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September 15, 1994

Senate objects to lack of input on administrative consolidation of Student and Public Affairs division

Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor erred in not consulting faculty and student organizations before realigning the offices of Student Affairs and Public Affairs, according to University Senate leaders.

O'Connor announced Aug. 2 that the two offices would be combined under the leadership of former Executive Director of Public Affairs Leon Haley, who is now vice chancellor for Student and Public Affairs.

The reorganization followed the resignation of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs William Harmon, who left Pitt last month to take a similar job at the University of Virginia.

At the Sept. 8 Faculty Assembly meeting, University Senate President James Holland said that neither the Senate officers, the Senate's student affairs committee nor the Student Government Board was told of the reorganization until late on Aug. 1, the day before O'Connor announced it.

"It's a strange way of working when we're proud of our shared governance and collegiality," Holland said. "I find it to be a real, real concern, particularly given the nature of the position." Haley is one of nine Pitt officers whose salaries are set by the trustees' compensation committee, he pointed out.

Holland said he wasn't bothered by the lack of a search per se. Following the Assembly meeting, Holland recalled the time in 1992 that Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Ben J. Tuchi phoned to tell him that he needed to recruit a new associate vice chancellor quickly and that he had a former North Carolina University colleague, John DeVitto, in mind for the job. "DeVitto seemed to be qualified for the job, and Tuchi explained his need to hire someone in a hurry. I said I had no problem with that. The point was, Tuchi consulted with us (the Senate leaders) ahead of time." As for Haley's reassignment, Holland told the Assembly: "This isn't just a lack of a search. It's a lack of input and a lack of opportunity for advice from elected faculty groups and student groups.

"The concerns I had were not with the man," Holland emphasized. "I think Leon Haley's a very bright guy. He's capable and somebody who we can expect to serve the University very well." However, the Student Affairs job calls for "special requirements, special training and special experience," Holland said.

"Haley has an interesting and varied career," Holland said — including 15 years' experience in various Pitt academic and administrative positions — "but the only piece of it that's remotely relevant to this (new job) is two years as dean of student affairs in the School of Social Work." At the Sept. 12 Senate Council meeting, Holland briefly referred to the criticisms he had made at the faculty-only Assembly meeting. O'Connor, who sat next to Holland at the Council meeting, did not reply during the meeting and declined to comment to the University Times afterward.

Faculty Assembly member Sharon Nelson-Le Gall, who serves on the Board of Trustees' student affairs committee, said that she and her fellow faculty representatives on the trustees committee received no advance notice of the administrative realignment and were "very, very surprised" by it.

Trustee Alice Kindling, who chairs the board's student affairs committee, told the University Times that O'Connor briefed her on the move well before the Aug. 2 announcement. Kindling said she agreed with the decision based on Haley's qualifications, the opportunity it presented to streamline Pitt's administration at a time of tight University budgets, and the need to appoint a new Student Affairs administrator quickly. She noted that Harmon announced his resignation in June, which didn't leave time for a conventional search or even much time to appoint an interim Student Affairs head. Pitt was lucky to have available such a qualified administrator as Haley, she said.

Kindling added that her committee hasn't met since June, and that she didn't contact individual committee members such as Nelson-Le Gall about Haley's appointment.

Jonathan Schooler, chairperson of the Senate's student affairs committee, noted in an Aug. 29 letter to O'Connor that his committee was invited to interview all of the candidates in 1990 during the search that resulted in Harmon being hired as vice chancellor. Schooler himself served on the search committee during that search, which took place during the administration of O'Connor's predecessor, Wesley Posvar.

Schooler wrote to O'Connor: "When you arrived (in 1991) there was great excitement that a new era of the University of Pittsburgh had begun: one in which the University operated as a true community, in which the faculty, students and staff would be given a voice and opportunity to participate in important decisions. We recognize that you have taken some important strides in this respect. Nevertheless, in this case, it is disheartening to see that the process was markedly less open than it was with the previous administration." In other business at the Assembly and Council meetings:

* Senate benefits and welfare committee chairperson Herb Chesler, who serves on the University's medical insurance review task force, said the latter group probably will recommend that the administration add a new health care option for faculty and staff beginning in 1995: "Select Blue," a Blue Cross plan featuring some of the elements of a health maintenance organization, including a network of participating physicians and hospitals. The task force is scheduled to present its recommendations to the administration by the end of September. Chesler said the task force may recommend adding "Select Blue" as a replacement for the traditional Blue Cross plan currently offered here. If so, the new plan would be "a very good substitute for the traditional plan," he said. However, Chesler said the benefits and welfare committee has authorized him only to recommend that "Select Blue" be offered as an additional option, not in place of traditional Blue Cross.

* Faculty Assembly approved a letter from Holland to Provost James Maher asking that Maher's office collect information on faculty governance at each Pitt school and regional campus. "Where such organizations are lacking or are inadequate, I recommend that the provost arrange for meetings of the school or campus faculty to provide bylaws for a faculty governance organization suited to the circumstances of the school or campus," the letter reads. Holland said that at least two Pitt schools, medicine and dental medicine, lack "organized and representative" faculty governance organizations. Such schools, according to Holland's letter, "typically have demoralized and alienated faculty. Deans who make decisions without advice of a faculty group make decisions lacking in perceived legitimacy."

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 27 Issue 2

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