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November 25, 1998


Changes urged in criteria for staff award

To the editor:

I wish to urge changes in the structure of the Chancellor's Awards for Staff Excellence, with either new criteria for the award or a second award based on different criteria. My complaint about the present award is that it is primarily for community service and specifically requires that staff members excel in activities outside of their regular job requirements. This seems to me to be unfair.

I say this because two of the chancellor's awards for faculty are given solely for performing one's duties as a professor with a high degree of excellence. A winner in research has to do outstanding research; a winner in teaching has to do outstanding teaching. These are what faculty are paid for. Yet, a staff person has to do something outside of the University to have a chance. I believe this sends the message that a faculty member's work for the University is valued for itself, while a staff member's contribution could not be possibly important enough by itself to deserve a chancellor's award. Is this what we want to say to our staff? I know that there is a faculty award based primarily on community service, but that is explicit in its title: Chancellor's Distinguished Award for Public Service. If an award for staff is to be of this nature, let this also be made clear in its title, so that faculty and staff do not waste their time on hopeless cases. But in addition, let's institute a new award, for those staff who perform at a level far beyond what would be expected for a high rating in the annual performance reviews. Such staff members may work 60-hour weeks, or be studying for a Pitt degree, or have heavy family responsibilities, which preclude an additional commitment to outside organizations. Yet without their hard work and creativity, faculty might not be able to accomplish what is necessary to win one of their chancellor's awards. I understand that when the staff award was established, it was felt that because there were so many staff members who performed their job extremely well, it was necessary to go beyond job performance in the criteria. I believe that this is a valid argument against giving any award, not only at this level but in any forum where prizes are presented, up to and including the Nobel Prize. But since the University has decided that on balance, such awards are a good thing, I think they should be made for the right reasons. Volunteer work is a worthwhile activity, but it is not why we, faculty or staff, are hired. We can recognize community service if we wish, but let us then also recognize outstanding staff members for their work within the University.

Stuart Hastings

Professor Mathematics

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