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

May 28, 1998

SAC members debate changing bylaws regarding officer election

The May 13 Staff Association Council (SAC) meeting covered a lot of ground in the nearly two-hour public forum that included the approval of new council members, a firming-up of the July 25 Pitt Kennywood Day details, and an old-style, convention-floor fight of sorts over bylaws changes. Due to a glitch in scheduling, some new members had been asked to come at 12:30 and several trickled in after the meeting had begun, for which SAC President Brian Hart apologized.

"We're putting into effect a procedural switch, where the council will hold closed-door working sessions [at noon] prior to the open meeting. Then the public session will begin at 12:30. This does not go into effect, however, until the June meeting," Hart said.

The change was approved by members at the meeting.

Hart interrupted his report on several occasions to welcome new members as they arrived.

He also welcomed back council member Evelyn Yousuf, who had been on maternity leave, and introduced Peter Butler, who was representing the Bradford campus.

Committee reports began with elections committee chair Carol Neuner announcing the results of the new council membership confirmation process.

On April 28, which marked the closing of the nomination phase, there had been 15 new nominees and nine re-nominees, one of whom declined to accept nomination.

The other 23 agreed to serve and were deemed acceptable by Human Resources, which must approve the nominees according to SAC bylaws, said Neuner. See box on this page for the full list of the new council.

Terms for new members will begin at the June SAC meeting. A new-members orientation luncheon will be held in July, according to Hart. In other news, Hart said that SAC was asking for clarification of the roles of its representatives on the University's Board of Trustees subcommittees, especially their roles in non-public meetings: Are representatives sworn to secrecy, or what may they say to co-workers or other council members? SAC members have non-voting representation on nine trustees subcommittees.

In other committee news, Theresa Benedek, SAC representative on the University Senate's Plant Utilization and Planning (PUP) committee, reported that PUP was discussing issues of overcrowded classrooms and working on complaints about the illegibility of chalk on certain blackboards.

"They're looking for chalk that works," said Benedek, providing a moment of levity.

According to Benedek, PUP has approved the first priorities in a series of physical plant improvements: providing air-conditioning and elevator maintenance in the Cathedral of Learning and making renovations to the second floor of the William Pitt Union. Linda Marts, chairperson of the salary and job classifications committee, reported progress on the committee's recommendations for a revised Staff Handbook, which are nearly complete, and will be presented to Ron Frisch, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources in June, she said.

Hart pointed out that SAC has repeatedly asked Human Resources for an updated handbook, since the last one was printed in 1992.

Program and planning committee news included a Kennywood Day presentation by Gwen Watkins, reporting for absent chair Janet Campbell. Watkins showed off this year's T-shirt, distributed sample informational flyers and reviewed the prices and features of the July 25 event.

General admission tickets are $4.95; all-day passes are $11. T-shirts range from $4-$7, depending on the size. There will be a drawing for prizes, bingo and a children's coloring contest.

The first 175 arrivals will be treated to lunch at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the William Pitt Union Ticket Office through July 24.

Then the meeting took a turn toward debate.

Babs Mowry, reporting as chair of the governance committee, said that her committee recommended a delay in voting on a proposed bylaws change in the SAC officers nomination and election process.

She offered two reasons: The governance committee was laboring to understand all of the amendments taken as a whole; and, regarding a particular amendment, delaying the vote would ensure that the change did not affect the fast-approaching election.

After sorting out the proper parliamentary procedures ã SAC follows Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised ã council was asked by Hart to discuss a motion to delay the voting on bylaws changes that included the stipulation that a candidate for an office could only run for that office in any one year.

In the past, the runner-up for president has sometimes had the support to become vice president, even among other declared v-p candidates.

The solicited discussion was spirited. Jeff Liebmann, a SAC member emeritus, which is a presidential appointment, argued, "If your two best people are among those running for president, one of the two will be shut out. The University administration only talks to officers; you want your two best people among them." Liebmann, who works in the Provost's office, has been a member of SAC for 15 years.

Rapid-fire responses followed: "That's the way the faculty senate does it," Rich Colwell, SAC vice president, who chairs the steering committee, said, supporting the vote.

"The way it is now, it makes the vice president's job a consolation prize. It's not fair," said Joyce Snyder, who sits on three of the SAC committees.

Marts chimed in, "We're telling the officers what they should say to the administration. That's a lot of what we do." "Not always," Liebmann countered. "There are many times when officers have to think on their feet. They can't say, Well, I'll get back to you after I talk to program and planning or the budget committees.' " Carol James, who sits on the governance committee, suggested a compromise: "I'm in favor of it, but we could amend it around this stickler point and save that for more discussion." But, at the end of the flurry, the bylaws change supporters prevailed. Colwell, who is also a candidate for SAC president, said, "Steering is recommending these changes, and in time for the next election. We read the governance report and we're still recommending them." The steering committee consists of SAC officers and the chairs of the other eight committees.

Colwell also pointed out that bylaws could be amended again at any time, following the proper procedures.

Hart maintained neutrality throughout the debate, pointing out that the rules for introducing a bylaws change, with all the attending follow-ups including allowing time for debate, were strictly followed. Hart, who will serve as immediate past president in the upcoming term, eventually voted for the bylaws amendments. The motion to postpone the vote was defeated 11 – 5 with one abstention. Only current members who were present were eligible to vote. The motion to change the bylaws was then addressed formally, and some of the same arguments were registered against it, but it passed by a 10 – 7 margin.

Votes are recorded and meeting minutes prepared by Barbara Mullen, SAC secretary, a non-voting, paid part-time SAC position.

Nominations for the annual officers elections on SAC were subsequently held, and under bylaw, were officially closed to last-minute entrants prior to the June voting. Candidates for president are Colwell and Tyrone Smith, who serves on staff relations and governance committees.

Neuner is running unopposed for vice president.

There are two candidates for treasurer: Joan Neitznick, chair of staff relations, and Watkins, the current treasurer. Three are vying for the vice president of communications post: Lowry, Marts and incumbent Jeanette Norbut.

All eight candidates were present, polled, and agreed to run. Hart said a form will be sent to each candidate to describe his or her qualifications, which will be distributed without editing to the council about two weeks prior to the June 17 meeting. Ballots will be counted the day before that meeting and results announced at the meeting. New council members are eligible to vote for officers.

The public meeting begins at 12:30 p.m., 2P56 Forbes Quad.

The first three Adopt-a-Block days will be June 24, July 15 and Aug. 12, approximately 5-7 p.m. Adopt-a-Block is a city-sponsored project whereby volunteers help clean up trash in a designated area on a regular basis. SAC voted to participate at its April meeting.

Current SAC representatives from the Pittsburgh campus met yesterday in Titusville at the fourth annual regionals-wide conference of Staff Association Councils. The council of campuses, as Hart called it, rotates among the regional campuses.

—- Peter Hart

Leave a Reply