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March 30, 2000

Presidential candidate: Nathan Hershey

Nathan Hershey When I began my service as Senate vice president nearly five years ago, I was well aware of the apparent hostility between the faculty, and the administration and the Board of Trustees. I felt that finding ways to improve the relationship would be a very desirable and useful undertaking.

After I was elected president of the Senate, I established a working group to examine the subject of board-faculty relationships. The group has met informally approximately every three months, and with the chancellor on more than one occasion. One product of this group's efforts is the Take a Board Member to Class program. Its objective is to help bridge the gap between board and faculty. We gained the support of both the chancellor and the board chairperson because, presumably, they believed, as we did, that contacts between board members and faculty would benefit the individuals who participated personally, as well as the University. In addition, I have sent personal notes of appreciation on behalf of the faculty to board members who have participated in University functions, such as honors convocation, commencement and the freshman convocation.

To sum up, I want to change the climate at the University so that we can accept that there can be conflicting positions, as we have, for example, on the subject of health benefits for same-sex partners, without hostility.

In my opinion, the chancellor and I have been in a confidence-building mode during my tenure as president. The chancellor personally, and the administration usually, have been responsive to requests that I have made, and we have kept each other informed on matters before they became public. The chancellor, on more than one occasion, has telephoned me about an announcement or decision before it became public, so that I would not be surprised by what was to appear in the media. When I knew that the piece I wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last fall in favor of the University providing same-sex partners health benefits was to be published soon, I promptly notified the chancellor and sent him a copy of the text.

If I serve again as president, I hope to build on the trust developed over the last two years, and work to improve the degree of cooperation and collaboration between the faculty and the administration, both in the formal Senate processes and in other contexts.

The largest substantive issue on the horizon, one that I have not yet touched on, has been triggered by the proposal to lengthen the period during which a clinician faculty member of the School of Medicine can obtain tenure. That specific proposal prompted interest in a wide array of tenure issues. One is the tenure-granting process at the University, particularly in Health Sciences, where many, if not most, faculty are not hired in the tenured stream and cannot attain tenure. Another is replacement of tenured faculty, on their retirement, with non-tenure-stream faculty.

Some remarks at the Senate Council meeting of March 13 by administrators help explain the renewed attention to tenure issues. For example, Provost James Maher said, "A lot of the people currently not in the tenure stream, in non-tenure-stream appointments, particularly in the School of Medicine, but really throughout the Health Sciences, are people who wouldn't have had faculty titles at all 30 years ago." Senior Vice Chancellor/Dean Arthur Levine, referring to "the large number of clinicians who really are pure clinicians, but who also merit being members of faculty because they teach," said, "They don't need academic freedom or want academic freedom."

Another subject I expect to see capturing attention this coming year is the University's relationship with the business world. At the nation's research universities, particularly with regard to scientific and medical research, questions are being raised about the possible compromise of academic values in the relationship between a university and the medical-industrial complex. An article on this subject appears in the March issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The University of Pittsburgh, like many other academic institutions, has a burgeoning Office of Technology Management. An appropriate concern of faculty is that, in the quest to provide products for commercial exploitation, for the financial benefit of involved faculty, the University, and a drug or equipment manufacturer, the University and faculty members will be placed in a position of having to accede to demands of the business concerns with which they deal and, by doing so, deviate from the ethics of the academy.

In industry, in response to perceived legal risks, compliance programs are all the rage. Perhaps, because of ethical risks, in addition to those concerning human subjects and research animals, and privacy of personal information, a University compliance program with substantial faculty participation, directed to protection of traditional academic norms is necessary. For example, has the University entered into contracts with drug companies or other participants in the health care industry that impose inappropriate controls over publication or other activity by faculty, to safeguard the proprietary interests of commercial sponsors of research or prospective joint ventures? I don't have the answer, but the question cannot be ignored, because such problems have been present elsewhere.

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