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May 11, 1995


Coming to grips with the Oklahoma City tragedy

To the editor:

I have an abiding–perhaps even an ingenuous or unjustified–faith in the power of scholarship and of disciplined analytic thinking as instruments for problem-solving or at least for enabling us to understand the panoply of complex phenomena, systems, and problems confronting humankind. Oftentimes it's too much to ask or to hope for that all problems have solutions or answers, but certainly scholarly approaches to understanding should, minimally, provide amelioration (if not omniscience) or acceptable, replicative solutions. Driven and encouraged by this obeisance to rational discourse and investigation, through this letter I would like to urge the University's leaders–Board of Trustees, the chancellor, the provost, and the deans–along with our worker bees, the professoriate, to place their minds and hearts in the service of coming to grips with the tragedy gripping us all, the Oklahoma City bombing.

By "coming to grips with" I mean using the University's brainpower to probe this enigmatic incident, with the view of achieving a modicum of prevention strategies for the future. I realize, sadly, that this will be viewed by many as a soft-headed, irrelevant (for our mission as a university), and sentimental suggestion, but let me remind you (as indeed I have just reminded myself) that in the long run the university's client is society at large, the commonweal. The products of our thirst for knowledge via research and our dedication to disseminating knowledge in the classroom are ultimately judged in terms of how these noble endeavors, quoting from Pitt's letterhead credo, are instrumental for "Transforming the Present–Discovering the Future."

The most pressing national problem at the present time, now, today, is to understand the mindset of ideologically driven zealots whose ends are served through terrorism. This understanding, in turn, will pave the way for the discovery of a more stable and accommodating future in Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, and elsewhere in our nation and beyond. The University is a treasure trove of intellectual and problem-solving riches, among which the following are served up illustratively for an examination of the frustrating enigma characterizing the Oklahoma City tragedy.

* Philosophy:

ethics, religion, and the other towering questions that should shed light, at least conceptually, on the various systems delineating how people think, view the world, and seek to change it.

* Law:

The conflict between (a) more explicit monitoring of individuals or groups believed to be engaged in thinking about or planning to commit acts of terrorism and (b) the preservation of our liberties for expression guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, reinforcing John Locke's dictum that "The end of law is not to abolish or restrain but to preserve and enlarge freedom." (Actions should be punished, not beliefs.) * Political Science: What elements of government's organization and structure are especially offensive to trigger-happy zealots and how might these be modified, if at all, so that the zealots could live within this structure peaceably? * Sociology: Gangs, deviance, cults.

* Psychology and Psychiatry.

Abnormal behavior, motivation, and therapeutic interventions–both for the perpetrator as well as for his or her victims.

* Child Development and Social Work:

How to prepare children, their families and other caregivers, to recover from terroristic trauma experienced themselves and by their cohorts.

* Speech, Communication:

Analysis of the content of diaries or public messages by members of fringe groups; the role of talk show hosts in inciting or giving comfort to extremists; construction of "notification trees" for communicating the results of directions to the public, to the friends and families of victims, and to firefighters, rescue teams, and the police.

* Engineering:

The structure of buildings, and of parking garages. Traffic flows.

*Business and Management:

Managing or coordinating preventive strategies and recovery or managing (as a traffic cop) therapeutic measures.

To the question, "Why should anyone at Pitt get involved in this?" I would say, "Why not?" Besides, I'll wager that federal agencies and foundations, and maybe even the private sector will be tripping over themselves reaching into their pockets to fund studies revolving around the kinds of things suggested above. Until Wednesday, April 19, Oklahoma was best known for Will Rogers, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, and college football. Now, the state producing the likes of Garth Brooks, Woody Guthrie, Anita Hill and Mickey Mantle, will inevitably be associated with a defining moment in American history, like the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the great depression, Vietnam and the turbulent 60s, and the assassinations of John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Let's go for it!

Robert Perloff

Katz Graduate School of Business


Decision to eliminate HealthAmerica will be costly

To the editor:

How fitting that University officials are angry over Health-America's letter to subscribers. Now they might have some small idea of how many of us felt over the decision to eliminate a health care provider that many of us had chosen. The statement that HealthAmerica was "purposely deceitful" and "unethical" is somewhat hilarious considering that, unlike the University, HealthAmerica was responding to the expressed concerns of Pitt employees who, like myself, had contacted them for information on how we could retain our coverage. Although it would have been a financial hardship, I would have been willing to pay the full premium myself if Health America had agreed to cover me. In a letter I wrote to the chancellor following his announcement that HealthAmerica would be dropped, I expressed my feeling that we were all victims of deceit in the way this was handled by the University. We were led to believe that our opinions might even be considered in the decision-making process (faculty and staff groups voting and/or voicing opinions). "Officials" denied on several occasions that the Blue Cross monopoly was a "done deal" (funny how everything just fell into place so quickly after the formal announcement that HealthAmerica was dropped). The waste of time, effort and resources on a meaningless survey further deceived employees into believing they were actually part of the University.

The Blue Cross approach itself seemed somehow unethical and should have been illegal. Obviously, the Blue Cross deal was carried out to benefit UPMC. One question excluded from the useless survey should have asked how many faculty and staff would sign up for UHN. Not that we need to be concerned about unethical practices on the part of the University, of course, but has it dawned on anyone that there are many employees who, under no circumstances, want their medical, mental health or other personal records in their employer's computers and choose other options primarily for this reason? I have some serious chronic health problems and feel that I have greatly benefited from my HealthAmerica care. In two recent life-threatening emergencies in less than three months, I was confident and relaxed because HealthAmerica was right there providing the best possible care and follow-up. Although I know there are some very good doctors in the Blue Cross programs, for me it would mean starting all over again to build what I already have with Health-America. The University's "transition of care" plan is completely inappropriate for my needs, and even having to deal with it at this stage of my life and in my current state of health is stressful beyond comprehension.

I do recognize the need for the University to save money, but there are too many ways to accomplish this without jeopardizing the sense of well-being of its employees where their health care is concerned. This will prove to be extremely costly in the loss of employee trust, commitment, and motivation.

Nelle Payne

Learning Research and Development Center


Darlene Lewis, associate vice chancellor, Office of Human Resources, responds:

We recognize that change is difficult and that transition to Blue Cross is a medical and emotional issue. We are committed to assisting all HealthAmerica participants to effect a smooth transition to a Blue Cross plan. Our Employee Assistance Program (647-3327) also is prepared to assist individuals in coordinating their efforts. If Ms. Payne, or anyone else, feels the Transition of Care program will not meet their needs, I encourage them to call Ron Frisch, director of Compensation and Benefits, at 624-6289 or e-mail ( to discuss their concerns.


Budget planning in the Provost's Area

To the University community:

Budget planning for FY96 within the Provost's Area required each of the 18 academic units to submit a detailed five-year budget plan designed to implement their previously submitted long-range plan. In that budget plan, the individual units were required to pay a 2.5 percent "tax" for central reallocation and also to reallocate 2.5 percent of their current University budgets from areas of lesser to areas of higher priority. In addition, the units were asked to prepare a model showing what extra activities could be supported to advance their highest priority projects if they were awarded a share of the central pool of funds assembled via the "tax." This exercise was designed to demonstrate graphically the priorities of each unit by describing how the allocation of resources internally advanced the goals of the unit.

A similar exercise was conducted within my own office and within those administrative areas that are part of the Provost's Area. It is essential that we critically examine the efficiency and effectiveness of these administrative operations in order to assure that they are providing appropriate levels of support to the academic programs within the budgetary constraints that prevail throughout the University. Because of these budgetary constraints, the search for a vice provost for women's concerns has been terminated, despite the high quality of the applicants. The important issues that this position was designed to address will, instead, be vigorously pursued within the existing staff resources of my office. Vice Provost Baranger will assume primary responsibility for developing and implementing the agenda of women's concerns, with the participation of my entire staff. Some reassignment of existing responsibilities will be implemented in order to ensure that the women's concerns agenda is vigorously advanced within the Provost's Office. It is as essential for administrative units to establish priorities and to address those priorities within the limitation of existing resources as it is for the academic units to do so. The budget planning exercise occurred within the context of a level FY96 budget overall for the Provost's Area. As a result, resources could only be added to individual units if they were reallocated from other units. The necessity of limiting the allocation of resources to a zero-sum environment limited the ability to transfer significant resources for FY96. But, over a five year period, the results will become more impressive. In next year's budget process, units will have the opportunity to refine their definitions of priority and to present any new reallocation programs which they formulate in the coming months. They will also be required to demonstrate their achievements in implementing the reallocations to which they have committed themselves for FY96. Within the academic units of the Provost's Area, the 2.5 percent internal reallocations totaled nearly $4,500,000. This is the actual amount that individual units will reallocate from areas of lesser to areas of higher priority. By maintaining this initiative over the full five years of the planning period, the amount that will be internally reallocated will be $22,500,000, representing 12.5percent of the total current budgets of the units. In addition to these internal reallocations, I have reallocated between units a total of $1,770,000, representing an additional 1 percent of the total budgets of the academic units. Of the 18 academic units, four received budgetary enhancements, six received level budgets, and eight received reduced budgets for next year.

In summary, 3.5 percent of the budgets of the academic units–$6,270,000–will be reallocated on a permanent basis from areas of lesser to areas of higher priority. In addition, some fraction of the resources tentatively allocated for programmatic enhancements in the FY96 proposed budget will presumably be allocated to the Provost for additional enhancements of academic programs. The Provost's Reserve will also continue to allocate approximately $500,000 annually on a one-time basis to programmatic priorities within the academic programs. The result of these combined actions will be the reallocation of nearly $7,500,000, or 4 percent of the Provost's Area budget, in one year to advance the individual goals of the units and the general goals of the University. This is a significant accomplishment within a level budget.

In retrospect, the budgetary approach was highly successful. Units identified their priorities clearly since they had to specifically direct existing resources to their support. The internal reallocations that were achieved represent a significant part of the budgetary strategy that will be continued throughout the planning period.

James V. Maher



Thanks for the concern

To the editor:

I understand that a significant number of employees have expressed regret about Ms. [Darlene] Lewis terminating my employment at the University. I sincerely appreciate the concern shown for me, and I would like to thank the hundreds of employes who made my job so satisfying.

When I came to the University in 1991, I sensed that the institution was ready for positive change. I was pleased to be part of it. I met so many people hungry to make a difference. My job was easy and exciting because of the dedicated and caring individuals with whom I had the pleasure of working. I wish the best for Pitt and its people. Thanks. I had a great time.

Jerry Moore


(Editor's note: The following letter is in response to a letter to HealthAmerica participants from Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Darlene Lewis. Lewis's letter appeared in the April 27 University Times. At the Times's request, HealthAmerica officials verified the accuracy of the payment information in the following letter.)

To the editor:

I was shocked at the intemperate reaction of Darlene Lewis in response to the Health-America announcement that it could be an "out of network" provider for the three Blue Cross plans which partially cover out-of-network costs. I was also offended by her attempt to obfuscate the financial implications of the HealthAmerica plan.

Once Blue Cross's deductible is met, HealthAmerica will accept 80 percent of their fee as payment in full for all services given in the HealthAmerica centers so long as the services are covered in our contract with Blue Cross. (Regrettably, some of the preventive services Health-America has freely provided are not covered by Blue Cross). HealthAmerica's fees for covered services will not exceed the "usual, customary and reasonable" rates, and Blue Cross is obligated under contract to pay 80 percent of these fees. HealthAmerica has promised to waive the other 20 percent for current HealthAmerica participants. Occasionally other providers also forgive co-pays. The practice is perfectly proper. HealthAmerica, as a Blue Shield participating provider (yes, it is) will even bill Blue Shield directly in the case of our Comprehensive (Deductible) Plan.

The extreme outrage by the administration seems irrational. Any administrator or Mercer consultant who saw the final Blue Cross proposal knows that Blue Cross offered to pay for services provided by HealthAmerica. Blue Cross will be our only insurer, it will have the full "risk pool," including all those healthy HealthAmerica users. Blue Cross loses nothing. The University gets the full alleged savings. What, then, is the explanation for the administration's anger?

James G. Holland


University Senate and Member Medical Review Committee


Be a Sport:

Donate your used equipment To the University community:

Three years ago, City of Pittsburgh Councilman, Bob O'Connor established the "Be a Sport" Program by asking for donations of reusable sports equipment. The sports equipment is given to Pittsburgh's underprivileged children whose parents can't afford the type of equipment many others take for granted.

City of Pittsburgh Councilmen O'Connor and Alan Hertzberg are asking everyone in the Pittsburgh area to "Be a Sport" by donating any type of used or new sporting goods or equipment between May 17 and 19, 1995. Councilmen O'Connor and Hertzberg and former Steeler Franco Harris, who is the honorary spokesperson for the event, believe that many of our attics, basements and garages may contain unused, but usable, sporting good items. "All the equipment we collect will help us to provide our kids with a healthy outlet for their summertime energy, and that is an important step in keeping those kids safe," added Councilman Hertzberg. "We all have old bats, balls, racquets, clubs — you name it — that are collecting dust in our homes; and what we are doing is offering an easy way for our people to put these items to good use again." The University of Pittsburgh continues to be committed to the "Be a Sport" program and has designated drop-off locations from May 17-19 (noon) around the Oakland campus to accept donations of any type of usable sporting goods or equipment — bats, baseballs, softballs, helmets, mitts, racquets, golf clubs, tents, skis, footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, bicycles, scooters, etc. The designated University drop-off sites for donations are as follows: Placement of Hampers/Boxes B80 Benedum Reception, 124 Cathedral of Learning, M-240 Scaife Hall, Trees Hall lobby, William Pitt Union information desk, Forbes Quad Parking Office -1st floor lobby.

At the drop-off site you will receive a card to fill out to place your name in a drawing for four Pittsburgh Pirates tickets.

Once collected, the University will provide all donated items to Councilmen O'Connor and Hertzberg for distribution. "Be a Sport" is also sponsored by Mayor Tom Murphy, Citiparks Director Faith Gallo, Thrift Drug, Martin Media, TCI, PCTV and City of Pittsburgh Fire Fighters.

Please join us this year, as you did the last two years, in allowing the University of Pittsburgh to send an important message to the needy children in the City of Pittsburgh by being a sport.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call Margie Burke at 624-4247.

Bill Laird

University Controller

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