Speaking for Staff

January 1, 1998

Judith Zwolak

As chair of the Staff Advisory Council, the universitywide representative body that addresses staff issues, Maury Duplantis says he leads a strong group that has the respect of the university administration.

"We have so many good, motivated members on the council that I think we've earned their respect," he says.

Since its formation in 1980, the council has given voice to staff concerns, and the representatives from 27 districts can count among their accomplishments claiming seats on the University Senate, developing a recognition program for staff members and urging training for supervisors. Recent achievements include adding Lundi Gras to the official list of staff holidays as "Staff Appreciation Day," getting representation on the presidential search committee and helping to develop the new Tulane Preferred Health Plan.

With the new year comes a new set of goals, says Duplantis, whose term as chair will end this July. These goals, compiled by council representatives after polling their constituents late last year, include equalizing staff and faculty retirement benefits, helping alleviate the parking problems for staff members on the uptown campus, promoting safety and curbing crime on both campuses, and expanding supervisor training to include employees who want to advance to higher positions within the university.

The goals are one way to focus the council over the coming year, Duplantis says. "The Staff Advisory Council is sometimes seen as a place to come and gripe," he says. "Complaining doesn't really get much done. We want to focus ourselves and still be a body through which to direct concerns."

Despite his desire to have focused meetings with concrete goals, Duplantis says he doesn't want to stifle the voices of council members. "I want to make people relax in the meetings and get people to speak up," he says. "If you relax the rules and drop barriers to conversation, more people tend to give their ideas. And we have a lot of good ideas out there."

Duplantis had ideas of his own when he first got involved in the council in 1992. As a medical research technician at the Tulane Regional Primate Research Center since 1986, he wanted to improve staff morale, encourage supervisor training and address some staff policy issues. He became an alternate representative for his district and subsequently moved up the ladder to become a representative, vice chair, and then chair in 1995.

"I think the greatest achievement of the council in my two years so far as chair has been gaining increasing respect from the administration," Duplantis says. "The provost recognizes us. The president recognizes us. This is more important than more holidays or better benefits. It's setting a tone of mutual respect." He's also quick to credit all council members for any accomplishments. "As chair, you're really only as good as your members," Duplantis says. "If council members are motivated, they make the chair an important position."

Duplantis urges all staff members to become involved in the council through their representatives. A list of districts and representatives appears in the June 1997 Inside Tulane.

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