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‘Let’s take care of them like they take care of us’ — Faculty Senate seeks support for university’s administrative assistants

‘Let’s take care of them like they take care of us’ — Faculty Senate seeks support for university’s administrative assistants - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Robert "Bob" Alonzo, a criminology lecturer at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, addresses the provost and Faculty Senate at a meeting on Oct. 7, 2022. Alonzo advocated for more support of the university's administrative staff after a loss of administrative employees. Photo by Amber Esparza

The Texas A&M University-San Antonio Faculty Senate wants university officials to improve working conditions for the school’s administrative assistants. 

The senate passed a resolution at its Oct. 7 meeting calling on university administration to address several issues causing high turnover among administrative staff.

The resolution seeks to “rectify as quickly as possible the shortage of administrative assistants and address the conditions that are causing high turnover and open positions, including inadequate pay and shifting and increasing workload and duties.”

The resolution states that A&M-San Antonio has lost several administrative assistants and is struggling to replace them, leaving the administrative assistants who stay with a larger workload.

It also reports that administrative assistants are able to find higher paying positions in the city with significantly lighter workloads, “putting our departments at risk of losing their talent and institutional knowledge.”

Thomas Beaumont, assistant professor of political science, presented the resolution, “on behalf and alongside a sizable cohort who are concerned with the growing issues facing our administrative assistants.”

Robert Alonzo, senior lecturer of criminology and former FBI supervisory administrative specialist, also spoke in support of A&M-San Antonio’s administrative staff.

“Moving forward to meet university goals and maintain growth requires work; this work is primarily placed on the shoulders of admin support staff,” said Alonzo, who has worked at A&M-San Antonio for over a decade. “When the admin staff is shorthanded, or not ready to handle the increased workloads, they are tasked to do more with less.”

Alonzo suggested that during periods of rapid growth for an organization, support for administrative staff must increase just as fast.

“If it does not, stress increases, deadlines are not met, goals are pushed back, workloads get jammed up, good admin people leave and the mission suffers,” Alonzo said. “This should not be the norm.”

Alonzo ended his remarks with a call for solidarity.

“A&M promotes community; admin staff are part of that community,” Alonzo said. “Let’s take care of them like they take care of us.”

Dr. Mohamed Abdelrahman, A&M-San Antonio’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, responded to the comments.

Abdelrahman said the “great resignation” is happening everywhere, not just at A&M-San Antonio and not just with administrative assistants. 

Abdelrahman said the university needed to “review the processes of how we do things, and be as efficient as possible.”

He also referenced the ongoing study on A&M-San Antonio faculty and staff pay as something to look forward to for information on how pay at A&M-San Antonio compares with other schools.

Abdelrahman used his previous experience with the Colorado State University system as an example of increased efficiency.

“The president of CSU Global did not have an admin … the provost didn’t have an admin. They were just being that efficient,” Abdelrahman said. “The president schedules her own meetings, the provost schedules his own meetings and so on.”

Abdelrahman said he’s not suggesting that the university take away administrative assistants, but providing an example to illustrate how efficiency might contribute to a solution for the problem.

In response to Abdelrahman’s comments, senators stressed the urgency of the issue, warning that certain administrative assistants could leave tomorrow with disastrous consequences.

After further discussion, the senate voted to approve the resolution with 16 in favor, 0 against and 1 abstention. 

Senate updated on pay study, education grants, Computing/Cybersecurity revamp and more

The meeting also included administrative updates from Abdelrahman and Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, A&M-San Antonio president.

  • Matson provided an update on the ongoing faculty and staff compensation study, announcing that she is beginning to review the results and that the first report should be released by Nov. 7.
  • Abdelrahman said A&M-San Antonio received a 5-year, $3 million Proyecto Exito grant from the Department of Education’s Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA) program.

“The project supports mainly creating a Center for Graduate Student Success, professional development for faculty, support for curriculum redesign and financial support for graduate students,” Abdelrahman said.

  • Abdelrahman also announced that Dr. Melissa Jozwiak, associate professor of early childhood and chair for the Department of Educator and Leadership Preparation at A&M-San Antonio, was awarded a grant from the Department of Education.

The title of the grant is “Child care availability means parents in schools,” Abdelrahman said. It is a $1.7 million grant over four years.

  • Abdelrahman said the Department of Computing and Cybersecurity will be split and reorganized with some moving to the College of Arts and Sciences and some staying in the College of Business. 
Kathryn Appenzeller Knowles, director for the Center of Academic Innovation at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, addresses senators at a Faculty Senate meeting Oct. 7, 2022. Photo by Amber Esparza

“The target of the restructuring is to align disciplines, to allow more interaction between the faculty in those departments,” Abdelrahman said.

  • Matson announced that the school hosted a health initiatives summit Sept. 19. The summit included representatives from University Health, Texas A&M University-Health Science Center, A&M-San Antonio and Southwest ISD.

Matson said there were plans to sign a joint affiliation agreement between all parties in the next 45 days.

  • Dr. Kathryn Appenzeller Knowles, director of quantitative reasoning and interim director of the Center for Academic Innovation, spoke to the senate about changes to the CAI, including Blackboard technical support being moved to Information Technology Services.

Faculty Senate President Dr. Leonard Love, and Vice President Megan Wise De Valdez were both absent from the meeting to attend the Texas Council of Faculty Senates meeting. Dr. Joseph Simpson, a former president, conducted the meeting in Love’s place.

Keep an eye on The Mesquite for a more in-depth look at the reimagined CAI.

About the Author

Graham Hotard
Graham Hotard is a communication junior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He transferred after receiving an associate degree from San Antonio College and is a full-time student. He is an avid fan of all things science fiction and fantasy. In his free time he loves to listen to audio books, play video games, watch football and spend time with his dog Luna. He plans to pursue a career in writing after graduating.

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