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September 29, 2016


Communication and Transparency

To the editor:

I was saddened to hear that the University Times was going to shift to an exclusively electronic publication. I am far from a Luddite. I maintain all of my class documents in electronic form and encourage my students to rely on resources always available in the cloud — no need to print a copy. Over two decades I converted 65 years of photos, slides, 8 mm movies, audio and video tapes to digital form. The record of my family and my professional career has been moved to a digital form with conversions scheduled. At the same time, I keep many special books in my home and still regularly write out notes on vellum with one of several fountain pens. I find that there is still a place in our digital world for selected physical communications. I must be honest that email cards at Christmas or my birthday are not my favorite.

So why am I sad? I believe the University Times has played many critical roles at Pitt in supporting shared governance and encouraging transparency in decision making and planning. As I near retirement I continue to marvel at this institution that has been my employer for well over 40 years. Not uniquely, but much more than most prestigious institutions, it has a strong and honest commitment to shared governance in critical matters. That commitment has been dependent on open discussion and transparency in governance. We are all aware of the importance of clear communication at a large institution like Pitt. The faculty are busy with their research and teaching and can be oblivious to important developments. The University Times played a big part in helping to keep the communication channels open. I fear that this action, movement to a less visible digital form, will require just enough effort on the part of faculty that they won’t keep up on what is going on.

As a past president of the University Senate, I am well aware that most faculty are very happy to be a part of the Pitt family, and in general like the fact that the administration over the last 40 years has done a good job, leaving faculty to do their research and teaching. I am also well aware that those faculty actively engaged in the Senate and shared governance have played an important role in working with the senior administration to avert potential controversies. Tracking activity on the Senate website, I can tell you that the publication of major stories in the University Times has moved faculty to research yet more facts. The dates and times are clear. Faculty like to know what is going on and to be heard on matters of import to their work.

I hope that this change was accorded careful consideration in terms of its potential impact. I also hope there are plans in place to make sure this change will not reduce communication and transparency during this critical time of transition for the University. While I encourage the evolution of our communications mechanisms to newer, more competent forms, it is critical that we expend every ounce of effort and dollar of sparse funding to make sure the faculty and staff of the Pitt community are kept involved.

Michael B. Spring
School of Information Sciences
Past President


University SenateLetters should be submitted at least one week prior to publication. Persons criticized in a letter will receive a copy of the letter so that they may prepare a response. If no response is received, the letter will be published alone.

Letters can be sent by email to or by campus mail to 308 Bellefield Hall.

The University Times reserves the right to edit letters for clarity or length. Individuals are limited to two published letters per academic term. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication.


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