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November 10, 1994

Chancellor stresses contributions of Pitt staff

"Serving Your University" was the topic of Staff Association Council's (SAC) fall assembly on Oct. 31 and Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor wasted no time in acknowledging the many staff members who are involved in both University and community affairs.

O'Connor noted that more than 250 staff members volunteered their time and talents for United Way's Day of Caring on Sept. 1. He said that the Day of Caring is a direct way of supporting the public service mission of the University.

"These individuals represent you well and, indeed, what I think they represent is the staff's commitment to the University of Pittsburgh," O'Connor told the overflow crowd in the William Pitt Ballroom.

In addition, O'Connor said it also is obvious that the University's other two missions of teaching and research could not be carried out without the dedication of staff. "I said it before, I'll say it again," the chancellor said. "You're the glue that holds the mission together and really helps us to accomplish what it is that we want to accomplish." Pointing to the recently released long range plan for Pitt, Toward the 21st Century, O'Connor reiterated six governing principles that everyone who is part of the University community should aspire to. They include:

* Recognizing that the University is an educational institution with an overriding commitment to enhance the quality of education it offers.

* Affirming a commitment to the highest academic standards while advancing the University's primary missions of teaching, research and public service.

* Operating the University's educational enterprise with a minimum of bureaucracy, with rigorous compliance to the regulations of funding agencies and according to sound management principles.

* Thinking and acting with a sense of collegiality and pride in the University.

* Recognizing and valuing the human needs of students, faculty, staff and the communities served by Pitt.

* Acknowledging a responsibility to these principles.

O'Connor said that higher education is going to change in astonishing ways in the 21st century and going to be "very, very different than what we have known up to this date." He said Pitt is planning to stay apace of all the changes and welcome them.

"I think that the years ahead are going to be enormously exciting," O'Connor said. "And I think that they are also, at all levels throughout all organizations, going to be very anxiety-inducing.

"Recall the principles," he added, "because, I think, with those guiding us we will be in very good shape." Provost James Maher, Senior Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences Thomas Detre and Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Ben Tuchi also were featured speakers at the assembly. Maher noted that 40 percent of the staff reports to the Provost area and that all staff do jobs essential to the operation of the academic and research units of the University.

"In that sense we care just as much in the Provost office about the other 60 percent as the 40 percent that do report to us," he said. "We recognize that the staff are performing functions without which we could not run the University well." Maher agreed with O'Connor that higher education is going to undergo great change in the coming years. "In many ways we are better poised to address them than many, many other universities, but there is no way we can respond to these challenges well unless we all work together," he added.

Tuchi said the conditions under which the University "will attempt to grow will be a bit more severe than they were in the past. That of necessity requires that we work together more closely." In that context, Tuchi said that SAC's involvement in a number of formal activities and committees on campus has been extremely important and probably will be even more important in the future.

According to Tuchi, SAC's input was particularly important in the University's Planning and Budgeting Committee, on five task forces of that committee, five committees of the Board of Trustees and several Senate Council committees. He said input from staff played an important role in changing the University's transfer policy and starting the employee assistance program.

"I would like to urge your continued commitment to that process," he said, adding, "Without that involvement we simply cannot always get the views of the staff injected." In his remarks, Detre said that "competence, good judgment and stability in your office mates makes or breaks your career" and that during his 21 years at Pitt he was fortunate to have had the support of a wonderful staff.

Detre concluded by saying that he had good news and bad news for staff members in the Health Sciences. The good news was that there are no plans for staff changes in the Health Sciences. "Whether in the future that will become a necessity or not, I don't know," he said. "Because what is most important for all of us is to survive." The bad news, Detre said, "is that I've just deprived you of a wonderful opportunity to gossip."

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 27 Issue 6

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