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February 17, 2005

Senate Council Backs Food-Truck Vendors

Senate Council last week joined the bandwagon of groups trying to preserve the Oakland tradition of having food truck vendors nearby campus.
Six city-licensed vending trucks, which feature international foods, are expected to be displaced March 1 due to construction of a new park in the Schenley Plaza area between Hillman and Carnegie libraries.
In a $10 million project being overseen by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the plaza’s surface parking lot and its 278 parking spaces will be replaced by a public park. Traffic patterns will be reconfigured around the park, an area that will have about 100 on-street metered parking spaces. Construction is expected to last through 2005.
The new park will have two permanent food vendor kiosks, but no licensed areas for the food trucks, according to conservancy officials.
The city’s Parking Authority is against granting vending licenses to the food vendors in the new on-street metered parking spaces, citing “serious legal and permitting issues,” as well as the need to keep the reduced number of parking spaces open for public use.
Senate Council, a group of elected faculty and staff leaders, student leaders and members of Pitt’s senior administration, passed a resolution unanimously Feb. 7 urging the University to work with city departments to find suitable alternative spots for the food trucks both during and after the construction.
In introducing the resolution, Senate vice president Irene Frieze said that the food vendors provided inexpensive and excellent food and were a popular community resource.
“Faculty, staff, students and Oakland residents have given strong support to the vendors there and can often be seen waiting in long lines,” Frieze said. “While waiting in line and then eating food purchased at the trucks, these groups have often socialized, building community spirit.” The food trucks are a source of income for immigrant families in the Pittsburgh area, she added.
The Student Government Board and several graduate student organizations also have rallied in support of the vendors, Frieze said.
“The new park will be attractive and a nice entrance, but will remove a number of parking spaces and will be a particular problem during the construction period, so food trucks will have to be moved or taken away completely,” she said. “We would like to find a place they could be moved to in the area here.”
Speaking for Pitt’s administration, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said, “We agree that we support the resolution up to the extent that what it asks us to do is participate in the quest for a solution, that we would seek a solution, without guaranteeing that one will be found.”


In other Senate Council business:
• Two-time Senate president Nicholas Bircher announced he would not seek a third term out of deference “to an esteemed colleague.”
“Irene [Frieze] has expressed her desire to run for president and has asked me, and I have agreed, not to run against her,” Bircher said. This action should not be taken as dissatisfaction with holding the position, he added. “My experience as president has been a real joy.”
Frieze is nearing retirement age, Bircher noted, while he will have future opportunities to serve on the Council. “In the future, I’d be delighted to serve as long as the faculty wish me to do so, but for the moment, it’s Irene’s turn,” he said.
Nordenberg said, “I’d like to acknowledge this recent announcement by thanking Nick Bircher for all that he has contributed to the institution as the president of the University Senate and to say more personally that I have enjoyed our partnership and appreciated the fact that we were able to get a thing or two done together and I look forward to more of the same” during the remainder of Bircher’s term.
Senate officers (president, vice president and secretary) serve one-year terms beginning July 1. Senate bylaws permit an officer to hold an office for three consecutive years. The slate of faculty running this year for the officers’ positions has not been set.
• Bircher reported that two chairs of Senate standing committees had stepped down from their duties due to health concerns.
John Close, chair of the computer usage committee, temporarily will be replaced as chair by former committee co-chairs, Irene Frieze and Susan Sereika.
Thomas Metzger, chair of the educational policies committee, will be replaced as chair by EPC member Evelyn Talbot.
• Bircher said he is meeting Feb. 26 on the Bradford campus with the respective faculty leaders from Pitt’s regional campuses. He said that one agenda item is the issue of benchmarking regional faculty members’ salaries. (See Dec. 9 University Times.)
• Nathan Hershey, professor of health law, reported on plans for the March 23 spring plenary session. The topic is consumer satisfaction with UPMC, covering both the UPMC Health Plan and UPMC’s delivery of services.

Hershey invited the University community to send complaints or suggestions for improvement to him by e-mail (, by fax (412/624-3146) or by phone (412/624-3609). He said all correspondence will be kept confidential.
Hershey said that more information on the plenary session will be forthcoming in a University Senate Matters column.
—Peter Hart

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