Stopping to thank our staff

Labor Day is a good day to think about and thank all the people who work for UNC-Chapel Hill and the Gillings School, but especially members of our staff.

Last week, David Parker, interim vice chancellor and general counsel at UNC’s Office of University Counsel, was honored at an event marking his retirement. During the celebration, he gave a magnificently inspiring oration about the privilege of being a staff member at this University and the opportunities one has to make a difference.

ParkerSPOT
David Parker, JD

David represents some of the very best of Carolina in his dedication to his work and the University; his outstanding knowledge and skills are coupled with a deep sense of integrity that characterized all his actions and a selflessness that made us all better.

(Read more about David here.)

I’m so grateful to have been able to work with this man for many years. As I said last week at David’s retirement celebration, when people take on senior leadership roles in organizations, we also take on legal risks. I was glad that David was in his role while I have been in mine.

I thank David and the many people who come to work every day devoted and committed to what they do here. That applies to the new instructor and the seasoned professor, administrative staff members who keep this place running, groundskeepers who make the environment a visual paradise, and the housekeepers – including Gloria Thompson, who works in our buildings and in the pharmacy and social work schools’ as well – who take pride in their work and make our internal environment better for it. There are so many more people who work here and without whom we could not do our jobs nearly as well, if at all.

My wish is that we could pay these people better, particularly the rank and file who are the mainstay of this campus, and that we would give raises more than the minimum, so that the wages of the hardworking individuals employed here could keep pace with the economy. Raises of 1.5 percent after years of no raises, or flat dollar amounts without changing bases, are neither sufficient nor fair. I know many of our employees as people, know something about their values, their work ethic, and how much they care about Carolina and the quality of their work. I also know about the struggles many of them face as they care for children who have problems or for aging parents. I know that too many are working two or more jobs in order to take care of and provide for their families – and I do not believe this is right.

I want us to be a state whose leaders care about North Carolina’s people and employees. I want our employees to be accountable for delivering quality performance and to be rewarded for it. They should not be invisible or ignored. We should reward faculty and staff excellence while making sure those who work here have time for their families and communities. We all will be better for that.

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy,” John Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, said. “Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”

We need the collective excellence of every single person at Carolina – and we should value each of them.

Barbara

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