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November 7, 1996

LETTERS

Reconsider United Way contributions

To the University community:

I am writing to ask you to reconsider your support of the United Way of Allegheny County.

You may be aware of an important local resource, Persad Center, a mental health center dedicated to improving the quality of life of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals as well as people affected by HIV/AIDS. Persad applied to the United Way for financial support during the last two application cycles and was rejected each time.

Persad performs strongly in each of the areas used by the United Way to evaluate applicants. For example, the need for Persad's services is great as evidenced by a perpetual multi-month waiting list. Their Board of Directors functions in a professional manner as reflected in its ongoing, long-term strategic planning and its extensive committee structure. Most important, the center's programs are highly effective as measured by client reports, a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare annual review among other criteria. In fact, Persad Center is the only agency in all of Pennsylvania with specialized and comprehensive mental health services serving sexual minorities.

While Persad's application was being rejected several other agencies were brought on board to receive United Way funding last year. I understand that every need cannot be supported due to limited resources. However, it strikes me as very odd that an agency as unique, necessary and effective as Persad would go unsupported. The United Way would most certainly fund a Jewish or African American social service agency if, as in the case of Persad, its programs helped to alleviate great human suffering, it existed as the only professional organization serving its community and it performed so well. To not fund such an agency would undoubtedly cause a terrific and justifiable outcry. Consequently, I fear that the United Way's decision in regards to Persad was based on bias and/or ignorance.

What concerns me most is that various human needs in our community continue to go unmet (e.g. outreach to gay teenagers in crisis, specialized services for isolated gay and lesbian seniors) because of the lack of support from organizations such as the United Way.

Given the above, I will not support the United Way this year. I cannot support an organization that excludes an agency such as Persad Center. I ask that all fair-minded individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, join me in withholding their support. Instead, please donate directly and generously to other important causes close to your heart. However, if you feel you must donate to the United Way, please consider your gift through the Contributor Choice Program to Persad Center (use Contributor Choice #217) as well as other agencies you care about. Help send the message that the United Way's decision concerning Persad is simply unacceptable.

Mark S. Friedman

Pennsylvania Prevention Project

Department of Infectious Disease and Microbiology

Graduate School of Public Health

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Humanity's "aspiration to do justice"

To the editor:

On the evening of April 16, I was tuned into C-SPAN, which presented a program that C-SPAN covered live earlier that day: "Keynote Address for the 1996 Days of Remembrance, 'Crimes Against Humanity, Nuremberg, 1946,'" at the Capitol Rotund, in Washington. The keynote speaker was Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court.

I was reminded of Justice Breyer's eloquent and forceful address by the "Nuremberg" story in the University Times (page 8) of Oct. 10, 1996. That story featured the recollections of former Nuremberg trials prosecutors Benjamin B. Ferencz and Henry T. King Jr., who gave the 1996 McLean Lecture on World Law, co-sponsored by Pitt's law school. The major theme stressed by these speakers was the importance of getting involved in socially meaningful activities, using as an illustration becoming engaged as prosecutors in the Nuremberg trials, while Breyer's speech, excerpted elsewhere on this page, is a masterful statement stressing the significance of the trials and their meaning for humanity, humaneness, and the role of the law in assuring accountability for those who perpetrate international crime. Justice Breyer's address not only makes for gripping and sober reading in its own right, but it is, I believe, especially relevant for our academic community, since we champion the process of applying objective and rational thought to the solution or at least the amelioration of human problems.

I wrote to Justice Breyer for a copy of his address, after I had been mesmerized by his oral delivery of it. He graciously authorized me to distribute his address for reproduction in venues such as the University Times.

Robert Perloff

Professor Emeritus

Katz Graduate School of Business

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The problem with bonuses and merit pay

To the editor:

In a response to a faculty member's letter, Professor Gr├╝nbaum (Oct. 24) labels as "wholesale agnosticism" the view that nobody can know enough to evaluate the performance of a dean or, perhaps, any other subordinate. The "absurd consequence," he adds, is that neither the provost nor chancellor can evaluate deans, "although it is their duty" to do so. This argument, I think, papers over the big gap between scientific philosophy and administrative necessity in the secular world.

If all knowledge is uncertain, an important scientific principle, it must follow that any boss's knowledge is less than needed to accurately evaluate all subordinates. A boss may be compelled to make such evaluations, but compulsion cannot produce more than guess, judgment or opinion. In administrative circles, a decision to fire an employee is sometimes labeled "playing God," because the act can be professional murder. The gap exists because scientific philosophy does not envision interaction among bosses and subordinates who must obey them.

Those who advocate annual performance appraisals, "bonuses" and "merit pay" distributions are well advised to recognize that the problems with such systems are deeply rooted in our philosophy, not in the incompetence of various administrators or, for that matter, faculty members who are assigned the duty of making fine distinctions among students in order to achieve the mandated grade distributions.

The paradox is that such systems are supposed to improve morale, but overall morale suffers when significant numbers of subordinates are repeatedly advised of their incompetence. We all should encourage evaluators to stop pretending they know as much as they should know.

Frederick Thayer

Professor Emeritus

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

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Input sought on Planning and Budgeting System process

To the editor:

The University's Planning and Budgeting System (PBS) is now in its fifth year. The system is designed to offer faculty and staff the opportunity to participate in the process through the Planning and Budgeting Committees (PBCs) of their units. This is particularly important as implementation of the Univer-sity's long-range plan begins to affect unit budgets. Within the academic responsibility center units PBCs exist at the School level and in many cases at the individual department level.

The Senate Budget Policies Committee wishes to call attention to the collegial and participatory intention of the PBS process. Under the PBS our committee "is responsible for reviewing whether the PBS procedures are followed and whether all constituencies involved are provided adequate opportunities to participate in the process and to be informed of its outcomes." In September, an ad hoc committee appointed to evaluate the operation of the PBS presented their results to Faculty Assembly and Senate Council. While the report was, in general, supportive of the PBS process, responses to a questionnaire from the ad hoc committee noted that implementation had been imperfect and uneven, and some members of Faculty Assembly questioned how well it was operating at the unit level.

The Senate Budget Policies Committee is available to assist in PBS implementation and to provide information. We are particularly interested in hearing from members of unit level PBCs regarding their perception and experience of how well the PBS is operating. Any member of the University community who has questions or concerns may contact either me (648-8445, fax 383-8662, e-mail zullo@vms.cis.pitt.edu, 386 Salk Hall) or Richard Pratt, Chair of SBPC (624-9052, fax 624-9163, 221B Allen Hall).

Thomas G. Zullo

Chair

Process Review Committee SBPC


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