Message from the Chair of P&A Senate - Erin Heath

The typical signs of Fall are here: the leaves are turning, there is a hint of crispness to the air, and we have just a little less daylight each day (until December 21, anyway). As we all know, however, this Fall is anything but typical.

By this time of year nearly everyone—students, faculty, and staff— is typically back on campus. Now, while some are back, many of us are still working remotely. Individual circumstances, such as caring for loved ones, homeschooling, or continued isolation, may be making it even more difficult to effectively balance personal and professional priorities. I remain incredibly grateful for President Gabel’s leadership and support as we continue navigating these (insert your preferred overused adjective here) times as best as we can.

Even though times are unusual, P&A governance has continued working on your behalf. We met throughout the summer addressing a myriad of issues, often in collaboration with staff, faculty, and student governance groups. These issues, which we will also be working on throughout the academic year, include COVID-related planning (fiscal, academic, safety); campus safety and security; and further building on relationships with senior leadership and across governance groups. 

I believe effective and consistent communication, especially during atypical times, is key to resolving the majority of concerns which may be out there. Given this, I encourage you to read and save this newsletter, which includes numerous resources related to teleworking, our Wellbeing program, and P&A Senate highlights, among other items. Additionally, the end of the newsletter includes several links for keeping in touch with us or submitting any questions or concerns you may have.

Thank you for your continued work on behalf of the University of Minnesota! May you and yours stay safe and well.


Erin Heath Signature

Working at Home: Ergonomic Resources and Support

As we start the new academic year with most of us working remotely, we encourage you to consider your home office space with regard to ergonomics. The Department of Environmental Health & Safety website includes a link to some ergonomics information for teleworking. As employees you may also request a virtual assessment. 

For additional information, mark your calendars for the P&A and Civil Service Senates Brown Bag seminar on home ergonomics. The Brown Bag will be on October 13th from 12:00-12:45 pm. Please use this registration form for the event. The session will also be recorded for those not able to make it.

P&A Driving Excellence

Amelia Reigstad successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation from the University of Leicester that focused on gender differences in communication styles and their influence on workplace communication and the practice of public relations.

Tucker Center Director, Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi hosts the podcast "Tucker Center Talks" featuring invited guests, timely critiques, the latest research, and dialogue around girls and women in sport. Click here to listen to the most recent podcasts.

Extension Educator Antonio Alba Meraz has conducted over 31 hours of live Spanish language radio programming to help spanish speaking community participants understand and navigate the COVID-19 public health landscape and respond to financial strain and changes in school. He has felt supported by colleagues from Family Resiliency, SNAP Ed Educators, Extension Communications, and the KMSU radio station Manager and the Host of the Latino radio show "Dos por Uno." To read more click here.

Let us know what great work you or your colleagues are doing. There is amazing work happening by P&As across the state. We want to hear from you!! Submit your information here by the 15th of the month for consideration in that month’s newsletter.

Senate Work

This past month, the Senate has been spending significant time around the President’s Sunrise Plan and staff safety. On August 31st, P&A employees received an email from Erin Heath, chair, and Scott Creer, chair-elect, regarding the Sunrise Plan. You can reference the letter here.
The P&A Benefits and Compensation Subcommittee (B&C) has been working with the Office of Human Resources (OHR) on two topics, covered in more detail below.

The Role of Human Resources and Employee Relations in Addressing Staff Safety Concerns

The September B&C meeting had special guests for OHR Employee Relations to discuss how employees' safety concerns are addressed in the Sunrise plans as well as the role of HR liaisons and employee relations in escalating staff safety concerns shall a need arise. Key questions and policy clarifications addressed: 

  • Employees should first communicate concerns with direct supervisors and identify solutions. If concerns are not addressed, HR leads should be brought in to facilitate solutions. If HR leads are not responsive or if you are concerned about confidentiality or retaliation, reach out to your designated HR liaison, who can then in turn involve a consultant from Employee Relations;
  • Currently, there is no renewal of the 80 hours of paid leave that was made available. However, some other FMLA-like leaves are still available. P&A’s parenting and experiencing difficulties with school accommodations should discuss flexible working hours with supervisors and/or explore options for work completion; 
  • The University is not reimbursing expenses related to working-from-home. However, employees may be able to deduct some of these expenses on their taxes.

Health Insurance Premiums for the 2020-2021 Open Enrollment Period

B&C learned from (OHR) about increases to health insurance premiums and the factors that affected the increases. OHR communicated that depending on the plan, rates will go up this next enrollment period. The largest premium increase is for the Choice National plan. These changes in premiums are not a reflection of COVID-19. 2019 saw significant cost increases due to 26% more “high-cost claimant” plan members, costing $17 million more than the previous year (a high-cost claimant has $50,000 or more in annual medical costs); an 11% increase in specialty medications, costing $2.6 million more than the previous year; and steadily rising trends in both medical and pharmacy costs. There will be more information coming out about these changes as we get closer to open enrollment.

Everyone at the U of M should #BeAVoter!

For citizens of the United States over 18 years old, voting is the easiest way to make your voice heard. Different levels of government determine your community’s response to everything from potholes to policy, and voting gives you the chance to select the people making those decisions. We urge everyone who is eligible to check their registration and make sure it is current at Click here for more information.

During these unprecedented times, voting may take a little more planning than it has in the past. However, the state of Minnesota provides you with three reliable options for making your voice heard. First, you can vote in person on November 3 at your polling place. Second, using, you can apply to vote absentee by mail. (Your ballot must be postmarked by November 3 and arrive at your county election office by November 10.) Third, you can vote before Election Day at an early voting location or the county election office.

If you are encouraging students to vote through social media, newsletters, or other means, please direct them to, the U of M’s official registration service. It is FERPA compliant and protects students’ privacy. University Relations has provided resources available for you to use in your social media posts. New material is being added regularly, including images, posters, suggested tweets/posts, and video. There are both systemwide and campus specific materials, so please explore both the folder for your campus as well as the system.

No matter what state or city students call home, they can still use the link to register and request an absentee ballot in any of the 50 states. Living on or near campus entitles them to vote in the correct precinct for your address. Students must simply decide if they live in their home state or town and visit campus for school or if they live at school and visit family and friends back home. Vote where you consider your residence to be.

The deadline to pre-register to vote in Minnesota is October 13. After that, you must vote in person, either on Election Day or at an early voting location, and register at that time. To learn the rules and deadlines in other states, please visit and promote

Be a voter. Make a plan, talk to your friends, coworkers, students, and family about the importance of voting, and raise your voice by November 3.

Changes to our Wellbeing Programs Starting Soon

Starting October 1, 2020, the University of Minnesota Wellbeing Program will be hosted by Virgin Pulse. Many of the Wellbeing Program features will still be available to you, along with new ways to earn rewards toward your UPlan health rates for 2022.  

New program features:

  • Nutrition Guide and Resources
  • Sleep Guide and Resources
  • Ability to Invite your family and friends to participate
  • Whil Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and Yoga resources
  • Ovia Fertility, Pregnancy and Parenting Resources

COVID-19 Resources 

As a reminder from the Sunrise Plan, those who are able to work from home are expected to continue to work from home until further notice. Additional resources related to Workplace Related Information, Information for Working Parents, including appropriate leaves specifically for COVID-19, Safe-U Public Health Alerts, and an FAQ on Human Resources and the Sunrise Plan can be found on this page.
For specific information regarding COVID-19 leaves which includes caring from someone who is impacted by COVID-19, caring for a child who is unable to attend school in K-12, or daycare is closed, please refer to the policies below:

MyU is a great resource for finding COVID-19 information specific to your personal and professional needs. Simply log into your MyU account and across the top toolbar in maroon you can choose Fall 2020 which will have a series of dropdown options for you to choose from.