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January 22, 2009

SAC president addresses staff layoff rumors

Staff Association Council (SAC) President Rich Colwell said that no staff layoffs are expected despite the bleak economic situation at the University and elsewhere. Pitt has been forced to take cost-cutting measures as a result of cutbacks in commonwealth funding. (See Jan. 8 University Times.)

“We have heard some rumors about layoffs. We have been told that units will have to absorb cutbacks, but not by cutting staff. I cannot guarantee what will happen in every unit. But I stress from everything I’ve heard from the upper administrators that I’ve talked to, the University of Pittsburgh has no plans for layoffs,” Colwell reported to SAC members Jan. 14.

This week, Robert Hill, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, said no University-wide layoffs are planned, but that does not preclude possible layoffs in individual units.

Colwell added that there were a few examples of Pitt staff who have been told that their positions have been moved from the Pitt payroll to the UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Physicians (UPP) payroll.

“I know of two people who contacted me who were Pitt staff that were forced to become UPMC/UPP employees or lose their positions. After discussing this further, I have discovered that UPMC has re-evaluated its staffing model and if the percentage of effort of a Pitt staff member is larger than 51 percent of UPMC/UPP duties, the decision was made that the funding for these positions should come directly from UPMC and not from Pitt,” Colwell told the University Times following the Jan. 14 meeting.

In other SAC news:

• Colwell said he would disseminate to SAC members the recently announced changes to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. (See related story, this issue.)

• Marissa Arlet, chair of the program and planning committee, reported that SAC volunteers made 60 adult-size blankets and 77 child-size blankets for a holiday gift drive benefiting the YWCA bridge housing program, which provides transitional housing for homeless women and children. (See Nov. 20 University Times.)

The committee will choose a different charity for next year’s holiday drive, but will continue making blankets, Arlet said. For information on supporting or participating in the blanket project, contact Arlet at or 412/383-2004.

Arlet also reported that the SAC spring assembly, featuring a marketplace on health and wellness, is set for April 8.

Pitt Kennywood Day tentatively is scheduled for Aug. 1, she said.

• Annabelle Clippinger reported on upcoming elections of the SAC officers, who will serve two-year terms beginning July 1. Nominations from SAC members will be open until the May 13 meeting, said Clippinger, who chairs the elections committee.

The newest group of nine SAC associate members, approved in January, will have completed their sixth-month non-voting period in time for the June elections and will be eligible to vote for officers, she said.

• As a recruiting tool for new SAC members, the council is encouraging non-member staff to attend its March 11 meeting and observe SAC’s discussion. For more information, contact the SAC office at 4-4236.

• Sherry Shrum, chair of the benefits committee, urged the University community to complete the online Pitt benefits survey, accessible on the Human Resources web site ( The deadline to complete the survey has been extended to Jan. 30. (See Jan. 8 University Times.)
In response to a question, Shrum said union members on Pitt’s payroll are eligible to complete the survey.

• SAC members praised the efforts of the University community to staff the annual Christmas Day at Pitt event, which included a Salvation Army-sponsored dinner for area homeless and needy. More than 100 volunteers hosted some 650 guests at the event, according to Steve Zupcic, Pitt Volunteer Pool coordinator.

• The Johnstown campus reported the results of elections of the UPJ Staff Activities and Concerns Association.

Beverly Walerysiak was re-elected president; Vicki Biter and Angela Boyd were elected co-chairs of the staff relations committee; Wanda Ferguson was elected chair of the student relations committee, and Joyce Radovanic was elected chair of the issues and concerns committee.

The UPJ association raised $250 to aid the family of a UPJ student whose family home was destroyed in a fire. The association also raised $354.27 to aid the Salvation Army in December.

—Peter Hart

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