Skip to main content
Seattle University

Answer Me This

Q: I’m thinking of buying a home. Are there any resources for me on campus?

January 10, 2012

Home-buying assistance

Q:  I’m thinking of buying a home. Are there any resources for me on campus?

A:  Yes! On Wednesday, Jan. 18, there is an on campus seminar provided by Home Street Bank where you can learn about a home purchase.

Q: How can I receive messages on my phone about campus emergencies?

December 15, 2011

Emergency text messages

Q:  How can I receive messages on my phone about campus emergencies? 

A:  Since 2007, Seattle University has been enrolled in e2Campus, which allows the Department of Public Safety to send time-sensitive emergency communications to students, faculty and staff who opt in. To learn more and register to receive emergency text messages, visit e2Campus. 

Q: How much turkey did we eat at the annual Faculty and Staff Thanksgiving Luncheon?

December 7, 2011

Talking turkey

Q:  How much turkey did we eat at the annual Faculty and Staff Thanksgiving Luncheon? 

A:  Buzz Hofford, Bon Appétit general manager, reports that more than 500 faculty and staff combined to eat 320 pounds of turkey, 250 pounds of potatoes and 63 pies at the Nov. 22 event. No wonder we feel so full!

(Thanks to Sarah Hyde of Marketing Communications for this photo.) 



Q: What are some stats on SU's current freshman class?

December 7, 2011

Class of 2015

Q:  What are some stats on SU's current freshman class?

A:  Thanks to Melore Nielsen, director of undergraduate admissions, for providing the following data on the Class of 2015.

New freshmen: 888

SAT middle 50 percent composite: 1610-1880

ACT composite: middle 50 percent scored 24-28

High school GPA: middle 50 percent earned 3.33 – 3.85, Average: 3.57

Out of State: 59 percent

Underrepresented minorities: 15 percent

Q: How many lights does it take to illuminate SU’s Christmas tree in the Library Plaza?

November 23, 2011

O, Christmas tree, how do we light thy branches? 

Q:  How many lights does it take to illuminate SU’s Christmas tree in the Library Plaza?

A:  As we prepare to kick off the holidays with the annual tree lighting on Nov. 30, a question that might be on readers’ minds is just how that beautiful tannenbaum is lit. For the answer, The Commons reached back to an interview with Byron Lynch, lead maintenance electrician last year. 

“We decided to install energy-efficient LED lights which will be reused in future,” Lynch said. “We used 17 strings of 250, totaling 4,250 lights. Each string cost $28, totaling $476.” 

While comparable traditional lighting is initially cheaper at $12 per string, Lynch points out that the lights would have to be thrown away each year. Not only that, the burning cost for traditional lighting, at $12.24 a day, is 15 times the cost of powering the LEDs, which are using 10 kilowatts at just $.80 per day. 

Click on this video to see some of the sights and sounds from last year's event.

Q: What sorts of resources are available to help me commute to SU by bike?

November 8, 2011

Bike to Work

Q: I’d like to start riding my bicycle to work. What sorts of resources are available to help me commute to SU by bike? 

A: The Department of Campus Public Safety and Transportation provides lots of great information for bicycling commuters. Visit Transportation for a map of campus bike racks, how to register your ride in case it gets stolen, where to find a shower and locker, and a link to to map a safe route to campus. Happy pedaling! 

Q: What’s going on with benefits and compensation these days?

October 26, 2011

Health benefits, retirement planning and compensation

Q:  What’s going on with benefits and compensation these days?  

A: Largely in response to feedback from employees, there are many changes now being made to SU’s health benefits, wellness initiatives, retirement plans and compensation. Vice President for Human Resources and University Services Jerry Huffman has been walking employees through the changes at a series of open forum sessions. (The last session is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 28, noon-1 p.m., Sullivan Hall C6.) What follows is a recap of one of those sessions. 

Health benefits  

With Open Enrollment taking place Nov. 1-11, health insurance is at the forefront of many employees’ minds, and there are many new developments in this area. 

The university is changing its PPO provider from Regence Blue Shield to Premera Blue Cross.  “We selected Premera based on their ability to provide technology enhancements, customer service to faculty and staff, wellness initiatives and cost reductions,” Huffman said. “We also paid attention to network coverage. Premera covers 98 percent of those physicians in our current network. We’re confident this is a good decision we are making on behalf of our faculty and staff.” 

For Jan. 1, 2012, there will also be a change in premium costs. Currently the university pays 100 percent of premiums for employees who choose Employee Only coverage. As Huffman explained, “We’re going to move over a three-year time period to a structure that (will involve a) commitment from the university (to cover) 85 percent of the premium cost for (single coverage). Our peer group universities cover 80 percent now. Other institutions throughout the United States cover about this level. 

Family and dependent premium costs will decrease for most employees. On average, the university currently pays 57 percent of those costs; on Jan. 1, SU will pay, on average, 70 percent of those costs. 

The premiums employees will have deducted from their paychecks (pre-tax) will be “stratified based on pay level,” said Huffman. “We think this is just, we think this is aligned with who we are, our mission and our values. What this means is that people in lower pay levels in year one will pay even less than five percent. 

“I’m very happy that we’re at a point where we can respond to you in this way. I think it’s important that we listened. For the most part, faculty and staff will be paying less for family and dependent coverage.” 

The university’s ever-present goal is to get a handle on rising insurance costs that all employers are experiencing. As one possibility, Huffman indicated that the university might be adding another PPO option one year from now that has a lower premium but higher risk/deductible. 


The university is contracting with Limeade, a local company Huffman said has been used by Group Health, REI and other “forward-thinking companies and organizations.” Limeade is an online resource that provides assessments as well as incentives for wellness. We’ll have the chance to learn more about this program after January 1.  

The university is also looking at an onsite coaching initiative and opportunities to maximize the new wellness-supporting features of the new William F. Eisiminger Fitness Center. 

Huffman also announced that a healthcare and wellness committee will soon be forming, and he invited faculty and staff members to contact Matt Philip, compensation and benefits director, at, if they are interested in serving as members. 

Retirement Planning  

No change will be made this year to the university’s contribution to employee retirement plans, Huffman said. However there are some new developments, many having to do with new Department of Labor regulations that hold the university more accountable for its employees’ retirement plans. 

“We are now being required to do some of the things that a lot of public companies have been doing for some time in terms of the fiduciary requirements to manage those types of plans that we present to you as participants,” Huffman said.  

As one change, the university is moving to a single record-keeper system. (TIAA-CREF and Fidelity current serve in this role.) The transition is expected to “save participants a lot of money in terms of the costs in your plan,” Huffman said. 

The university has also formed the Retirement Plan Investment (RPIC) Committee “to ensure we get the best performance from our plan.” The committee is now looking into developing a better array of investment opportunities for employee participants. Currently, there are more than 300 choices, and many underperform. Huffman expects the number to be pared down to something on the order of 30 investment choices that perform well. 


Huffman reminded the audience of the $500,000 increase allocated for market adjustments for the current year. This is part of the five-year commitment on the part of the university to increase compensation by $5.6 million as part of the strategic priority of investing in the excellence of SU faculty and staff. 

Last year, the university did a study to benchmark salaries against the market. For staff, this applied to the 35 or 40 percent of positions that could readily be benchmarked to market. To evaluate the salary structures of the remaining positions and to prepare for annual performance assessments, all positions descriptions are currently being reviewed. “This is a critical step for many reasons – most importantly to make sure managers assess their staff’s performance based on current understanding of roles and responsibilities.” The process of collecting staff descriptions is 75 percent complete. Staff performance assessments are slated for January and February. At the same time,  the descriptions will be used to place staff jobs in new pay classifications that are aligned with the market. 

Faculty and staff will be eligible for a base increase effective July 1, 2012. (The percentage has yet to be determined.) On top of that, staff will be considered for merit pay raises based on two factors—their performance and their pay relative to market. That is, if a staff person who is performing very well and is being paid below the market, they will be eligible for a higher percentage raise. From July 1, 2013 onward, the expectation is that all increases will be merit-based. Faculty salaries already operate under a merit-based system. 

For more information, visit

Q: Is the Vachon Gallery really spelled with a “c?”

October 11, 2011

Vachon Gallery

Q:  Is the Vachon Gallery really spelled with a “c?” 

A:  Yes, while the similarly spelled nearby island might tempt some to substitute an “s” for the “c,” “Vachon” is absolutely correct when it comes to referring to the gallery in the Fine Arts building.  

So who is the room named for? Our thanks go to Steve Galatro for providing this background information: 

“The Vachon Gallery, originally called the Vachon Room, was named in honor of Hayden A. Vachon, S.J. (1906-1972), who was professor, chair of the Arts Department and the inspiration for the Fine Arts Building. A man of vision and dedication, Father Vachon (left) is fondly remembered for his “eke box” in which he collected spare change from students and campus visitors. His dream was to build one day a home for the Fine Arts at Seattle University.  

“For many years, the Hayden A. Vachon S.J. Room was home to theatre productions. These productions were eventually relocated to the Lee Center for the Arts and in 2009, the Vachon Room received an all-white makeover in preparation for its rebirth as a dedicated art gallery. Now referred to as the Vachon Gallery, the energetic space has exhibited a mix of student, faculty and guest artist exhibitions. The faculty-curated gallery has quickly emerged as a dynamic facility for artistic study and practice. The spirit of Father Vachon lives on.”  

By the way, if you haven’t already checked it out, be sure to visit the Vachon and Kinsey galleries for a very moving exhibit, Our Children, Our Voices, which features works by Somali teens.

Q: What do you call that thing that’s located to the right of the water fountains in the Fitness Center?

September 27, 2011

The water fountain's strange buddy

Q:  What do you call that thing that’s located to the right of the water fountains in the Fitness Center? 

A:  SU’s brilliant, new William F. Eisiminger Fitness Center houses world-class weights and cardio equipment, spacious accommodations for classes like yoga and zumba, modern and attractive locker rooms, incredible pieces of artwork and a sweeping view of Championship Field.  

And then of course, there’s that stainless steel contraption we often see paired with a drinking fountain—what is that thing called, anyway?  

Well, it actually has a very dignified-sounding name: “cuspidor.” Its purpose is perhaps less dignified, but very important, nonetheless. "Essentially, a cuspidor is a place for an individual to spit, which is separate from the water fountain for sanitary reasons,” explains Derek Hottell, director of University Recreation. “Because individuals may build excessive saliva while exercising and/or want to rinse their mouth with water, but not swallow, fitness facilities normally have these. We have them in the Fitness Center and the existing Connolly Center also has several stationed throughout the building.” 

Hottell says that technically you could also refer to the unit as a “spittoon.” But that wouldn’t be very dignified, would it?

Q: What is the plural of “woonerf?”

September 13, 2011

Woonerf coming soon to SU

Q: What is the plural of “woonerf?”  

A: Whoa, whoa, whoa...before we get to the plural of “woonerf,” maybe we should start with what exactly a “woonerf” is and what it has to do with Seattle University. “Woonerf” is a Dutch term for a place where pedestrians and cyclists rule over automobiles, although all are part of the action. A good example, says Patrick Donohue, senior project coordinator in planning and development for Seattle Parks and Recreation, is the street activity at Pike Place and Post Alley, where there’s a mix of foot and car traffic surrounding the Pike Place Market.   

So, why is this relevant to SU? Well, a “woonerf” will soon be created near the new Douglas Building. (Oh, and in case you were still interested, the plural of “woonerf” is, get this, “woonerven.”) 

Q: Who will have access to the new Fitness Center?

August 17, 2011

Fitness Center membership

Q:  Who will have access to SU's new Fitness Center?

A:  The current membership policies for the Connolly Center will apply to the Fitness Center. As a quick summary, faculty and staff will continue to enjoy free membership in the center, as will their legally domiciled adults (LDAs) and dependents.


Q: How many free cups of coffee or tea did Bon Appétit dispense to faculty and staff for last summer's Free Coffee Mondays? 

June 29, 2011

Free Coffee Monday

Q:  As we all know, one of the great perks of working at SU during the summer is Free Coffee Monday (along with Early Friday). All that faculty and staff need to do is bring their IDs to either Cherry Street or the Bottom Line to take advantage of this great offer. Which got The Commons wonderingjust how many free cups of drip coffee or tea did Bon Appétit dispense last summer? But rather than give you the answer, let's make it a guessing game. Send your answer to The Commons. The closest guess (you can go over or under) will win a Commons baseball cap. Stay tuned for the answer and the winner. And keep enjoying those free cups of coffee or tea on Mondays through Aug. 29!

A:  Congratulations, Sue Hogan, director of marketing and communications in the School of Theology and Ministry, for hazarding the closest guess. Sue surmised that 850 cups of free coffee were purveyed by Bon Appétit last summer. The actual amount? 871. How she got within 21 cups is anyone's guess. Thanks, everyone, for playing and don't forget to keep taking advantage of your Monday morning free fix of coffee or tea at Cherry Street Market for the rest of August.