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December 5, 2002


Consider the source

To the editor:

A statement from Pitt's administration opposing a proposed 0.5 percent payroll tax cited a "National Council on Competitiveness" report to support its position. My question is, "Which council?" An Internet search turned up two organizations: The Council on Competitiveness, and the National Competitiveness Council. My guess is it's the former, since the latter is based in Ireland. If so, then city taxpayers like me should take the council's report with a grain of salt, given that its membership is peppered with representatives of Big Business and higher education, including Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon and Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

Christopher Zurawsky Learning Research and Development Center

John Harvith, assistant vice chancellor, University News and Magazines, responds:

The official University of Pittsburgh statement — issued Nov. 12 in response to the PGH 21 report's recommendation for a 0.5 percent payroll tax — made mention of the national Council on Competitiveness. Based in Washington, D.C., the Council on Competitiveness describes itself as "a non-profit, non-partisan association of leaders from the business, university and labor communities working together to set a national action agenda for boosting U.S. economic competitiveness through technological innovation."

The council report referred to in the University's statement was the work of Harvard University business professor Michael E. Porter, who presented his findings on the Pittsburgh region last fall at Carnegie Mellon University. In his presentation, Professor Porter spoke of Pittsburgh's colleges and universities as having "developed into world-class catalysts of innovation, and new firms and clusters have begun spinning out of these local knowledge centers."

Among the council's many influential members, in addition to Chancellor Nordenberg, President Cohon and Professor Porter, are Sandra Feldman of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO; Andrew Stern of the Service Employees International Union; the presidents of such leading American universities as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Columbia and Cornell; and the CEOs of such corporations as H.J. Heinz, Johnson & Johnson, Biogen, General Mills and Xerox.

What more credible source for a pronouncement concerning the impact of Pittsburgh's universities on the region's economic development than an eminent business professor who is a member of an organization comprising leaders of American higher education, business and labor?

(Editor's note: The Nov. 21 University Times incorrectly capitalized the word national when referring to the University's statement about the national Council of Competitiveness.)


Questioning renovations

To the editor:

I have a question regarding the recent note on the Baierl Center in the University Times of Nov. 21, 2002 ("Decision on non-student use of Baierl Ctr. facilities won't be made before fall"). The story indicates that neither the multipurpose room nor the aerobic dance studio will be ready to use for a while. Getting the dance studio ready for use even requires removing a wall and installing a new floor. If my memory serves me correctly, construction on the Peterson Events Center was just recently completed. Why does it have to be renovated already before parts of it can be used?

Titus Schleyer Associate Professor and Director Center for Dental Informatics School of Dental Medicine

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