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Insurance premiums increase substantially

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, November 3, 2005

Director of human resources Denise Murphy presented the overview of 2006 benefits to members of the Faculty Senate Wednesday, revealing consistent, double-digit insurance premium increases across the board.Some members expressed displeasure with the numbers, citing a disparity between increases in insurance payments and increases in salaries for faculty and staff. But associate vice president of human resources Robert McQuade insisted he is looking for input on ways to improve the situation.”The big issue is considering changing people’s premiums based on income,” McQuade said. “We will consider anything. At the end of the day, all I can tell you is we are willing to listen. This affects everyone at the University.”The insurance premiums are the same for every staff member from professors to maintenance staff, Faculty Senate Chair Seth Brown said.Engineering professor Timothy Ovaert questioned whether or not there was a fixed allocation from the University’s overall budget for faculty and staff benefits.”Maybe the Board of Trustees needs to consider budget realignment,” Ovaert said. “I’d be happy to talk. Perhaps their business models are not appropriate. We need to look at the billions we have sitting in a pot instead of pinching the employees.”Murphy defended the allocations. “I hear what you’re saying,” Murphy said. “But our goal is to have options for everyone.”The student affairs committee of the Faculty Senate met and discussed three key issues during their meeting: the Leprechaun Legion, student involvement in University affairs and academic freedom.The Leprechaun Legion has faced criticism from the Faculty Senate in recent months for student chants at the basketball games – specifically the use of the word “sucks” when players from the opposing team are introduced before the game.Student Affairs committee chair Philippe Collon received a letter from student body president Dave Baron and student body vice president Lizzi Shappell in which they clarified that “sucks” did not “imply a sexual vulgarity but rather implies a low-grade condemnation.”But committee member marketing professor John Gaski said the Senate needs to make sure students understand how to be enthusiastic without “embarrassing” the University.”Sure, be as enthusiastic as you want, but be a little bit smarter about it,” Gaski said. “I just don’t think they’re doing it in a way that’s smart enough. We can challenge them to upgrade their antics.”The group briefly discussed the North Central Accreditation report, which evaluated the University’s progress on the issue of student-faculty relations and student-administration communication.”We need to ask the students what they think,” committee member and history professor Gail Bederman said. “It’s hard to tell how this works out in practice. Is there a clear understanding of communication back and forth?”Bederman said the committee on student voice and input in the Campus Life Council will continue to evaluate the situation and work to improve it.Members also discussed the definition and role of academic freedom at Notre Dame, especially in regard to campus films and performances like the Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival. “A lot of people see discussion as good,” Bederman said. “I think discussion should be broader at a Catholic university. Events like Vagina Monologues are a way to talk about issues and Catholic views when they differ from the mainstream. We’d do students a disservice to say we don’t discuss it.”