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February 7, 2013

Future of Senate sustainability group still uncertain

Thomas C. Smitherman

Thomas C. Smitherman

University Senate leaders are continuing to ponder the future of the Senate’s sustainability subcommittee (SusC) in hopes of preparing a recommendation to present to Faculty Assembly and Senate Council for approval.

While early indications appeared to favor moving SusC from a subcommittee to a committee separate from its parent plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee, Senate President Thomas C. Smitherman said that in response to additional feedback Senate leaders also are considering the option of merging PUP and SusC.

In a Jan. 30 report to Senate Council that largely mirrored his Jan. 22 report to Faculty Assembly (see Jan. 24 University Times), Smitherman explained: “This subcommittee was formed to continue the work of an ad hoc committee, originally called the recycling committee, which had exhausted its time limits. One could, and I have, argued that both the ad hoc committee and the sustainability subcommittee in fact operated substantially like a working group.

“There is consensus that its work has been vibrant and productive. This subcommittee has shared an administrative liaison with the parent PUP committee and these administrators have found that the requisite work to support both committees, in part because of redundancies, is too time-consuming and difficult to continue.

“Functioning essentially as a working group, the current form and format of the subcommittee does not, to my mind and strictly speaking, entirely conform to our bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order.”

Smitherman outlined the options he had proposed to Faculty Assembly:

• A substantial change in the form and format of the subcommittee. “But that would require special action by the Faculty Assembly and Senate Council, which would hardly be less time-consuming and difficult than forming a new committee,” Smitherman noted.

“We would also request to the administration for their consideration an administrative liaison somewhat different from the PUP committee to make matters easier for those administrators who perform that function.”

• Creation of a new sustainability committee, separate from its parent PUP committee, or

• Replacement of SusC with a new working group on sustainability, which would be a function of the University, independent of the University Senate.

“We continue to work through lots of suggestions and a lot of thought,” Smitherman said.

While initial feedback favored forming an independent committee, Smitherman said, “Subsequent to the Faculty Assembly meeting [Jan. 22], I reopened consideration of merging PUP with the sustainability subcommittee.

“Initial feedback had been that it’s unfeasible; the work of the two committees would be overwhelming. Subsequent feedback somewhat disagrees with that, so we reopened the conversation.”

Any proposal would require approval by both Faculty Assembly and Senate Council and the backing of the University administration.

A formal proposal could be ready in time for Senate Council’s Feb. 27 meeting, Smitherman said, adding that he hopes to move quickly “to limit to the greatest degree possible inhibitions on the function of this subcommittee.”

In other business:

• Smitherman said that Provost Patricia E. Beeson has assured Senate officers that the review of the graduate programs in German, religious studies and classics is nearing a conclusion. (See June 14, 2012, University Times.)

“There have been some delays because of illness of key faculty members, but the provost gave us some information that leads us to say safely that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we should know relatively soon,” Smitherman said.

• Smitherman encouraged attendance at Pitt Day in Harrisburg on Feb. 12.

For information, contact Jennifer Poller, Manager of Alumni Advocacy, 4-0108 or

• The Senate’s elections committee has begun its work under past president Michael Pinsky.

Smitherman urged: “Please spread the word to your faculty colleagues. Get them to throw their hats into the ring for membership on committees, positions on Faculty Assembly and to run for Senate offices. We expect and look forward to a robust roster.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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