Kansas University's unclassified staff, often looked at as behind-the-scenes workers, are hoping to become more visible and vocal.
The approximately 1,750 employees are eliminating their Unclassified Professional Staff Assn. in favor of a new Unclassified Senate, a move they hope will give them better representation on campus.
"It's more than a change in name," said Mark Nesbitt-Daly, incoming president of the senate and assistant director of the University Honors Program. "We wanted to raise our visibility."
The new senate will have 36 representatives elected from various categories of unclassified staff, which includes such varied fields as computer technicians, academic advisers, mid-level administrators and financial aid workers.
It will meet two or three times a year, with executive committee meetings monthly. The first senate meeting is at noon Thursday in the Spencer Research Library.
The senate will more closely resemble the Classified Senate, Faculty Council and Student Senate representing other sectors of campus.
Before, UPSA included all unclassified staff at KU, and members elected an executive board. The group has had representation on other university governance committees - including University Council and its executive committee - but those involved with the new senate are hoping to formalize that representation and, in some cases, increase the number of unclassified staff involved.
"It's making people aware we're here through better representation," said Dan Consolver, past president of UPSA and director of academic technology services. "It's finding out what would improve the University of Kansas for these employees, letting people know what they contribute and changing what we can to make things better for our membership."
When the Legislature passed the Higher Education Reorganization Act in 1999, it called for increased funds for faculty salaries. Some unclassified staff grumbled about not being included in the raises.
With recent tuition increases, KU administrators have given salary increases to both faculty and unclassified staff.
Consolver said he expected the Unclassified Senate to discuss whether to ask the administration to pursue tuition breaks for spouses and dependents of unclassified staff. Health insurance costs are another issue for staff, he said.
But Nesbitt-Daly said the group wasn't founded with any specific issue in mind.
"We have no ax to grind," Nesbitt-Daly said. "We're ready to roll up our shirt sleeves and help KU."