Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

April 15, 1999



We are rapidly approaching the end of the term and, for many, it means the end of the academic year. I thought this might be a good time to put down some thoughts about the events of the past nine or ten months.

* The most significant event of the year is the decision by the administration and the Board of Trustees to undertake a dramatic campus rejuvenation, using the space made available by demolition of Pitt Stadium. Here the convocation center and student housing will be located, and grass will be planted to help provide a traditional campus environment. From what I can tell, the vast majority of the University community welcomes this dramatic step. It also means that the football team will soon be playing its games on the North Side, and conducting its training and practices in new UPMC Health System facilities on the South Side. I think we need to separate in our minds the campus rejuvenation and the relocation of football activities. While there is hope that a new stadium and improved training facilities will help attract better players, and thereby lead to improved win-loss records, there is no guarantee. However, even if success on the football field is absent, the importance and value of the campus improvement is undiminished.

* I want to say a few words about the response to my statement here criticizing the use by fans of what I referred to as the "sucks" chant. I offered a financial reward if the coach of the Pitt cheerleaders accepted any cheer submitted to me for the cheerleaders' use. I received several cheers but none was deemed suitable. I was heartened by the comments I received in support of my attack on the chant. I hope that at sports contests this year and down the road the chant is absent; if no one joins when some individual begins it, the chant will die right then. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, "If nobody will chant, you can't stop `em."

* The issue of health insurance benefits for same sex partners of Pitt employees has attracted much attention on the campus and in the media. The administration's position is not to offer such benefits. On April 6th, the Faculty Assembly approved, by unanimous vote of those voting, a resolution urging the University administration to offer health benefits to domestic partners who fit criteria described in University Policy 07-06-08. Senate Council, by a vote of 17-9, with abstentions, voted in favor of the same resolution on April 12th. The discussion at Senate Council was conducted without hyperbole and rancor, even though many statements indicated strongly held beliefs regarding the stance the University should take. There is no indication the votes taken by Faculty Assembly and Senate Council will bring about a change in this policy any time soon. Unlike the decision on a subject that reaches closure through implementation, when the University's decision is to retain the status quo, the subject usually continues to attract attention, because inaction to many doesn't represent closure. Thus, we should expect to hear continuing criticism of Pitt's policy from those who advocate change.

* During the past six months or so, a lowering of the tension level within the School of Medicine has become evident. The faculty was, and continues to be, concerned about their relationship with the University of Pittsburgh Physicians (UPP), the unified practice plan that has been created recently. It appears that some of the concerns raised by faculty representatives have been addressed by the management of the UPP, and its responsiveness has contributed to the reduced tension. I was particularly pleased, given my experience in the health law field, to see that the medical school faculty found a way to organize itself. Among my professional peers – attorneys who work in the health industry – it is often said that getting physicians organized for any purpose is more difficult than herding cats. My experience has been that success in organizing physicians depends on having the physicians take the lead, as was done by the medical school faculty during the past year in establishing the instrument through which it will function in dealing with others.

* Proposed University Senate bylaws amendments will soon be sent to Senate members. These changes have been approved by the Faculty Assembly and Senate Council. My personal view is that these bylaws amendments should be adopted. For amendments to be adopted, at least 20 percent of the Senate membership must participate in the voting. I strongly urge that Senate members, regardless of whether they agree with the changes, express their views by voting, and return the ballots promptly.

* During the years I have served as a Senate officer, I have met, and seen in action, many faculty with whom I otherwise would not have had contact. I have been greatly impressed by the talent, energy, effectiveness, and basic decency, of the faculty. I believe one of the greatest benefits of involvement in University governance activities, is the opportunity to broaden one's understanding of the University and of the people – the faculty – who provide the major contribution to its mission. I have spoken with several faculty members who have told me that their pride in the University has increased greatly by virtue of their involvement in University-wide activities, because it has given them the opportunity to work with, and observe the quality of, faculty from units other than their own. Most of us are subject to time and other pressures that restrict our contacts mainly to those with whom we engage in academic pursuits. However, the benefits of wider involvement should not be overlooked.

Leave a Reply