KSU to try unpaid December leave for staff; Pizzuto explains

Jackie Valley

Most Kent State operations at the Kent and regional campuses will be suspended between Christmas and New Year’s this year as part of the university’s trial holiday schedule.

The trial plan gives eligible staff members a total of seven days off by requiring them to use leave time for the four days between the two holidays — Dec. 26, 27, 28, and 31 — in addition to the paid holidays of Dec. 24 and 25 and Jan. 1.

Carolyn Pizzuto, vice president for human resources, said the trial schedule comes in the wake of numerous requests from staff to have more time off during the holidays to spend with family and friends.

“I know from the day I came here, people would say, ‘Why can’t we have it off?'” she said. “The question gets raised somewhere along the line every year.”

As a result, Pizzuto said the university created a committee in May to study the feasibility and research models at other Ohio institutions, such as Miami University.

She said the committee — composed of representatives from human resources, finances, information services, enrollment management and student affairs, academic affairs, regional campuses and the University Counsel — submitted a report to the Staff Advisory Council for recommendations before the trial plan was announced.

According to the human resource department’s employee count, there are currently more than 2,500 full- and part-time classified, unclassified and temporary employees at the university who fall within the staff category.

Pizzuto said certain operations must remain open, however, such as residential services, year-end deadline-driven services, student enrollment services and scheduled events.

Beyond those essential services, Pizzuto said each division, college and campus will review its operations to determine which services can be suspended. Unit managers will inform their staff when a decision is made by the end of October.

If the department suspends operations, employees must use vacation time, and employees who do not earn vacation time must use comp time or take unpaid leave.

Pizzuto said Kent State is not giving staff additional paid days off because it would cost university about $750,000.

“I don’t think that’s how students and parents want their money spent,” she said.

Instead, Pizzuto said the trial schedule is expense neutral, meaning it does not cost the university any additional money.

“This was not to give more benefits,” she said. “This was to give more time.”

So far, Pizzuto said the reaction has been mixed, with people in favor of the idea and others worried about the employees who are unhappy.

Carla Owens, assistant director of Career Services, said most employees in the career counseling portion of Career Services, which will be closed during the two holidays, are glad to be able to spend time with their families because they have enough vacation time.

“Personally, I don’t have any strong feelings because I have plenty of vacation time,” she said. “If I didn’t have any vacation time, I might feel differently.”

However, Roger Davis, serials librarian at the Stark campus, said he thinks the university should have conducted a poll of employees’ opinions about being required to use vacation time during the two holidays.

“There haven’t been any reasons for doing this other than being family-friendly,” he said.

In addition, Davis said some employees might view the trial schedule as a means of forcing people to take time off during a Christian holiday.

“A person of another faith may take vacation days for their own holidays, and now they’re being forced to take a Christian holiday,” he said.

However, Pizzuto said Kent State is not taking a Christian holiday because employees are allowed to use vacation days for their own religious holidays.

“We are not really taking a Christian holiday,” she said. “We are taking two state and national holidays that fall a week apart.”

Pizzuto said the university hopes to receive feedback about the trial schedule by February, so that if the holiday schedule is kept, employees can plan ahead for next year following an earlier announcement.

For more information from human resources about the trial holiday schedule, visit www.kent.edu/hr/employee/holidayschedule.cfm. Additional questions can be e-mailed to [email protected] The Web site will continually be updated with answers to new questions.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].