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March 22, 2001

Change in ID cards on Pittsburgh campus poses problems for regional staff, SAC told

Staff at Pitt's regional campuses have been denied certain services enjoyed by their Pittsburgh campus counterparts, according to a Greensburg campus staff official.

Nancy Young, vice president of the Greensburg campus Staff Association Council, told the Pittsburgh campus Staff Association Council (SAC) that Greensburg staff with I.D.s had been denied access to Pitt libraries and other buildings in Oakland. She said that the Port Authority was no longer honoring her campus's I.D.s for free rides in Allegheny County.

Young was reporting activities of her campus group to the SAC meeting March 14.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Ron Frisch, who regularly attends SAC meetings, acknowledged that he had heard complaints, some of them anonymous, from regional campus staff about this issue. "I've gotten blind copies of unsigned messages on this," Frisch said. "Frankly, I'm a little taken aback that there's a library problem. That should not be happening."

Pittsburgh campus employees (and students) were issued new I.D. cards that became effective Jan. 2. The new cards are a different color and have a different coding system from their predecessors and no longer match the regionals' I.D. cards.

Frisch said all staff I.D.s should be honored at Pittsburgh campus buildings for all services, except the free bus rides on Port Authority vehicles.

"The issue that is paramount to this discussion is the accessibility to the Port Authority," Frisch said. "In this area, I was able to research that the agreement with the Port Authority is paid for exclusively by the student fees from students who attend the Oakland campus," and not student fees from the regionals. Pittsburgh campus faculty and staff were added to the agreement with the Port Authority specifically to relieve traffic congestion and parking availability in Oakland, he said.

The University administration subsidizes the amount Pitt pays the Port Authority for Pittsburgh campus faculty and staff rides.

"Prior to this last fall, when we had new I.D. cards issued to folks at the Oakland campus, there was no way to distinguish who is and who isn't an Oakland student or staff," Frisch said. "Now that the Oakland folks have new I.D. cards, the Port Authority has been notified to only honor those [Pittsburgh campus] cards."

Frisch said the free rides should not be seen as an employee benefit in the way health insurance is. Rather, the free rides are a product of a contract agreement, subject to renewals, between the University and the Port Authority.

"I would call it not a benefit, but a unique opportunity," Frisch said. "I consider this a 'challenge issue.' We're looking into it. But I don't have an easy answer right now."

Frisch said I.D. cards are processed through Pitt's I.D. Center, which reports to the Office of Business. "The policy [of which services are covered by the I.D.s] is set by the academic community, not HR," he said.

In other Staff Association Council business:

* SAC discussed the issue of children of staff seeking admission to the Pittsburgh campus in light of Pitt's raised admissions standards. (See University Times, Feb. 22.) SAC President Richard Colwell and Vice President for Steering Barbara Mowery reported on a meeting with Jack Daniel, vice provost for academic affairs, and other Provost office officials.

According to Mowery, Provost's office officials admitted that they failed to give staff adequate notice of the potential effects of rising admissions standards on children of staff who may not meet the adjusted standards.

Colwell said that Daniel agreed to review personally all appealed cases where staff children were rejected for admission to the Pittsburgh campus. As part of an agreement with SAC, Colwell said that Daniel agreed to share his reviews each year with SAC officers. "So, we'll be reviewing his reviews," Colwell said.

Colwell said that the Provost's office was working with Pitt's Admissions and Financial Aid office to determine how many children of staff had applied and how many were rejected due to the admissions standards, something that had not been tracked previously. "They're going to give us a report on the numbers in the very near future, of how many are turned down and how many are admitted," Colwell said.

As a matter of course, Mowery pointed out, the admissions office refers applicants who do not meet Pittsburgh admissions standards to one or more of the regional campuses.

Mowery said she recognized that staff expecting a child to be admitted to the Pittsburgh campus would be at a financial disadvantage if the child had to attend a regional. "The staff member may not be able to afford the housing, where in Pittsburgh the child could live at home and ride transportation with their I.D. card and maybe the kid has a job in Pittsburgh they'd have to give up," she said.

Mowery said that children of staff would not be given any special consideration, only that the appeals process was an option staff should know about. "Jack [Daniel] gets calls all the time from alums and politicians, who say, 'I gave so much money and I want my kid admitted,' or 'Why won't you let kids from my district into Pitt?' He's bombarded by all these special interest groups. So to make exceptions would be a conflict of interest."

Colwell said, "Do I think the appeals process will make a difference for children of staff? Yes, I do. So, we're going to give this appeals process a year before anyone can say it doesn't work, look at the reviews that come from [Daniel's] office and we'll come back and do a report to the Staff Association Council."

* The staff council heard recommendations from Pitt Volunteer Pool coordinator Steve Zupcic regarding a SAC "signature" volunteer project. SAC members agreed to suggest projects that will be voted on by council members at a future SAC meeting.

Colwell said, "We're going to kick around the possibility of a program at Children's Hospital or other organizations people want to suggest and gather a list of them and vote on which one we want to do. What I don't want to happen is for it to just die out after one or two times. We need to get a project that people will commit to and not just SAC members but other staff as well."

* Colwell reported on a meeting he and Mowery had with officials in the chancellor's office to increase nominations for the annual Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award for Staff Employees

Colwell said, "I would like to see many more people nominated for the chancellor's award," which honors staff for their community service. "I want that nominating committee to have to work [hard]. I want them to have to have a lot of people to review. There are many deserving people out there."

* Colwell reported that Human Resources is developing a new staff appraisal system with input from SAC. He said the details were confidential at this point.

Human Resources's Frisch acknowledged that a new system was in development, but that the current system would be in force for staff appraisals this spring. He declined further comment.

* SAC secretary Irene Marinakos reported that there were 19 new nominations for the next SAC term, which begins July 1. Six candidates are re-nominated from the current group.

The slate of SAC candidates will be voted on at the next SAC meeting, scheduled for April 11.

* Colwell said the steering committee at the next SAC meeting would recommend a discussion of bylaws changes that would allow SAC officers to serve more than three consecutive terms in one office.

–Peter Hart

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