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October 24, 1996


More on the letters critical of Koehler

To the editor:

I am writing in response to the negative letters about Dean Peter Koehler in the last two issues (Sept. 26 and Oct. 10) of the University Times. It happens that, as a simple faculty member, I have found Dean Koehler to be understanding, responsive, constructive and helpful.

But my letter concerns something else, namely, the nature and tone of the letters. In my view, they represent a level of incivility that should be deplored in a university community. They serve no useful purpose, since they express things that surely were already said in the evaluation process. They are unfair because of tone (of the first letter) and because they are all written as the dean is departing. They set a terrible example for our students, and suggest that the university has abandoned reasoned, useful, even forceful, correction and debate in favor of detraction and anger, and in public, as a basis for our collaboration. A wise man wrote long ago that speech should be used only for the benefit of others, and never for their harm. Have we been so "deconstructed" that we have forgotten the idea of civilization that we profess and teach?

Clare Godt

Associate Professor Italian

(Editor's note: Dean Koehler announced in August that he would step down from the FAS dean's position in 1998 to become a full-time tenured professor in physics and astronomy.)


To the editor:

The mixed comments of Dean Koehler's performance as dean of FAS were not surprising. Probably no dean has ever met universal approval or disapproval. What was surprising, however, was some of the reasons offered in criticism of Peter Koehler. A look at Professor Grünbaum's letter to the editor (University Times, Sept. 26, 1996) makes the case.

If I follow him correctly, Professor Grünbaum favors incentives to faculty on the basis of academic merit rather than market forces. I agree. But instead of explaining his position, he turns the argument into a personal matter, suggesting that he has not been recognized adequately by Dean Koehler. This is not unusual–no colleague at Pitt or elsewhere has ever told me in the last 20 years that s/he has been recognized sufficiently. Then Professor Grünbaum turns to the market argument hinting that he could go to another school and get a higher salary, which, we are led to believe, means that his academic merit is appreciated more elsewhere. Here he abandons the distinction between market forces and academic merit and concedes that the market determines the value of academic merit. Then Professor Grünbaum turns to his sense of moral obligation as grounds for additional compensation. The problem here is that morality and money are not a happy mix–when brought together, the one generally suffers in the hands of the other. Last, Professor Grünbaum suggests that because he was the primary cause of a gift to the Center for Philosophy of Science from his former student, he ought to be rewarded more handsomely. In effect, Professor Grünbaum's argument says: Whether the grounds of reward be academic merit, market forces, moral obligation, or procurement of gifts, I should be paid more money.

Although sympathetic to Professor Grünbaum's predicament, I fail to see the connection between it and Peter Koehler's performance as dean of FAS. Professor Grünbaum seems to be saying Peter Koehler is a bad dean because 1) he favors market forces over academic merit; 2) he does not recognize me the way I believe I ought to be recognized; 3) he has not compensated me the way I would be compensated elsewhere; 4) he has not shown adequate material appreciation of my sense of moral obligation and loyalty to Pitt; and 5) he has not rewarded my role in securing a gift for the Center for Philosophy of Science.

Insofar as Professor Grünbaum's criticism seeks to provide a balanced appraisal of Dean Koehler's performance, it serves a useful function, but insofar as it is partial and personal, it loses much of its weight. A sound judgment of this or any other dean's performance cannot be founded on incomplete information–Professor Grünbaum has several stories but neither he nor anyone else knows the whole picture. Nor can it be founded on any one's impressions of Peter Koehler–if Professor Grünbaum's impressions are mostly negative, that does not make Peter Koehler a bad dean. Nor, finally, can it be founded on the effects the dean's decisions may have had on a faculty member–if some of the dean's decisions have affected Professor Grünbaum adversely, the inference that Dean Koehler is a bad dean cannot be made. According to Professor Grünbaum, former Dean Rosenberg was more efficient, more willing to delegate, and a believer in academic merit over market forces. Even if we grant these claims, the conclusion is ill-conceived given that the conditions, circumstances and issues each dean had to face are not identical.

I do not know Professor Grünbaum and I have only heard words of praise about him. I have had only few encounters with Dean Koehler but my impressions of him, the impact of his decisions on me, or what I like and dislike about the man hardly suffice to pass a sound judgment on him as dean of FAS.

Now Peter Koehler is on his way out of administration and into the classroom and study. Yet Professor Grünbaum will not leave it at that. He doubts the dean's intentions to catch up with his field. The arguments he proffers suggest that the dean has been away from his field for too long and he is too old to undertake such an ambitious project. But if Peter Koehler wishes to catch up with developments in his field, why not grant his wish? Whether he can indeed catch up, who is to say? And if he starts his catching up at the age of 61, so what?

John Poulakos

Associate Professor

Department of Communication


Adolf Grünbaum, A.W. Mellon Professor of Philosophy, responds:

John Poulakos gives his imagination free reign to concoct a tissue of claims that I never made or suggested in my letter "Koehler's performance doesn't justify expansion of authority" (University Times, Sept. 26, 1996, pp. 3-4): 1. Nothing I wrote or implied warrants Poulakos's repeatedly stated canard that salary-dissatisfaction on my part was at issue, when "I asked Koehler for credible reassurance that, upon receipt of the gift [of at least $1 million], my salary thereafter would be merit-based, rather than market-driven." Instead, the point of such reassurance was that, once I had made a lifetime commitment to Pitt because of the gift, Koehler's market-driven policy, which is based on outside offers, would allow him to take unfair advantage of my ensuing immobility.

2. Poulakos perversely twists that situation into an array of figments of his own imagination: (a) I was purportedly "hinting" that I could receive more salary elsewhere, (b) I "led [my readers] to believe" that my "academic merit is appreciated more elsewhere." (c) I have conceded that "the market determines the value of academic merit," as if this putative concession would undermine my advocacy of a merit-based salary policy that "allows for the retention of intrinsically meritorious faculty by meeting competing offers." 3. Poulakos accuses me of having invoked "my sense of moral obligation [to stay at Pitt after the University's receipt of a gift donated in my honor] as grounds for additional compensation." As shown by my letter, I did nothing of the kind.

4. Astonishingly, Poulakos overlooked my explicitly stated purpose in relating the episode involving the gift: To point out that Koehler unconscionably and rudely walked away from a problem generated by his own policy, and that, in so doing, "he was [knowingly] jeopardizing a major gift to the University." No wonder that, in a separate paragraph, Poulakos then constructs five canards as his basis for saying that he fails "to see the connection" between my "predicament" and "Peter Koehler's performance as dean of FAS." 5. Poulakos opines that "neither he [Grünbaum] nor anyone else knows the whole picture" required to make an overall evaluation of Koehler's performance as dean (italics added). But this wholesale agnosticism has the absurd consequence that neither the provost nor the chancellor can ever appraise the merits of their deans, although it is their duty to do just that!


Bigelow test a success, but some changes are needed

To the editor:

There's little doubt about the success of the trial closing of Bigelow Boulevard from the University's point of view (see Oct. 10, 1996, University Times, page 6). Not only has it been safer to cross to and from the Cathedral of Learning, but we've discovered the high potential use of that street-space for cultural events.

However, for two businesses on Bouquet Street, the changes accompanying the 30-day trial have resulted in substantial loss of daily business. I am told by the owner of Oakland Typewriter & Office Supply that the loss of parking in front of the store (by creating a third traffic lane) has also meant the need to rent a warehouse for the non-store side (about 90 percent) of their business. The Original Hot Dog Shop has worked around the loss of parking for delivery vehicles on their side of Bouquet (by using Forbes Avenue and some trucks have blocked a lane of traffic to unload).

Both businesses have found the loss of parking on Bouquet Street has not been relieved by the new parking lot (corner of Bouquet and Fifth). It appears the parking meters have been found inexpensive for day-long parkers, and stop-and-shop customers have been blocked out. The city hasn't been overly responsive to the needs of Oakland business owners in this experiment. Perhaps the University's Office of Parking and Transportation might "go to bat" for the Oakland community in supporting more "friendly" arrangements should Bigelow Boulevard be permanently closed to traffic. Apparently traffic increases during the 30-day trial have not warranted the use of three lanes on Bouquet Street.

Suggested changes in the event the city approves the street closing might include: 1) restoration of parking on the Oakland Typewriter & Office Supply side of Bouquet, 2) restoring parking across the street from the Law School building, and 3) increasing the cost of metered parking in the new University parking lot (Bouquet & Fifth) to eliminate day-long parking.

Jonathan R. Seaver

Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Student

Administrative and Policy Studies School of Education

P.S. I worked for the Original Hot Dog Shop when I first started my Ph.D. program (from October 1993 to May 1994), and I recently interviewed these business owners to "see" their side of the issue.


Call or write to get Bigelow block closed permanently

To members of the University community:

As you are aware, the test closure of Bigelow Boulevard has come to an end. To comply with the city ordinance, we reopened the street on the evening of Oct. 15, 1996. Our initial assessment is that the test has been successful and our mitigation measures resulted in an efficient measurement of traffic control in central Oakland. As we move into the next phase, it is critical that city officials understand our desire to make this closure permanent in order to unite our campus. It is important that we send letters and call the City of Pittsburgh's leadership to express our position. It would be very beneficial to the University if staff, faculty, students, Oakland residents and the University business community, etc. would send correspondence and call in favor of the closure to both the Department of City Planning and the City of Pittsburgh council members at the addresses and phone numbers listed here. It is your support that will help the University gain a permanent closure of Bigelow Boulevard.

I want to thank the University community for their support for this project. Please contact us at 624-3420 or through email at if we can provide any additional information.

Letters and calls supporting the closing should be directed to:

Department of City Planning 200 Ross Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219 A

ttn: Leslie Kaplan Phone : 255-8996 City Council 510 City County Building 414 Grant Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Council members Jim Ferlo 255-2140 Dan Cohen 255-2130

* Joe Cusick 255-2131 Alan Hertzberg 255-8963 Valerie McDonald 255-2137 Bob O'Connor 255-8965

* Dan Onorato 255-2135 Gene Ricciardi 255-2130* Sala Udin 255-2134*

* Represents Oakland Bob Harkins Director Department of Parking and Transportation


Part-timers need contracts without contingency clauses

To the editor:

I would like to comment on Lewis Popper's letter in the Sept. 26 issue.

First, the editor's note refers to "the Pitt administration's successful challenge of seven part-time faculty members' applications for unemployment compensation this summer." Pitt did not successfully challenge all seven cases which it brought. It was defeated in my case. With legal advice paid for, in part, by the United Faculty and the support of Mark Ginsburg (president, United Faculty), I convinced the referee that I was eligible for unemployment compensation from the end of the spring term until I was offered a position to teach in the fall.

Second, I was pleased to note that Mr. Popper stated that the hearing this summer "…also reminded us to ensure earlier and clearer departmental communications to part-time faculty about reassignments, which is a worthy step in enhancing their professional circumstances." I'm not sure, however, what this means.

When part-time faculty members in the English department are currently offered courses to teach, they receive letters which read, "This assignment is contingent upon sufficient enrollment and upon possible changes in full-time and teaching-assistant assignments." Is Mr. Popper merely suggesting that we receive letters with contingency clauses earlier than we are currently receiving them? Last December, courses that were scheduled to begin in January were pulled from eight part-time faculty members in the English department who had had letters with contingency clauses in their possession for months. In 1993, after having a letter with a contingency clause in my possession for months, I had a course taken away from me 10 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Ten minutes. Experiences such as these do not encourage faculty members to take the courses that they are offered to teach seriously. Without bona fide contracts (contracts without contingency clauses which offer faculty members courses for more than just one semester), the administration cannot claim that it is doing everything in its power to provide undergraduates with a good education.

Pat Harrington Wysor

Part-time Instructor

Department of English and Vice President for Part-time Faculty United Faculty

Editor's note: in the Sept. 26 University Times, General Counsel Lewis Popper explained the administration's reasons for challenging part-time faculty members' unemployment claims.


The problem with salary incentives

To the editor:

If I were a major academic officer of an institution of higher learning and was offered an incentive bonus to improve my performance, I would like to think that I would be put off by it. Having a handsome stipend that will take care of my family's needs and permit me to set aside money for retirement would, I would think, be enough.

The implication in offering me an incentive bonus is that I might not do my very best without such an incentive. That could be construed as offensive (even if offense was not intended which is surely the case).

An employee in a non-profit institution should expect a reasonable economic underpinning which most people see as essential in order to live well, i.e., happily. But non-profit institutions should be ones in which people are motivated primarily by their contributions to the public interest. Governmental and educational institutions have a very strong influence on the public interest. Both are not businesses and should not be run as businesses because everything a business does, even John Kenneth Galbraith to the contrary notwithstanding, is ordered directly or indirectly to the bottom line of profit. Contributions made by businesses to non-profit organizations are seen by them as a kind of "civic rent" that they pay and their fringe benefits to employees are viewed as expendable if they can remove them and remain competitive in the labor market as recent history has so amply demonstrated.

There are institutions of higher learning in which the chief executive officer, the president or what have you, exercises little or no academic authority (mostly, I gather in the Southwest but also here and there elsewhere). Indeed the college I attended in Annapolis, Maryland, is one of them, St. John's College. Almost all academic authority is vested in an all-powerful Instruction Committee composed of rotating senior faculty and chaired by the only dean in the whole school. Some case may be made for the heads of such institutions to think as much of financial rewards as of educational service, though that is surely not the case at St. John's.

The best universities, however, continue to invest their heads with vast academic power: to choose deans (occasionally outside the recommendation of a search committee), to deny tenure to someone the faculty supports and vice versa, to be a primary influence in the allocation of finances within the institution, to have a large discretionary fund, and, above all, to provide educational leadership. These are not business functions.

One might also argue that the criteria set up to judge progress cannot all be quantified. Financial support, fund raising ostensibly can, but surely as important as the amount raised is what the donor wants it used for. And the donor's wishes may not dovetail with the setting of the educational priorities by the institution's educational officers. The primary obligation of an educational institution, on the undergraduate level at least, is to give the students what they need and not necessarily what they want. SAT scores are some help in determining the quality of undergraduate teaching but not always: seeds planted by a teacher may bloom after graduation. Community service also involves unmeasurable intangibles. Quality research cannot always be identified since often what is "well received" one year is sometimes forgotten the next and vice versa. Savings in staff expenditures also can be achieved at the expense of quality and reliability.

Despite these doubts there is not all that much ambiguity about standards. On the contrary, the word gets around very fast as Robert Maynard Hutchins demonstrated at the University of Chicago, that a university is drawing talented teachers, administrators and students because in some mysterious way a yeasty atmosphere has been generated, wherein ideas are taken seriously. We certainly are obliged to do our very best to help our leader in every way possible to work towards that goal. Self-selected individuals are drawn to such a place as bees are to honey. Such places can be generated in spite of financial incentives. But they can never be generated because of such incentives since working as an educator is a vocation, not a job.

Alas, one tires of arguing for the self-evident.

Robert Hazo


American Experience Program


A student's view on how to improve Pitt's undergraduate education

To the editor:

I would like to add my own changes to the list of improvements Professor Greenwald has proposed (University Times letters, Oct. 12, 1996). First, I do agree with Professor Greenwald's opinion that writing should be more of a part of the undergraduate experience at the University. But, it must begin before the students arrive. As a freshman, I had no idea how to write an essay. So, I think the curriculum in high school should be modified by putting more emphasis on writing skills. Second, I feel that the aims of the University should also be addressed. What kind of students does the University want to create or to nurture? Does the University want academics? Then it only makes sense that the courses reflect this. There should be more research oriented courses for students as a part of the standard major. In contrast, if the University wants students who will use a bachelor's degree in French to sell insurance or be a manager at a clothing store, then I think the University should put more emphasis on the more practical College of General Studies where one can pursue skills instead of theory. Public opinion of Pitt may improve since graduates would no longer speak negatively of the thousands of dollars spent only to graduate and work at The Gap, if the students learned skills instead of theory in the first place. Third, since Professor Greenwald brought up the suggestion of an overhaul of the food served in the dining halls in an effort to get students to eat better, why not add a mandatory exercise program to any bachelor's degree? Exercise, I have been told, will help to combat both stress and obesity. Due to the tremendous bureaucracy that has been deemed necessary to run the University, there is a horrible lack of communication between departments. I am spending an extra year here since I discovered only last spring that there are indeed prerequisites for the School of Education. It is the same bureaucracy that will not listen to students' pleas for change. Course evaluations are only given AFTER a course has been taken. The damage has already been done. What use is it to the student or the instructor at the end of the term? Evaluations only compare one course to another. If all of the courses are bad the evaluations will not reflect this. The University has such a poor public image in this area due to one reason or another. One way it can change this would be to make the students' work worthwhile by changing the undergraduate experience. Proud and competent graduates will certainly help this process along.

Maureen Doloughty

History, French and Western European Studies Class of 1997

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