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May 11, 1995

Assembly objects to Pitt administration statement in medical benefit mailing

In a May 10 letter to University Senate President James Holland, Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor said he regretted a paragraph that appeared in a recent medical benefits mailing to faculty and staff.

But according to Holland, O'Connor's letter (which appears verbatim on this page, at the request of the Chancellor's office) does not satisfy a request by Faculty Assembly last week for a public correction from the administration "to the full community that received the original" mailing.

The two-sided, oversized mailing from Pitt's Human Resources office described O'Connor's decision to drop HealthAmerica, effective July 1, and make Blue Cross the sole provider of medical insurance for University employees.

O'Connor made the decision despite opposition from many employees, including members of faculty and staff governance organizations and the Medical Review Committee, a group of faculty, staff and administrators who advise the senior administration on benefits issues.

Under the headline, "Committee Input Paved the Way," the April mailing from Human Resources stated: "Several committees were assigned to the task of arriving at a solution that met the objectives set forth by the University. Committee members put in many long hours identifying possible solutions. 'As time went on, it became clear that the decision to discontinue the HealthAmerica plan was the most appropriate solution. Not only did it meet all of our objectives, it simply made sense,' stated Chancellor O'Connor." Faculty Assembly, at its May 2 meeting, instructed Holland to convey the Assembly's "outrage" at the statement and to demand a retraction.

In response, Holland wrote to O'Connor May 8, calling the "Committee Input Paved the Way" paragraph "a lie" and "an affront to the faculty and staff who worked hard on the Medical Review Committee, the Senate benefits and welfare committee, SAC [Staff Association Council], the Faculty Assembly, the majority of the Senate Council, the many faculty and staff who wrote letters supporting the retention of HealthAmerica, and the overwhelming number of faculty and staff who expressed their opinion on the benefits survey" conducted this spring by Human Resources.

All of those groups and individuals either favored keeping HealthAmerica or at least maintaining more than one medical insurer on campus, Holland noted.

According to the Senate president, the "Committee Input" paragraph "devalues" faculty and staff input and "leaves many of us infuriated, cynical and hostile." Holland's letter concluded: "I do insist that a public correction be made by the administration. This correction should be delivered to the full community that received the original — either by a mailing or by a prominent ad in the University Times. Please inform me quickly of your intentions in this matter." O'Connor wrote back to Holland on May 10. The Chancellor's office faxed a copy of the letter to the University Times for publication. After receiving the letter, Holland told the Times: "I appreciate the chancellor's response to me and anticipate that the administration will be issuing a formal correction to the full University community."

— Bruce Steele

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