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

November 20, 2003

Shared governance: Forum gives Pitt’s version high marks

Speakers at the Nov. 6 Senate plenary session (from left:) Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Provost James Maher, and former Senate presidents Nathan Hershey, James Holland and Gordon MacLeod

Speakers at the Nov. 6 Senate plenary session (from left:) Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Provost James Maher, and former Senate presidents Nathan Hershey, James Holland and Gordon MacLeod

In his remarks at the University Senate’s Nov. 6 plenary session, former Senate president Gordon MacLeod described a number of what he called “examples of the lack of shared governance” here. Among them were citations against Pitt during the last year for violations of animal laboratory sanitary policies set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Pitt’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC):

  • In November 2002, a Pitt research protocol continued past its approved end date.
  • Last December and again in January, Pitt was cited for cleaning and sanitation problems in the surgery area.
  • In January, Pitt’s primate facility in Plum Borough was cited for maintaining expired drugs, inadequate care of primates recovering from anesthesia, inadequate storage of primate food and unnecessary isolation of primates. In March, the same facility was again cited for expired drugs.

Following the Senate meeting, Pitt Vice Chancellor for Research Conduct and Compliance Randy Juhl said the violations, while taken seriously and subsequently remedied by Pitt, were “rather minor in the greater scope of things” and that at least one of the violations — continuation of a research protocol beyond its approved date, cited last November — was reported by Pitt itself.

The food storage violation had to do with a feed bag that was left open and oranges that a researcher inadvertently left to spoil in a refrigerator, Juhl said. The expired drugs found by USDA inspectors were not being used on animals but had mistakenly been left on lab shelves, according to the vice chancellor.

A USDA inspector also cited Pitt for maintaining primate cages too small to meet federal standards. “For the last year and a half, we have argued with the inspector over interpretations of the proper sizes for primate cages,” Juhl said. “We had a thoughtful consideration of the requirements, not only for the caging but also for what they call ‘enrichment activities’ for the animals, and we thought what we were doing was appropriate. The inspector read the regulations otherwise. We have since come to an agreement with the USDA, but nonetheless it gets put down on the inspection sheet as a case of us inadequately providing care for the primates.”

“If these had been scandalous issues,” Juhl said, “either the entire program would have been shut down or the primate lab would have been closed. The USDA can take those actions.”

The University has always passed its animal laboratory inspections, including twice-yearly IACUC inspections and ongoing, unannounced ones by the USDA, according to Juhl. “I liken it to handing in a term paper: You may get an ‘A’ but there are always going to be comments about things you could do better,” he said. “When you have more than 2,000 people engaged in [animal] research, you can expect to have some shortcomings on occasion.”

MacLeod said the primate lab violations were linked to shared governance because they might have been avoided if faculty had more influence over the lab’s day-to-day functions. But Juhl said he saw little if any connection.

“Frankly,” the vice chancellor said, “if there is any relationship here with shared governance, it is that I would have expected Gordon to have given me a call, or to have called the chair of the IACUC, and asked about these things before he bushwhacked the chancellor and the provost at a public meeting.”

—Bruce Steele                             


Filed under: Feature,Volume 36 Issue 7

Leave a Reply