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Stanford Report, March 8, 2000

Total Compensation: Assessing benefits program is an ongoing process

EDITOR, STANFORD REPORT:

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of Ms. Hamlett's letter and believe she has made some very good points.

I cannot respond to her comments about parking fees or housing allowances, since these programs are not administered in Human Resources. However, I would like to react to her thoughts about sick leave and tuition benefits.

Overall, our benefits program remains quite competitive. In comparison with any individual employer, a specific benefit plan may fall short in one respect or another. This is especially true in the context of Silicon Valley, where some start-up employers hasten to provide every conceivable manner of short-term support in order to optimize short-term productivity. In other respects, however, Stanford's program is often better than competing employers', cases in point being Stanford's retirement plans, our support for retiree medical benefits, and our paid time-off programs.

Changing and adding to our benefits portfolio in a way that best meets individual needs and the business needs of the university is a continuing objective for the Office of Total Compensation. Finding a way to please every participant with one program, however, is always a challenge. Every person has a different set of needs, at different stages in his or her life. Benefits for the individual with children do not have the same value and appeal to the individual without children. Storing sick leave for retirement may be of interest to the individual who is near retirement. However, for the individual in an early stage of his or her career, it may be more attractive to have short-term income protection as needed, without having the use of sick leave impact a recognition program. That is not to say that good attendance should not be recognized, because it certainly should. At the same time, however, we need to be sure that programmatic rewards cover those events over which the employee has control, such as performance of job duties. Individuals cannot control serious illnesses, injuries or accidents that result in the use of sick leave.

Nevertheless, our paid time-off system and structure is, among other items, currently and continuously under review. Ms. Hamlett's suggestion, or some variation of it, may eventually take shape in our benefits program, but only after careful and comprehensive consideration.

On the subject of our tuition grant program, I do not know that I can add anything of value to the extensive study and recommendation that resulted last September in implementation of the revised tuition grant program for new employees and of the new staff tuition reimbursement program for employees seeking degree-related coursework. This solution was reviewed and ultimately endorsed by many levels of the university's administration, including the Committee on Faculty and Staff Benefits, the Cabinet and the Faculty Senate. We will need to live with the new programs for a while and see whether they are serving us well.

James Franklin
Associate Vice President, Total Compensation