Weekly Update August 16, 2022
- One of the principles of our strategic plan is taking care of our people. We’ve made tremendous strides in that regard in recent years with a sustained commitment to increasing compensation and expanding benefits, while holding down out-of-pocket benefit costs.
- As part of that continued focus, we are moving forward with the first step — of what will be many — in continuing to enhance compensation and benefits for graduate students.
- Monkeypox is a public health challenge that we can — and will — manage together. There are several measures that we all can take to protect ourselves and our community.
Dear Campus Community,
Taking care of our people is a pillar in our strategic plan, and it applies to our state as well as our campus. Part of our efforts include pay raises nine of the last 10 years for faculty and staff, four increases in starting wages since 2015 and a continued expansion of benefits while keeping low out-of-pocket costs.
For graduate students, the university has provided for the last two years, respectively, 10 percent matching funds to college and units willing to match these dollars to increase compensation.
Still, it is time to do more.
Graduate students do so much to make this community a special place. They are students and future leaders in their fields. They also provide significant teaching and scholarship so central to our mission as Kentucky’s university.
In support of their success, we are moving forward with the first steps in what will be an ongoing initiative to enhance the compensation and benefit structure for graduate students.
We need to be more competitive in our support for graduate education and students. These steps are a beginning, not an end, and they will be informed as we move forward by continued research and feedback from our community, including graduate students.
Initial steps we are taking include:
- Beginning this fall, UK tuition scholarships for graduate students will cover all mandatory fees. Most benchmark institutions from initial surveys we’ve conducted are partially paying mandatory fees. Our step in covering all mandatory fees will include graduate assistants, research assistants and teaching assistants.
- We also will announce plans later this fall to establish a minimum graduate stipend, starting in fiscal year 2024 (July 2023). The goal will be for all units awarding graduate stipends to be at the median level for their discipline, relative to selected national benchmarks.
- Later this fall, we will continue to explore plans for pilot projects in other compensation and benefits areas where we can be better informed about future enhancements to our compensation and benefits so that we lead in these matters.
These initial recommendations are the product of a workgroup I commissioned last spring to examine what benchmark institutions and SEC schools are doing with respect to graduate student compensation and benefits.
That workgroup — led by Acting Vice President for Human Resources Gina Dugas and Acting Dean of the Graduate School Martha Peterson — will now transition to a permanent committee. The committee will conduct regular survey research and make ongoing recommendations to ensure we are making progress toward being a leader in support for our graduate students.
The good news is that we are not starting from scratch with these efforts.
A little more than half of our graduate programs already provide stipends at or above the median level for their disciplines when compared to national benchmark institutions.
That means we have a good base to start from, even as we must acknowledge that there is more work to be done. We are committed to that work. We are committed to advances in this important area.
Another public health challenge that we will meet as a community concerns monkeypox.
As this story and fact sheet explains, the White House recently declared the ongoing spread of monkeypox in the U.S. a public health emergency.
As an institution, we are closely monitoring this issue. The risk to the public from monkeypox remains low. But as we begin a new year, it’s the right thing to inform our community about the steps we can take individually and as a campus to protect ourselves and each other.
Some reminders and measures to take include:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. While monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, it can be transmitted through intimate contact including sex. If you are sexually active, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of being exposed.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- If you find yourself in an area where monkeypox has been detected, avoid contact with animals that are sick or found dead.
- If you think you have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms, isolate from others until you can be assessed/tested by a health care professional.
- While vaccines and therapeutics including antivirals and immunoglobulins are available, they are currently only recommended for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and or who are at high risk of being exposed.
As always, we are closely monitoring this public health concern and will be vigilant about taking the necessary steps to support and protect the health and well-being of everyone who calls this community home.
I’m looking forward to our work together this year and the opportunity to welcome our students back to UK for what I know will be an exciting and productive time on our campus as we seek to advance Kentucky.