In March 1998, the Women’s Studies Research and Resource Center—under the leadership of Cheryl Secrist and her supervisor, Rose Pascarell— sponsored a series of brown-bag discussions around various employee issues. The Staff Senate concept resulted after it was clear during the brown-bag “Faculty/Staff Relations” that more needed to be done about addressing the array of concerns highlighted. From this, the original Ad Hoc Committee for Classified Employees was created to provide a forum for employee discussions.
At this time, the Ad Hoc Committee became the Staff Advisory Committee, which included Mary Thomas (Physics and Astronomy), Joy Staulcup (Registrar), Pam Bruno (Computer Science), Kathleen Cheney (Institute for Research and Reporting), Stacey Remick-Simkins (English Department), Rebecca Walter (TIPP), and Cheryl Secrist (Women’s Studies Research and Resource Center), who was elected Committee Chair. Members spoke with other Staff Senates at other Virginia state universities to explore issues and strategies. Ultimately, the Staff Senate development process was initiated based on these discussions.
Between June and November 1998, during lunch hours and occasionally after work, the Staff Advisory Committee created the draft Bylaws and Constitution for a Proposed Staff Senate at George Mason University, with the help of Virginia Tech and the following individuals at Mason: Jeff Brandwine, from George Mason University’s Legal Services; President Alan Merten; Dr. Scherrens, senior vice president; Dr. Rosenblum, vice president for University Life; and Dr. Elstun and Dr. Taylor of the Faculty Senate. In December, a university-wide election on the Proposed Staff Senate and Bylaws and Constitution was held, with staff voting “yes” to a staff senate.
In February 1999, the Chair of the Staff Advisory Committee made presentations about the future Staff Senate to both the Faculty and Student Senates. The Staff Advisory Committee also met with President Merten to discuss the leadership of the Staff Senate. Simultaneously, Stacey Remick-Simkins was nominated by the Virginia Government Employees Association (VGEA) and appointed by the State Compensation Reform Commission while Cheryl Secrist was appointed to the VGEA Board of Directors and George Mason University liaison.
These meetings and state-related appointments helped establish working relationships for the upcoming Staff Senate with students, faculty, administration, as well as with the Commonwealth.
In March 1999, the Staff Advisory Committee added their newest member, Eric Brown, from the Office of Fire and Safety. One month later, nominations for senatorial positions were accepted at a Staff Senate Kickoff event. All staff were invited to attend, as well as the university community, in order to ask questions and familiarize themselves with the newly-forming Staff Senate.
In May 1999, senatorial elections were held, with all senators taking office in June. After one month of orientations, the Staff Senate held its first formal meeting on September 21, 1999.
Founder: Cheryl Secrist
Founding Members: Pam Bruno, Eric Brown, Kathleen Cheney, Stacey Remick-Simkins, Joy Staulcup, Mary Thomas, and Rebecca Walter.