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March 8, 2007

Senate scraps ad hoc recycling committee

The University Senate is disbanding its ad hoc committee on recycling, which was formed last spring.

At Faculty Assembly’s Feb. 27 meeting, committee chair Irene Frieze delivered a final report on recycling, but stressed that the issue will not be abandoned. “We feel that many of our concerns have now been incorporated into the Senate plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee,” Frieze said. She noted that ad hoc committee member Robert Reis, an engineering faculty member who works on sustainability issues, is now chairing the PUP committee, which has a subcommittee on sustainability.

Frieze said the recycling ad hoc committee was impressed by a presentation made by Joseph Fink, who directs Facilities Management, the unit primarily responsible for Pitt’s recycling efforts.

Fink described a number of activities or programs in place that many of the committee members were not aware of, she said.

These include:

• Sustainable design of new and renovated buildings;

• Energy conservation efforts;

• Pollution and emissions reductions;

• Greening of the campus through plantings, and

• Recycling of paper, metals and other materials.

“They are working very hard on these things. But many people feel they could do more,” Frieze said.

She presented a series of final recommendations from the ad hoc committee. “We do feel that Pitt should advertise more about what we do. We’ve noticed on the web sites around the country that other universities brag about what they’re doing when we’re actually doing more sustainability activities and we don’t brag about it,” Frieze said.

“Even though Facilities Management has been the main group in charge of all of this, they are not responsible for what’s happening in the residence halls or in UPMC buildings,” she said. “That’s a problem that a large part of the campus is not under their domain, and so we feel that we need to somehow reach out to these other units to make sure that they are doing good things as well.”

Other committee recommendations include:

• Inviting Fink to address Faculty Assembly about Pitt’s sustainability initiatives;

• Asking units that are not under Facilities Management to present their sustainability activities to the PUP committee and/or Faculty Assembly;

• Expanding PUP’s mission statement to include oversight of sustainability initiatives;

Assembly agreed to invite Fink to a meeting to report on Pitt’s recycling efforts.

Assembly also heard a report from the co-chair of the Senate library committee on a recently completed acquisition of Blackwell Publishing by John Wiley & Sons.

At the request of the Information Access Alliance, which is a coalition of seven major library organizations, including the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries, of which Pitt is a member, the library committee had intended to protest the acquisition on anti-trust grounds, said Adam Shear, library committee co-chair.

But the acquisition was completed before the committee could protest. The combined publishers now control more than 1,200 journals.

“The past experience shows that after publisher mergers, there have been large price increases for journals and databases and other scholarly resources, mainly reference materials,” Shear said. Nationally, academic libraries already are cutting back on periodical acquisitions for economic reasons. There is a concern that this acquisition and others like it will further impede the rate of spreading new knowledge across academia, he said.

“Very soon we’ll be looking at fewer available resources and less access to them, some journals will fold, some databases will not be updated, and of those that are out there fewer and fewer libraries will be able to afford to have access to them,” Shear maintained.

But, he added, this is not an immediate concern for Pitt. Pitt’s library system has not suffered cuts in its serials budget in recent years, nor is it expected to in the next few years, he said.

The library committee will continue to discuss these issues in consultation with the Information Access Alliance, he added.

In other Faculty Assembly developments:

• Senate President John Baker reported that the Provost’s office had replied by letter to him and the community relations committee (CRC) on the community-service and service learning report, which was approved by Assembly Nov. 28 and forwarded to the provost for consideration.

The CRC report asked that the Provost’s office approve guidelines that would permit individual departments to incorporate public service and service-learning into faculty tenure and promotion decisions. (See Dec. 7 University Times.)

Copies of the response sent from Robert F. Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, were distributed at the Assembly.

“Vice Provost Pack’s response is consistent with previously expressed views on the subject by the administration,” Baker noted. “Individual schools differ in how big a role service plays in their mission. It’s essential to some schools, less so to others.”

According to Pack’s response, the general description of the applicability of a community engagement or public service component as expressed in the faculty handbook should not be made more specific nor otherwise codified in official documents.

However, the letter says in part, “When [service] is relevant to the work of individual faculty, it should be assessed, and the [CRC] provides useful guidance as to how that assessment should be conducted. Since the individual academic units have considerable discretion in describing the relationship of the general criteria to evaluations of their faculty, we will forward [the CRC report] to those units so that they may consider them as appropriate in the context of their own guidelines.”

Baker said, “There clearly needs to be follow-up on this process by the Provost’s office and the community relations committee … as to how many schools do decide to use these recommendations.”

Linda Hartman, co-chair of the CRC, reported that her committee also is interested in whether the University will seek the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s newly established community engagement elective classification, as was recommended by the report. No mention of that was made in Pack’s letter, she noted.

• The Senate elections committee will conduct this spring’s elections via electronic balloting, altering an earlier decision to hold off until next year. Printed instructions on how to vote electronically will be mailed during the last week of March; the electronic system will be activated on April 1, according to Lori Molinaro, Senate office director. Faculty will have until the end of April to complete their e-ballots, she said. (See the slate of officer candidates this issue.)

• The Senate spring plenary session is set for 2-5 p.m. March 28 in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. The topic is “Protecting Science From Bias by Private Interests.”

—Peter Hart

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