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April 13, 1995


Out of the mouths of…

To the editor:

On returning home after the HealthAmerica meeting Wednesday (March 30, 1995, University Senate meeting) at GSPH, and another three hours in the lab, my wife asked me how it went.

"I guess we've lost HealthAmerica," I replied.

"What does that mean?" my 12-year-old daughter Amanda asked.

"It means you won't be able to see Dr. Brostoff any more." (Her pediatrician since she was 3 years old).

"And who decided that?" I told her.

And then I found that my daughter knew an expression I didn't know she knew.

John Hempel


Another example of mismanagement

To the editor:

The dust has not yet completely settled since the chancellor's extraordinary action in completely disregarding a faculty and staff vote that his administration had approved and administered. Indeed, the chancellor's action has ruffled more feathers than any administration action in many a year–causing adverse editorial reaction in the local newspaper, faculty and staff response that at best is called angry, and the resignation from all Senate related activities of Professor Richard Tobias, a man of great integrity and a strong sense of the comic nature of things.

(Editor's note: After Chancellor O'Connor announced his resignation, Tobias rescinded his own resignation.)

Before I say more, let me say first that I am a fairly disinterested observer of the administration's behavior. My wife and I are members of Select Blue and are quite happy with the service we get. I really don't care one way or another what health plans other people have–though I do care how employees are treated. Moreover, I will be out of here on Dec. 31, so I don't care what happens between faculty and administration after Jan. 1.

Over the last several months I have listened to forked tongue administrators talking about and saying things that cannot be believed. The University Medical System, we are told, will soon be the lowest cost health provider in the area. This 180 degree change from being the acknowledged highest cost provider will occur because of — and you saw it all in the newspaper the same week as the Administration's rejection of the faculty/staff vote — the dismissal of 400 staff members at the hospital. First Western Psych, now UPMC. I would not be surprised to see over the next year a slimming and trimming and decimating of the hospital and University staffs, and the subsequent hiring of lesser qualified personnel, if any are hired at all.

When I looked into the clouded future several months ago, I saw massive commitments to medical facilities and high cost procedures at the same time that I saw the drying up of funds. I saw the coming disaster in the medical area as a danger for the rest of the University. Surely, the tail was wagging the dog. The chancellor said it in his letter of March 27: "By endorsing Blue Cross, we are supporting the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center." Of course we are, but do we have any say in that support? In effect, rights are being taken away from staff and faculty, deceptive and demoralizing tactics are being used to support a project in which we have no say, and faith in process is dramatically undermined. That is not smart. It's just another example of mismanagement. I know people who get fired for less.

The April 7 Post-Gazette has a front-page article about the PR problem of how the University is perceived — and the implications for future fund raising, and the need to change the perception of the University, particularly on the local scene. Let me be blunt: There is nothing wrong with the reality of the University on the level of faculty and staff. This University is responsible for the education of most of the professional infrastructure of southwestern Pennsylvania; it is an important economic factor in this area; it is an important part of the cultural, intellectual and social life of this area. We are a fact of life here, an important fact of life, generally, a positive fact of life. But we are the faculty and staff. And the problem is an administration that has to call in an outsider to ask what is wrong. Why not ask those who are here, who know intimately every wart and wrinkle on the faces that are so rarely seen? And which now may soon be seen no more.

Well, the administration may say, we are the leaders, and we often have to do things that are distasteful to the followers. Oh? You are the leaders? Then lead. Do something that shows intelligence and imagination, not just the ability to read — or misread — a balance sheet. The chancellor can still save his reputation. He can begin by forgetting that he is a lame duck official; let him adopt the policy that he will commit no action that will hurt anyone until he has shown that he is part of the curative process. He should then announce an immediate, across the board reduction of 25 percent of the amount above $100,000 of the salaries of all University administrators or UPMC personnel earning above $100,000–effective July 1995, with a promise that a similar cut will occur next year, should it become necessary to start messing with the budgets of departments and programs in other parts of the University. That's a leader this faculty–any faculty–would be proud to call a leader.

Myron Taube


Department of English

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