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September 25, 1997


For centuries, university scholars have contributed greatly to the betterment of society, sharing in the governance of academic life.

Pitt is justifiably proud of its many distinguished scholars. Nonetheless, the faculty appears to be coming more and more inconsequential in shared governance as University policy makers cut back on the role of Pitt's talented academic community.

Witness the recent loss of voting rights on trustee committees; the administration's failure to follow procedure before acquiring an instant replay video scoreboard for Pitt Stadium despite a policy requiring that large capital expenditures be reviewed by the University Planning and Budgeting Committee and the University Senate's budget policies committee, and a delay of several years in responding to a Senate committee request for a program of intellectual renewal through a retirement inducement program. Through a delay of three years, Pitt forfeited millions of dollars by failing to make a decision in response to the Senate's request.

There is a clear and compelling need to reverse the direction of Pitt's policy makers toward reducing faculty participation in shared-governance for fear that the academic community will lose interest in contributing to University life.

In view of recent examples of policy makers downplaying the faculty's willingness, even eagerness, to contribute to University life, it seems only fair to express concern about Pitt's future as a compatible academic community.

Despite faculty losses in shared-governance at Pitt, the University Senate is attempting to meet its residual obligations. In July, chairpersons of the Senate's standing committees met to report on their plans for the coming year. While faculty, staff and student participation along with administrative liaison to these committees was deemed to be highly relevant, participation of representatives from the administration was sometimes lacking.

The committee chairpersons discussed the need for more coordination and interaction between the University Senate and self-governance units of each of the schools, the desire to improve communication with part-time and non-tenure stream faculty members, and a proposal to increase the length of terms for Senate officers.

At the meeting, each chairperson outlined next year's committee activities: * Admissions and student aid will work to improve student retention.

*Antidiscriminatory policies will focus on improving diversity among faculty, staff and students.

*Athletics will continue to oversee student academic certification, encourage more attention be given to so-called "Olympic sports," and serve in an advisory and oversight role as major changes take place in the athletic department.

* Benefits and welfare will review scheduled changes in faculty/staff health insurance coverage; the question of benefits for domestic partners is likely to be raised again this year. * Bylaws and procedures will conduct a major review of Senate bylaws.

* Computer usage will examine privacy issues and appropriate use of University computing resources.

* Commonwealth relations will continue meeting with legislators and will keep the University community informed of its activities.

* Community relations will join forces with the commonwealth relations committee to present a discussion of "Pitt's Position in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania" at a plenary session of the University Senate on Oct. 16, 1997.

* Educational policies is completing work on a proposal for a Teaching Excellence Development Fund. *Library will focus on information technologies.

* Plant utilization and planning will give attention to classroom renovation and a new classroom assignment system.

* Student affairs will consider a Student Government Board's request to evaluate classroom instruction.

* Tenure and academic freedom will prepare a proposal to address the lack of safeguards for non-tenured faculty against administrative abuse.

* University Press committee will continue to work with the director in selecting the list of Press publications. * An ad hoc committee on academic appointments will examine the status of tenure and related matters.

Given this long list of activities by Senate committees — each poised to provide assistance in governing the University — the administration and Board of Trustees need to review their stance on shared-governance lest faculty members view their endeavors to be in vain.

With shared-governance by policy makers and faculty members in all phases of University life, Pitt can only stand to grow and thrive intellectually and academically.

Gordon MacLeod is president of the University Senate.

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