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March 6, 1997

Trustees eliminate staff, faculty, student votes on its committees

Faculty, staff and students serving on Board of Trustees committees can no longer vote or attend members-only executive sessions, under a plan approved by the trustees Feb. 20.

Board chairperson J. Wray Connolly said the move "recognizes the need for continued faculty, staff and student input while underscoring the role of the chancellor as chief executive officer of the University." According to Connolly, the new arrangement will discourage University employees and students from pursuing policy changes directly through the Board of Trustees and thereby undermining the chancellor's authority.

University Senate President Keith McDuffie, Staff Association Council (SAC) President Brian Hart, and Graduate and Professional Student Association (GSPA) President Brian Ulery called the arrangement an acceptable compromise that will preserve direct communication lines between their constituents and trustees — assuming the board committees do not abuse the system by calling frequent executive sessions.

Such trustees-only sessions should be limited to discussions of sensitive issues such as compensation for individual Pitt employees, major property purchases and litigation involving the University, said Robert Dunkelman, secretary to the board.

The Senate, SAC and GPSA presidents said the loss of voting rights on board committees was of minor concern because: A), faculty, staff and students are outnumbered by trustees on the committees anyway and could easily be outvoted, and B), except in a few situations, trustees committees can't take action on their own. Rather, they make recommendations to the full board.

Student Government Board (SGB) President Justin DalMolin agreed that elimination of faculty, staff and student voting rights on trustees committees was no great loss. But he said SGB will continue lobbying to have one non-College of General Studies (CGS) undergraduate on each of the trustees' standing committees. Currently, each committee includes just one undergraduate or graduate student who represents three constituencies, in effect: graduate and professional students, so-called traditional undergraduates, and CGS evening students.

Most trustees committees had included faculty, staff and student members since 1992, when board leaders expanded membership on the committees in response to criticism that the board lacked input from Pitt constituencies other than the administration.

But the January 1996 University Review, written by a group of education consultants led by James Fisher, recommended that students and employees be removed from board committees to prevent those groups from making "end runs" around the chancellor's authority.

Last summer, the trustees appointed a two-member ad hoc committee to study alternative ways that faculty, staff and students could have input on board committees without being voting members. The two trustees, Jeffrey S. Blum and E. Jeanne Gleason, interviewed dozens of Pitt personnel and trustees during the summer and fall.

Their report, recommending a non-voting representative system, was a compromise between trustees and University community members who favored the status quo and those who wanted to kick faculty, staff and students off the board committees entirely.

SAC President Hart said, "What was unfortunate in this whole process was that the Board of Trustees appeared to be less than open with the University community by withholding public release of the ad hoc committee report until the day of the [Feb. 20] meeting. That was especially unfortunate because it left a perception that this was a secretive process, when in fact there were discussions for months between the ad hoc committee and faculty, staff and students." In other business at the Feb. 20 meeting, the board:

* Heard updates from Pitt senior administrators on affirmative action, enrollments and efforts to improve undergraduate education here. See stories on this page and page 4.

* Formally elected Carol A. Carter as vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement and Jerome Cochran as assistant chancellor. Carter began her duties as vice chancellor Jan. 21 and Cochran has been assistant chancellor since August 1995, but board approval is required to officially appoint new officers of the University.

The trustees approved annual salaries of $145,000 for Carter and Cochran.

* Elected two new, non-voting special trustees. They are Heinrich Bonnenberg, chief executive officer of Beteiligungs-Management-Gesellschaft Berlin in Germany, and C.C. Tung, vice chairperson of Orient Overseas International Ltd. in Hong Kong. Tung's term runs through the year 2000. Bonnenberg is filling a vacant term that runs through June. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said he expects Bonnenberg will agree to stand for re-election to a new four-year term at the board's June meeting.

Bonnenberg is a member of the board of visitors of Pitt's Center for International Studies. Tung chairs the Institute for Shipboard Education, which administers all non-academic aspects of the Semester at Sea program.

Board chairperson Connolly and Chancellor Nordenberg welcomed the addition of two "international" trustees. Connolly said: "If this board had one weakness, in my view, it's that it might have been a little too parochial" for such an international institution as Pitt.

* Named Pitt trustee Karen S. Fisher as a director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center System and the Presbyterian University Hospital for the 1996-99 class. Fisher is general counsel for Prospective Payment Assessment Commission, a Washington, D.C.-based federal advisory committee on Medicare payment policy. She chairs the Pitt trustees' health sciences committee.

* Named the Greensburg campus Common Facilities Building "Chambers Hall" after George F. Chambers, who retired Dec. 31, 1996, following 16 years as campus president. In making an exception to the general practice of not naming Pitt buildings after living persons, the trustees followed a recommendation by the Greensburg campus Advisory Board.

* Created three new quasi-endowment funds.

Income from the $10,000 Charles Crow Memorial Quasi-Endowed Fund will be used to buy books, equipment and audio-visual materials for the English department's Charles Crow Room. Crow earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from Pitt and taught here from 1931 until his retirement in 1973.

Income from the $10,000 Italian Room Committee Quasi-Endowed Fund will provide scholarships for Pitt graduate and/or undergraduate students to study in Italy. The Nationality Rooms Program will administer the fund.

Pharmacy school student and alumni activities will be supported by income from the $300,000 School of Pharmacy Quasi-Endowed Fund.

— Bruce Steele

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