Human Touch Hopkins' Top Administrators Gather To Discuss Ways To "Humanize" University By Mike Field Deans, senior administrators and Human Resources supervisors from every division of the university gathered in Baltimore May 10 to meet with nationally recognized experts in work and family issues and to discuss ways in which the Hopkins work environment can be enhanced to fit the new realities of life in the 1990s. The daylong conference, titled "Work and Family in the 21st Century," met at the Episcopal Diocesan Center, across the street from the Homewood campus. More than 100 top university officials were scheduled to attend the event, which was sponsored by Human Resources' Office of Worklife Programs. "The word balance usually brings to mind a high wire artist holding a long pole in two hands, carefully putting one foot before the other on a line strung high above the heads of an admiring audience," said university president William C. Richardson in his welcoming remarks to the conference. "In that sense it is the perfect word to describe the lives of many working men and women in the 1990s." Dr. Richardson preceded University of Nebraska at Lincoln chancellor Graham B. Spanier, a sociologist and family therapist known for implementing innovative work and family policies at other universities. In his keynote address, Dr. Spanier talked about the concept of "humanizing the university" and detailed a range of human resources programs that have been implemented at various schools around the country. Calling universities "a microcosm of society," Dr. Spanier noted the special role leaders such as those assembled could play in introducing new policies and practices appropriate to the changing demographics of American life. "If we are going to humanize the university we must think about everybody," he said. "Universities are often farther along in these issues with faculty than they are with staff, even though staff are very often the majority of employees. Participants also heard from experts about class, gender and culture, demographic shifts in family structure and dependent care, and the changing structure of work. Later, they broke into focus groups to examine specific issues ranging from benefits and diversity to work structure and institutional values. The collective thinking of the work groups will be used to help chart new courses as policies and programs are periodically reviewed. "I am tremendously pleased with the conference and the important work that was accomplished during the various sessions," said Edgar Roulhac, vice provost for academic services and interim vice president of Human Resources. "A number of people devoted considerable effort in planning and preparing the agenda and did an excellent job of it. The exceptional turnout by the deans and senior administrative leadership is evidence of the seriousness with which the university views this issue." The conference was a visible reminder of the importance such issues have begun to play in a workforce that has changed significantly in the past decade. More single heads of households, more dual-career marriages, more workers responsible for caring for children or parents or both mean that, increasingly, work and family responsibilities collide. Hopkins, like many other major universities, has been developing work and family programs in response. "These programs are one way the university can support the changes that are taking place in society and in our lives," Dr. Roulhac said. "For many of us, work and personal lives are no longer separate entities. It's important to recognize this and to adapt."
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