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March 5, 1998

Contest for University Senate presidency: Hershey vs Paulston

Privately, some Pitt ad ministrators cringed when Gordon MacLeod defeated incumbent Keith McDuffie in last year's election for University Senate president.

Both men are affable even in debate, but McDuffie was seen as being less antagonistic toward the administration. MacLeod, a public health professor and former state secretary of health, has frequently denounced actions of Pitt and UPMC Health System officials, most recently in connection with UPMC's planned absorption of the medical school's unified practice plan. (See related story.)

MacLeod isn't running for re-election this spring. He's been named academic dean of the fall 1999 Semester at Sea voyage and will spend much of his extracurricular time recruiting faculty and otherwise preparing for the around-the-world trip. "I wouldn't have time to do that and be Senate president," MacLeod said.

When Pitt and UPMC Health System administrators see who's running for the Senate presidency for the 1998-99 term, they may grow nostalgic for the MacLeod era.

Nathan Hershey, currently Senate vice president and a professor of health services administration in the Graduate School of Public Health (with a joint appointment in the Katz Graduate School of Business) is running against Christina Bratt Paulston, a fellow Senate Council member and a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' linguistics department.

It's a toss-up whether Paulston or Hershey is the most outspoken University Senate gadfly. Both have criticized the Pitt and UPMC Health System administrations in recent years — and usually in blunter language than MacLeod and McDuffie tend to use.

At last month's Faculty Assembly meeting, for example, Hershey and medical school interim dean George Michalopoulos clashed over various faculty rights issues. At one point, Michalopoulos criticized professors who won't speak up publicly when they disagree with the administration. Hershey, citing faculty fears of retaliation, replied: "Well, George, I would say to you that if you found out why people were afraid to stand up or to speak out, you'd be really advancing the cause that you purport to support." Paulston once proposed a Senate Council motion that would have called on the administration to take away the UPMC Health System's permission to use the words "University of Pittsburgh" in its name. Confusion over the Pitt-UPMC relationship hurts the University's fundraising and public image, Paulston argued.

At its October 1996 meeting, Council voted down Paulston's motion. During the meeting, engineering Dean Gerald Holder said his school and others benefit from UPMC research funds and services. "Just about any kind of support you can think of," Holder told Senate Council, "we're getting it from UPMC." "You're being bought," Paulston interjected.

Paulston admitted that her motion to remove the "UP" from "UPMC" didn't stand a chance — and even if it had passed, she said, Pitt's administration would have ignored it. But Paulston said she proposed it to express widespread faculty dissatisfaction with UPMC policies.

Her campaign for the Senate presidency may be equally quixotic, Paulston knows. She was "flabbergasted,' she says, when the Senate nominating committee asked her to run. She agreed for two reasons, she explained: "I'm too Swedish not to accept obligations and, besides that, a lot of faculty members moan and groan about the way the University is run, but too few of them are willing to try to do anything about it." Paulston said Hershey is better known among voters than she is. He has served for the last two years as vice president and, since last year, as chairperson of the high-profile Senate "compatibility committee" studying possible conflicts between Pitt's academic mission and the business goals of UPMC. Paulston has been most active recently as a member of a Senate committee investigating the status of faculty appointments at Pitt, with an emphasis on tenure trends.

Hershey probably has voter demographics on his side too, Paulston said. Under the Senate election system, well over half of the approximately 3,300 eligible voters are (like Hershey and current president MacLeod) faculty members in the Health Sciences. While larger proportions of faculty from the professional schools and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences tend to return ballots, the preponderance of Health Sciences voters can be decisive at a time when medical school faculty, in particular, perceive that they have a stake in University governance.

On the other hand, 31 percent of Pitt faculty members are women, though only two have ever served as University Senate president: social work professor Barbara Shore (during the 1985-86, 1986-87 and 1990-91 terms) and English professor Marcia Landy (1972-73). Paulston said she doesn't plan to make gender an issue, but other Senate voters may decide it's for another woman president.

Election ballots will be mailed the first week of April and will include policy statements from each candidate.

Rather than describe his campaign platform in an interview, Hershey referred the University Times to his written statement submitted as part of the election process.

Hershey wrote that he has "learned a good deal about fostering and managing change" during the last year as chairperson of the compatibility committee and as a member of the search committee for the senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences/medical dean. "Sadly," he added, "what I have witnessed explains the tension and turmoil with the School of Medicine." Change is "inevitable and continuing" at all Pitt schools, and the University administration could set a set a good example for future change by acknowledging its errors in managing the medical school, Hershey wrote. To improve University decision-making, Hershey recommends "encouraging and prompting" Pitt trustees who respect the rights of faculty, students and staff, and who appreciate the difference between a university and a business corporation. Such trustees have largely been excluded from power by the board's executive committee and trustees chairperson J. Wray Connolly, Hershey wrote.

Paulston has not yet submitted her position statement to the Senate office (the deadline isn't until March 13) but said she likewise opposes what she called "the ill-conceived notion that universities function better when they are run like business corporations." Paulston added: "Another major issue, as I see it, would be sorting out the proper status, responsibilities and rewards systems for tenure stream faculty and non-tenure stream faculty, and for part-time versus full-time faculty. Working on [education professor] Mark Ginsburg's committee on the status of faculty appointments, I've seen that a lot of work needs to be done in this area."

–Bruce Steele

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