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November 20, 1997

Senate Council delays vote on joining Oakland council

Senate Council on Nov. 10 tabled a motion that would have urged Pitt to officially join the Oakland Community Council — a move that could cost the University as much as $15,000 annually in dues.

OCC is an umbrella organization that includes representatives of Oakland institutions, businesses, social service agencies and neighborhood groups, along with individual residents.

While OCC holds meetings and adopted bylaws earlier this year, none of the organizations and individuals active on the council pays dues — yet. But OCC's board is asking that members begin making a financial commitment, partly so OCC can hire a full-time director.

Dues would vary depending on the size and nature of the group, said Susan Golomb, executive director of the Oakland Planning and Development Corp. and a member of what she called OCC's "informal, semi-official" staff.

Pitt and UPMC Health System, as Oakland's largest institutions, have been asked to pay dues of $10,000-$15,000 each, while smaller organizations and individuals would pay considerably less, Golomb said.

Lynette Jack, who chairs the University Senate's community relations committee, said the cost would be worth it for Pitt. She proposed a motion asking Senate Council to urge that Pitt join OCC "at the earliest possible opportunity." Faculty Assembly endorsed such a motion earlier this month.

"The community relations committee is interested in strengthening the already-positive relationship between the University and the Oakland community," Jack said. "We believe that University financial support of, and membership on, the Oakland Community Council will help to foster this relationship." But Senate Council tabled the proposal after Chancellor Mark Nordenberg announced he would abstain from a vote on Jack's motion. Nordenberg said he didn't necessarily oppose the University's joining OCC. But the chancellor said he first needed to consult with Pitt governmental relations staff and determine the full implications of OCC membership before making up his mind on the question.

The issue is expected to come up again at the next Senate Council meeting, on Dec. 8.

According to Golomb, the following institutions and organizations have made "firm commitments" to paying dues to OCC: Bellefield Area Citizens Association, Carnegie Mellon University, Children's Hospital, Magee Womens Hospital, Oakland Planning and Development Corp., People's Oakland, Point Park College and Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind.

In other Nov. 10 Senate Council business: * The administration has no plan at this time to limit Pitt employees' choice of physicians to those belonging to the Tri-State Health System, a physicians network that is part of UPMC Health System, Assistant Chancellor Jerome Cochran said. He made the statement in response to reports that some professors' physicians (doctors who don't belong to Tri-State) have told patients they soon will have to switch to physicians who are affiliated with Tri-State.

Cochran suggested the misunderstanding may stem from the UPMC Health System's decision to limit its own employees to the use of Tri-State physicians, beginning Jan. 1.

It could be that some physicians, like many people among the general public, don't realize that Pitt and UPMC are separate entities, said James Holland, of the Senate's benefits and welfare committee.

This week, Tri-State agreed to remind its physicians and office staff in writing of the differences between Pitt and UPMC employee medical coverage, Pitt Human Resources interim associate vice chancellor Ron Frisch said yesterday. Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Pitt's current health insurer, agreed to send similar memos to its customer service staff, Frisch said.

* University Senate Vice President Nathan Hershey, who chairs a Senate committee studying whether Pitt's academic mission is compatible with the business goals of the UPMC Health System, said copies of the committee's interim report are available from the Senate office, 1234 Cathedral of Learning (phone: 624-6504). The University Times reported on the interim report in its Sept. 11 and Sept. 25 issues.

* The January meetings of Faculty Assembly and Senate Council have been canceled, Senate President MacLeod announced.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 7

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