June 25, 2021

The Counsel of University of California Staff Assemblies (CUCSA) is an assembly of staff within the UC community who discuss and share recommendations on topics that impact staff. The Council's objective is to provide a forum where UC staff discuss and research topics of mutual interest that impact staff at each UC location. These perspectives are shared with key UC decision-makers through reports and collaborating on the biannual Employee Engagement Survey.

Meet Berkeley Lab’s current delegates Asmita Patel (ATAP) and Doug Burkhardt (Facilities) who share their insights about CUCSA and the benefits of being a delegate.

What is the Counsel of University of California Staff Assemblies (CUCSA) and what are this group’s goals?

Asmita and Doug: The Council was founded on November 26, 1974 and chartered on July 18, 1975, with delegates from six campuses. The current name, “Council of University of California Staff Assemblies” (CUCSA), was adopted in 1981. Over the years, the Council has grown and now has two delegates from each location. CUCSA has conducted several projects and reported outcomes and recommendations to the President of University of California and UC administrators. Examples of recent projects include career development/succession planning, flexible work schedules, and basic staff needs.

It is an assembly of delegates dedicated to improving communications between University of California (UC) administrators and staff, and between staff at all thirteen UC locations.

One of the main goals of CUCSA is to raise issues to UC management about issues that affect policy covered UC Staff. Over the past year, we had workgroups dedicated to working in flexible work schedules, addressing basic needs of staff related to housing and food, and finding better ways to advocate for staff.

Why is it important for the Lab to have CUCSA delegates and what does being one entail?

Asmita and Doug: It is important to know we are part of the UC system and have a seat at the table when important decisions are made such as paid family leave, health care, and pensions. CUCSA is a great way to network with the other campuses to discuss the issues we all face in our day-to-day jobs. Many times, something that we are working on now has been addressed by another campus which helps us not reinvent the wheel.

Being a delegate does have its requirements. First, your line manager will need to approve you becoming a delegate as there is a considerable time commitment away from your day-to-day job. CUCSA delegates meet four times a year, and each meeting is three days long. The meetings are held at one of the campuses in the UC network. Like most of us, the pandemic has made these into online Zoom sessions over three days. We hope to restart in person meetings by the end of the year.

As a delegate, you are assigned to a workgroup to focus on specific issues raised by the delegation. These workgroups meet during our quarterly meetings, and also weekly throughout the entire year, to define scope, deliverables and complete the project. At the end of the delegation year in June, each workgroup will present a presentation on their specific topic. This is our opportunity to communicate with UC management on the issues that face policy-covered staff.

At Berkeley Lab, Michelle Lee is the CUCSA sponsor and has been extremely supportive of the CUCSA delegates and our roles in the context of the systemwide efforts and LBNL. If you’re interested in becoming a CUCSA delegate, learn more on the CUCSA website.

What are you most proud of accomplishing and looking most forward to in your role as CUCSA delegates?

Asmita and Doug: Our biggest accomplishment was being asked to participate in the Staff Advisory Committee to the Special Committee to Consider the Selection of the President. We worked on getting a seat on the table to be part of this committee as there were only 12 locations allowed and current CUCSA delegates are from 10 UC campuses, plus UCOP, LBNL and UCANR. That meant one of the locations would not have a seat on the committee. The call regarding this decision came to us while we were in the midst of PSPS in October 2019. We ensured that the Lab with revenue over $1 billion, collaborations with UC campuses, including joint faculty and several students should rightfully have a seat. We succeeded. Through this process, we felt that the concerns we raised to the selection committee were taken to heart. We couldn’t have a better UC President in Dr. Drake.

The other accomplishment we would like to highlight is the UC Engagement survey. Being part of this survey from start to finish and ensuring that the recommendations were brought to Lab leadership for actionable results was gratifying. The survey is conducted biannually and is an important part of ensuring staff voices are heard. The results of the survey are reviewed by the UC President. The recent CUCSA 2021 survey had a 53% response rate, an increase of 15% over the 2019 CUCSA survey. We look forward to working with Michelle Lee, CUCSA sponsor, Lady Idos, Chief Diversity Officer and Rachel Carl, Talent Manager on survey output, recommendations, and follow up action plans.