New changes to Academic Administrative Assistant (AAA) positions issued as part of the Strategic Resource Allocation Project (SRAP) mean that AAAs will no longer work for specific departments and will instead be split up geographically into four teams.
These changes, set to go into effect during the 2019-2020 school year, have evoked anxiety among some current AAAs who worry about their job security.
The new geographic categorization will have AAAs work with the departments and programs housed in the academic buildings assigned to their team. Teams will work with the Fine Arts buildings and Skoglund; Tomson and Rolvaag; Regents (including both math and science); and Holland and Old Main, respectively.
The main goal for the College in considering changes to staffing is to help narrow the gap between revenue and expenses, Associate Provost of the College Dan Dressen said.
“St. Olaf is doing this as thoughtfully and methodically as possible,” Dressen said. “We are not responding to something in panic mode but trying to get ahead of the game.”
The other big factor behind the AAA position changes is the fact that many interdisciplinary departments and programs have not received the same kind of support from AAAs that the legacy departments have in the past.
“It’s just never good for morale when people are coming to work wondering if they’re going to get the axe.” – Steve Hahn
“If we look at the staffing of AAAs, it hasn’t changed much, if at all, since I arrived about 30 years ago,” Dressen said. “This is a way of creating more flexibility and better distribution of AAA resources.”
The Operations Staff Target Action Group (TAG) has also discussed the possibility of specialized training for certain AAAs in order to better serve the entire geographic team instead of their specific department. Some possibilities for this include hiring a website specialist or a faculty and tenure search specialist.
“If we had a system where we could cross-train and help each other out more with that, we could be more organized,” Dressen said.
Another change is the addition of an AAA supervisor who will oversee cross-training between departments and annual reviews, which had previously been done by each department’s chair.
The Staff TAG is recommending a 10 percent reduction to expenditures on AAAs. This will most likely be realized through reductions in hours during the summer months.
“TAG concluded that the College was spending quite a bit of AAA FTE [Full-Time Equivalent] on a program that was pretty quiet around here,” Dressen said. “We’re not a very active summer institution.”
Dressen said some resources will still be devoted to AAA summer hours. Programs and departments that are more active over the summer can apply to use some of these resources.
The impending changes to AAA positions have been a source of anxiety for current AAAs, Department Chair of History Steve Hahn said.
“They’ve been fearful for their jobs,” Hahn said. “It’s just never good for morale when people are coming to work wondering if they’re going to get the axe.”
Other faculty members also reported AAAs have worried about their job security. Department Chair of Chemistry Douglas Beussman said there’s been a lot of anxiety regarding proposed changes to staffing.
Despite these concerns, Dressen and the Staff TAG are confident that this reduction plan can be put in place without anyone losing their job.
The Staff TAG is also recommending that all AAAs work full-time starting next year. Many AAAs are currently part-time. This has been a source of discontent among some of the AAAs, as some may have to decide whether to stay next year.
While the location changes have caused concern for some departments who have set duties for their AAA, Dressen noted that there is room for discussion within each department about keeping certain AAAs assigned to certain tasks.
“It’s really going to be a negotiated middle ground where there are AAAs serving one department still with idiosyncratic duties but also working in flexibility so they can be more of a team,” Dressen said.
Dressen added that this plan is still a work in progress and that there remains a certain amount of flexibility.
None of the AAAs the Manitou Messenger reached out to were responsive for comment at this time.