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June 24, 2010

SAC may add diversity committee

The Staff Association Council (SAC) will consider adding a new standing committee to its organizational structure.

The nascent proposal offered last week by Steve Zupcic, vice chair of the benefits committee, asks SAC to convene a committee to focus on campus issues and programs related to diversity.

“We have no real mechanism for dealing with issues of diversity and inclusion. Often, when those kinds of issues come up, they are either dismissed or funneled to another committee, which is not always the right fit,” Zupcic said at the June 16 meeting. “There is a committee of the University Senate — the anti-discriminatory policies committee — that deals with this; there is an area in Student Affairs that deals with diversity and inclusion; there is an area in Human Resources that deals with this, and we simply don’t have that in SAC. We’re behind the rest of the University on this.”

Tentatively to be called the committee for diversity and inclusion, if approved the new committee would join the 10 other SAC standing committees. The additional committee would require a change in SAC’s bylaws, something that needs approval of two-thirds of the voting membership. Under the bylaws, the proposal must be open for discussion at three monthly meetings before being voted on.

Zupcic said past issues such as extending University benefits to same-sex domestic partners would have fallen under such a committee’s purview. “There also are ongoing issues with pay equity, maternity leave, better child care for staff,” he said. “The reason to have a committee is that when issues present themselves, there would be a committee in place to handle them.”

Some SAC members supported establishing the new committee, but noted that such a committee also could celebrate and acknowledge ways in which the University has succeeded in its diversity efforts for staff, rather than being focused solely on problems.

Zupcic agreed. “I think of this as a positive committee, with a positive approach: To encourage and promote initiatives that are occurring on campus, like black history month events,” he said. “We also could look at what other schools are doing, to see ways we can improve. The message to all staff is that you’re welcome to be part of that. It would be a way to foster inclusion.”

At the request of SAC’s officers, Zupcic said he would prepare a draft mission statement for review at the next SAC meeting, set for July 14.

In other SAC business:

Under its bylaws, SAC must hold a special election to fill the second year of the two-year term of its vice president for marketing and communications, Annabelle Clippinger, who resigned from the post for personal reasons. Current full members of SAC who have served at least one year are eligible to run for an officer’s position.

No date has been set yet for the special election, according to elections committee chair Pamela Weid.

The marketing and communications committee is preparing a proposal requesting permission to email its electronic newsletter to all University staff members. Currently, individuals must subscribe to the newsletter (which can be done at Committee chair Libby Hilf noted that the now-defunct paper version previously was mailed to all staff campus mailboxes. The proposal would have to be approved by the steering committee before a vote by the full membership.

The association will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding July 14 at 12:15 p.m. in the William Pitt Union lower lounge.

Jennifer Weldon, chair of SAC’s research and information committee, has resigned from SAC. Michael Semcheski was named interim chair, pending an election by committee members.

Tickets for the SAC-sponsored Pitt-Kennywood Day, set for July 31, will be on sale at the William Pitt Union ticket office until July 30. For more information, contact the SAC office at 4-4235.

—Peter Hart

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