Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

January 22, 1998

Make Frisch permanent head of Human Resources, SAC urge

Over the years, the relationship between the Staff Association Council (SAC) and the Office of Human Resources has ranged from one of polite diplomacy to antagonism, as SAC has pushed for better pay, fringe benefits and career options for Pitt staff employees — often against a wall of tight budgets and a tangle of red tape, according to the staff group.

But SAC-HR relations have grown downright cordial in the last year and a half, council leaders say. And they attribute the change largely to Ron Frisch, who has been interim associate vice chancellor for Human Resources since July 1996.

Last week, SAC's steering committee wrote to Assistant Chancellor Jerome Cochran, Frisch's boss, urging him to appoint Frisch as permanent head of Human Resources.

SAC leaders praised Frisch's recent reorganization of Human Resources, which "addressed virtually all of the major issues of concern to this council," they wrote.

During the Jan. 14 SAC meeting, Council Vice President Rich Colwell said Frisch has expanded the duties of highly skilled HR employees and hired new ones, improved communications with SAC, and fostered a management style that emphasizes employee service over meeting Human Resources' own bureaucratic requirements.

SAC's letter to Cochran added: "Given the importance of negotiations with health care providers to finalize the University's health benefit plans prior to the next open enrollment period, we believe that it is within everyone's interests to make Ron's appointment permanent without any further delay." Cochran was noncommittal, telling the University Times he has "no immediate plan" to appoint, or launch a search for, a permanent head of Human Resources. "I haven't discussed it with the chancellor, and at this point I have no timetable in mind for naming a permanent person for either that position or for [the Office of] Facilities Management," which likewise reports to Cochran.

Facilities Planning Director Ana Guzman has served as interim associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management since L. Thomas Hussey suddenly resigned from the permanent job in September 1996.

Frisch, who came to Human Resources in January 1995 as director of compensation and benefits, was appointed interim associate vice chancellor in July 1996 following the resignation of Darlene Lewis — whose relations with SAC and University Senate leaders often were strained, to put it mildly.

Cochran said the SAC letter was "encouraging" and didn't surprise him. "Ron has done an outstanding job in an area of the University where, clearly, there were some immediate, pressing needs and problem areas," he said, adding that Guzman also has been an outstanding interim associate vice chancellor.

SAC Vice President Colwell said the group has endured "a history of problems in communications with Human Resources" during his 12 years at Pitt, and had made little progress in working with HR prior to Frisch's interim appointment. Colwell cited the Pitt administration's serious consideration of a policy on release time for staff employees as an example of Human Resources collaborating effectively with SAC on staff issues.

"We're getting definite results now," Colwell said.

Frisch said his ongoing reorganization of Human Resources has involved:

* Beginning to streamline the hiring and benefits enrollment processes.

* Emphasizing customer service.

* Expanding the duties of Organization Development director B. Jean Ferketish to include client service; assigning Staffing and Employee Relations director Carol W. Mohamed to develop a pro-active employee relations program; hiring James W. Edgerton as director of Compensation and Benefits (Frisch's original title) with added responsibilities for HR data systems; and hiring John Greeno, formerly of the General Counsel's office, to head labor relations.

Regarding SAC's letter to Cochran, Frisch said he was pleased but slightly embarrassed. "I appreciate their vote of confidence," Frisch said, with a laugh. "What more can I say?"

–Bruce Steele

Leave a Reply