. Some parents get a LOT more work done later at night when an infant has gone to bed (such as the article notes with an advisor to student providing evening office hours) while others may be early morning before their kids wake up. Other staff can be more productive while traveling for the university, such as staying an extra day (on their own dime) following a conference or donor visit to enjoy more sunshine while working remotely in the hotel/Airbnb. The expectation should not be that “optimal” work is best done in a cubicle, closed-door office, or over-cluttered basement space with constant interruptions by colleagues and students.

    It is time the university’s policies caught up with modernity.

  26. After the pandemic, I believe the world is moving into the direction of allowing staff more flexibility with their schedule and work from home. It would be extremely important for those with children as well as those who live farther from the city to be able to work from home or plan for a more flexible schedule with managers’ support. There are so many benefits to this model: it would help with stress levels, the environment, general morale among staff, lower overhead — just to name a few. If BU does not move into the same direction as some of the other US companies, I am afraid it will lose a lot of talent, and that will be costly.

  27. I’d much prefer a raise to actually afford a decent rental in Greater Boston than the ability to WFH. Not everyone’s home is adequate to work from, especially in this ridiculous real estate market!

  28. I am a BU staff member in a department that is not student-facing.

    Prior to the pandemic, I spent 3-4 hours a day in a car going back and forth to campus. I would wake up at 5:30am to try to beat the traffic. No matter what was going on work-wise, I would insist on being on the road no later than 4:00pm to do the same on the other end. In between, I sat in a beige box of an office for 8 hours a day doing my job. I saw my family maybe an hour or two a day and during that time I was an angry stressed out mess from sitting in traffic with countless other angry and stressed out commuters. I didn’t even know how bad it was until it all stopped.

    Since last March, I’ve been way more productive and work-focused when I need to be. I get to eat breakfast with my family and talk about the day ahead. I get to meet my daughter when she gets home from school (on the days she’s in-person) and I know what she’s learning in school by being with her on the days she’s remote. We take walks and play basketball during our lunch time. I actually work longer hours, am more focused, and work in a bright comfortable environment, where I can see trees and birds out my window.

    I understand this isn’t everyone’s experience but my work-life balance has improved unbelievably over the past year. The thought of getting back in that car just to sit in a box for 8 hours, angry and stressed, is unbearable. I love my job. I love BU. Forward-thinking remote/flexible work options are long overdue. We can be more useful to the institution and happier in our lives outside of it.

  29. I think this is great and I’m glad this conversation is happening. But I think there should have been far more people entry/middle-level staff and front-facing staff on this committee. There are no advisors, no administration folxs yet we’re the ones working directly with residential students on campus. I think it would have been good to hear from us about what has worked and what hasn’t because we have made a lot of changes to make working remote work for us.

  30. As the author of the article, I saw all the comments on the makeup of the committee. I reached back to the co-chairs and here is what they have said to help clarify the committee makeup:

    Four members of the committee are staff, and the committee will be reaching out to all staff for input as we move forward.

    1. Thank you for this information.
      The biggest thing is they’re all higher-up staff who can make decisions. But there is no staff who work directly with students on a day-to-day basis. Will there be options for front-facing and hourly staff to have direct conversations with the committee?

        1. Hi Natalie,

          I understand that all staff will be surveyed. Great. What will come of that data? What are you doing to ensure that this group of elite leadership will pay attention to the survey responses?

          This committee is comprised of a group of very highly paid people who are significantly removed from contact with the every day individual contributors who are most greatly impacted by the committee decisions.

          Where is the equity here? When will the University put its money where its mouth is?

          We should all expect to see the results of the survey to be distributed before the committee makes policy recommendations. That would be the only fair, equitable and transparent means to holding this group accountable for making proper decisions.

    2. LOL 4 people on this committee are staff…and 1 of those people (the chair) is a VP of HR. Never forget that in HR the interest of the COMPANY always comes first.

      1. Your belief about HR is, at least in my opinion, usually a misconception. Nowadays, it’s realized that protecting and taking care of employees also protects and benefits the company. But I can see why BU staff aren’t feeling optimistic, given both the makeup of the committee and (even more so) President Brown’s clear message he’s sending.

      1. Go by what she said in her follow up note. The 6 includes 2 staff who are also managers. The 4 did not include those managers. Sorry for the initial confusion. Doug

  31. To answer the question Dr. Brown proposed, as a full-time staff member, I have worked from home optimally, efficiently, diligently, and as someone who is very comfortable with technology and it’s ever-changing dynamics, very happily. I have worked hours that would not have been possible if I commuted my 1+ hour commute to campus and 1+ hour commute back home. I have increased my communication skills and my efficiency skills. I will also make sure that anywhere I work in the future has a work-from-home policy that aligns with my values.

    I look forward to the survey that will be put out to staff members so that our voices are heard.

    1. I was put on a visible project when this all started, It required very long hours for many weeks including weekends. The fact that I could do this work from home really made the difference, it would have been much harder if I had to commute. I found the whole “but are you working optimally” a bit of a slap in the face and insulting. If BU wants to retain good staff they are going to have to make adjustments because other companies and places out there are much more flexible in this regard, and they pay more. Of course it depends on your role. Some roles are customer facing.

  32. I am very curious about what the wording of the survey that they will send to the staff will be. That will give us a good indication of what they want the responses to be and how receptive they are to what is said. I echo a lot of comments here that are a little troubled by President Brown’s remarks and the make-up of the committee.

    I came to BU from a large office that allowed most people consistent WFH and even 100% remote work for some. Flexible work is not only the future of office jobs but the present as well. I do hope BU will follow the lead of the companies and schools around us and allow for a better work/life balance. We have shown that we can be trusted to do our work well remotely and I am cautiously optimistic we will be rewarded for it.

  33. President Brown insinuating that BU Staff members haven’t performed or done their work “optimally” since the transition to WFH is rude and completely erroneous.

    I guarantee all BU staff members have worked more hours and if not, harder, since the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020, with performing exceptionally.

  34. Frankly, a committee that does not include staff (& their Union representatives!) on the future of STAFF work just shows how staff are treated as second-class citizens. This committee reads more as an opportunity for higher-ups to find reasons *not* to allow more WFH flexibility for staff. For President Brown to ask “Did you get it done optimally?” is insulting— Are the staff who have been working during the pandemic now untrustworthy? Staff are generally a jack-of-all trades, but we have truly shown our integrity, work ethic, and adaptability during this pandemic. If we are speaking of “optimization” let’s discuss how raises for 2020 were cancelled for staff, but merit review, promotions & increases for faculty are still continuing. If we are discussing optimization, a frank discussion on the lack of accountability that tenured professors have needs to happen. The path to becoming a professor is inherently a position of privilege. I am not saying that faculty are undeserving of their raises—but this monumental gap in compensation shows that despite being “essential,” our pay reflects anything but that. Obviously, BU is not to blame for the huge wealth disparity, but it IS perpetuating it. From these comments as well as anecdotes, it seems the hours regained from cutting the commute has resulted in happier, healthier, and more productive employees. Most of us aren’t asking for an entirely WFH setup, but we are asking for balance. Getting those two hours of daily commuting back gives me more mental bandwidth to think about my projects— no more wasted time scrolling through my phone on the T. Not to mention how much better for the environment less commuting is. Staff have also had to incur the costs of WFH (better internet, higher electricity, rent for the space that our work stations now take up in our homes)…and we are okay with this BECAUSE of how much better our work-life balance is. We know this. BU knows this. We all know it. BU knows that the optics of excluding staff in STAFF work discussions is bad. How can an equitable and meaningful discussion happen if we are not given a seat at the table?

  35. At the BU townhall last week, President Brown responded to a question about why staff don’t get wellness days off too (like faculty and students) by saying “I’m not aware of this issue.” If he has no sense how much our dedicated staff have been going above and beyond this year, and how exhausted we are, then why should we have confidence in this committee? It is absolutely clear that he needs to hear from the many staff who are not making six figures or serving as associate deans and in more senior administration positions.

    I love my colleagues and the students at BU, but the regular insults and treatment as second class citizens is really encouraging me to seek employment elsewhere. I know I am not alone.

    We deserve to be taken seriously and treated with respect.

  36. BU really needs to get with the times! Many other employers adopted a more modern, flexible working environment prior to the pandemic.

    I think BU should prepare for a mass departure of talented staff on the other side of this. A lot of us have other opportunities!

  37. Tell this to the people with health concerns Boston University Libraries has refused to let work remotely.

    According to an article in the Daily Free Press in December, BUL staff were denied full workplace accommodations for this semester and have been forced to work in person despite having been previously allowed to be remote.

    If this kind of situation is allowable, one cannot have much hope for the true roll-out of any university-wide permitted remote work policy. Especially if it’s left up to the managers to fully allow.

  38. This pandemic has fundamentally changed how work gets done – no matter what the industry. If BU would like to recruit and retain employees, it must not see itself as an exception to this shift. Flexibility (including opportunities to WFH) promotes employee satisfaction, wellbeing, and loyalty. Other higher ed institutions have had these policies in place for many years. In the transition to the ‘new normal,’ it will be difficult to return to the high costs of gas, on-campus parking, and hours spent in transit. Some gained time back for themselves and their loved ones. Others have put more time into work because of the efficiencies of being remote. I hope BU will consider this when reviewing the future of work at BU.

  39. It will be interesting to see what this committee (yet another…) comes up with. Allowing more people to work from home boils down to the University’s annexing domestic space (“homes”) for its institutional purposes. One wonders whether there will be tax implications if this move becomes installed on a more permanent basis (both here and in the rest of the economy). Shouldn’t people be allowed to write off a chunk of what they pay for rent or for their mortgage as a “professional expense”? Their “home office” is now their official work place. Let’s not forget, by the way, that the institution saves money on not paying for custodians and other maintenance workers. (Your bathroom faucet is not working properly–that’s on you, not on BU Buildings and Grounds… or maybe they will send somebody out to fix it…?) And think of the savings for BU on electricity, water and heating! (Hopefully employees’ homes are as “green” and as “sustainable” at the BU campus is becoming…) It would be good for committee to remember that the overwhelming bulk of staff has as its objective, either directly or indirectly, the providing of service and support for students and faculty. The students come here for the faculty, not the staff (nor for the administrators). They pay all of our salaries. The question is how such a trend toward remote staff will affect the essential dynamics of an *educational* institution when things go back to a semblance of what they were prior to Covid. With the students back in force at some point in the near-ish future, will the whole place seem as empty as it does now? Hopefully students and faculty won’t end up feeling that they’re pretty much on their own in dealing with the practical details of their everyday activity while on campus. (Hey, there’s an idea! Having a few students on the committee, or at least polling students to see how they’ve felt about the hollowed out campus over the past year… )

    1. You are a shining example of why so many people in this thread are not exactly thrilled that half of this committee is comprised of faculty. Your comments ooze with the pretentiousness and sense of entitlement that BU faculty are famous for. God forbid you had to deal with a single practical detail of your own job. Hey, here’s an idea! 100% include students on the committee – they can replace all the faculty like you who think the staff are their slaves and SO far beneath them!

    2. Faculty and top administrators have enjoyed the perks of flexible schedules and working from home for years before Covid hit. It is BU’s students and the underpaid, overworked and underfunded staff which keeps this place going. What is the current entry level wage at BU? It starts at $28,000/a year. I challenge anyone advocating to end flexible schedules for staff to commute to Boston, pay for healthcare and survive on that salary.

      Maybe the distinguished BU faculty for once should rally behind staff instead of securing their own benefits and praising each other in the never-ending circle of the utopian paradise they created for themselves at BU.

  40. I know I’m tardy to the party here, but I feel like it’s worth noting something about the costs of WFH. Yes, it’s great to save on commuting expenses, but those ‘savings’ are showing up as different expenses for those who are WFH. While everyone here has made great points about the costs of WFH, I work on-campus and my condo fees at home have increased across the board due to a vast majority of my neighbors who are WFH (while I am not). I received a letter January 1 from my condo association raising monthly fees by 10% due to the strain of WFH. So, while I’m still paying the commuting costs to work in-person, I’m also absorbing increased costs at home due to the strain WFH has caused on resources in my building. So, I’m paying on both ends.

    As for staff representation, whoever deemed the composition of this committee appropriate is a bit out of touch if they think 6 senior staff members making 6 figures a year can represent as well as understand the challenges facing regular, 5-figure salary staff members such as myself. Despite us all being labeled ‘staff,’ I live in a vastly different socio-economic class from Diane Baldwin, Ira Lazic, Janet O’Brien, Patricia O’Brien, Silifa Wallace, and Juliana Walsh Kaiser. Hopefully those involved will give some careful consideration to the concerns raised in this forum by regular staff and consider making this committee more representative. When we know better, we do better, and it’s my hope that this committee will do better.

  41. I appreciate the need to repopulate the campus – at least to some degree – for BU to function as a ‘residential’ community. I am also aware that the need to populate the campus during the summer is quite different than during the academic year. Many universities have different and more flexible schedule requirements for staff during the summer and have been very successful doing so. I hope that consideration of this will be part of the committee’s review.

  42. “Did you get it done optimally?”
    This question is insulting to everyone who worked above and beyond during 2020 (and now we continue to do the same) to implement all of the systems and infrastructure required to keep regular university operations rolling while also transitioning to remote learning and opening a mass testing site.

    Please add some individual contributors to your committee.

  43. The fact that Dr. Brown is implying that we haven’t gotten our work done well while working from home is insulting. My co-workers and I have been more productive, have had better mental health overall, and we have met all of our deadlines sooner than when we were in the office. The fact that there are zero lower level staff involved in this “committee” doesn’t surprise me one bit. Not everyone has a car, not everyone can afford to drive and park if they aren’t comfortable taking public transit. Things that people not living paycheck to paycheck don’t even think about.

  44. American University is a private school, much smaller than Boston University, but not tiny : it’s got about 8,000 undergraduates and another 6,000 grad students. I happen to have a child who just finished his freshman year at American — the last couple months remotely, from home in New York. But that’s not why I wanted to include Sylvia Burwell in this look at what happens to colleges this fall. I wanted to include her because, unlike many college presidents, she has spent most of her career outside of academia.

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