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January 23, 1997

Results of consultants' efficiency study expected to be released soon

Probably within the next several weeks, the University community will learn what a consulting firm had to say about the efficiency and effectiveness of Pitt's administration.

At the Board of Trustees' behest, the administration last summer hired Coopers & Lybrand Consulting to assess Pitt's business and administrative operations and suggest ways to improve services and cut costs.

After conducting one-on-one interviews with more than 100 Pitt personnel and poring over e-mail suggestions from others, Coopers & Lybrand submitted its findings to the administration last fall. Pitt trustees discussed the consultants' report at a closed-door retreat Nov. 23.

Asked at the Jan. 13 Senate Council meeting when the consultants' findings will be shared with the University community, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg replied: "I would expect that in the next several weeks, probably, something can be said [publicly] about their recommendations." In other Senate Council business:

* University Senate President Keith McDuffie said he has appointed an ad hoc group of professors, including representatives of relevant Senate committees, to work with the administration on a new early retirement incentive plan for faculty.

Last year, Provost's office staff and members of the Senate's benefits and welfare committee tried to collaborate on such a plan. But benefits and welfare members complained that they lacked sufficient input and were merely presented with a series of administration proposals to accept or reject. The ad hoc group's work should speed up progress on the new plan, McDuffie said. "I'm confident that we'll see some results during the coming term," he said.

* Next week, Pitt full-time and tenured part-time faculty should receive ballots through campus mail to elect representatives to the search committee for a new senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences.

Five faculty members will serve on the committee — two representing the medical school, two from the other Health Sciences schools and one representing Provost's area schools.

Feb. 7 will be the deadline for returning ballots to the Senate office.

* A panel discussion, "W(h)ither Employee Health Benefits at Pitt," will be the main agenda item at the spring meeting of the full University Senate, March 19 at 3 p.m. in the William Pitt Union Ballroom.

Panelists will include Mark Peterson, associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and a health policy expert; Ronald W. Frisch, Pitt associate vice chancellor for Human Resources; and C. Michael Blackwood, president of The Pilot Group, a health care consulting firm. Blackwood was formerly president and chief executive officer of HealthAmerica, Pennsylvania, Inc. He held that job in 1995 when Pitt dropped HealthAmerica in favor of an exclusive contract with Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania.

Nathan Hershey, Senate vice president and a health law professor in the Graduate School of Public Health, will moderate the discussion.

* University Senate President Keith McDuffie asked Chancellor Nordenberg whether the University Times will report to the new director of University Communications. Pitt's current Office of Communications (which now reports directly to the chancellor) and Department of University Relations (which reports to the Institutional Advancement vice chancellor) will be merged under the new administrator, whom Nordenberg hopes to hire later this month.

In response to McDuffie's question, Nordenberg said: "Well, I want to be careful what I say because that [the University Times's reporting status] has not been discussed by me with [Times editor] Nancy Brown or anyone else." But Nordenberg added that it "would seem not to make a great deal of sense" for the Times to continue reporting to the vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

In 1994, the Times began reporting to then-Vice Chancellor for Student and Public Affairs Leon Haley; the Times came under the public affairs area of his responsibility. But after Haley resigned last year, "public affairs" was dropped from the job's title. The Times continues to report to Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Robert Gallagher.

Senate Council member Richard Tobias urged Nordenberg to consult with the University Times advisory board before changing the Times's reporting status. The advisory board includes local professional journalists, the two most recent Senate presidents (Tobias and James Holland), the past president of the Staff Association Council and other representatives of the University community.

— Bruce Steele

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