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April 2, 2009

University Senate presidential candidates on the issues

This year’s election for the University Senate presidency matches Michael R. Pinsky of the School of Medicine against Wesley M. Rohrer of the Graduate School of Public Health.

Pinsky is professor of critical care medicine, bioengineering, translational and clinical research, cardiovascular diseases and anesthesiology; Rohrer is assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

The Senate elections are expected to be conducted via electronic balloting April 13-24. Short bios of the candidates’ academic and service-oriented experience, as well as position statements, will be posted online along with the ballots.

Last week, the presidential candidates responded in writing to questions posed by University Times staff writer Peter Hart.

Candidates were asked to limit each response to approximately 250 words.


What have you accomplished as a member of the University Senate? What issues will you focus on as president?

PINSKY: In my role as vice president of the University Senate and chair of the ad hoc Fitness for Life committee and member of the benefits and welfare committee I have been promoting faculty rights and transparency in administrative practices and striving to improve the overall effectiveness of the workplace so as to allow faculty the opportunity to realize their potential as academicians.

These initiatives include: 1) leading a University-wide coordination program to develop an effective Fitness for Life benefits program for all faculty and staff, coordinating the Pitt Benefits office and the UPMC Health Plan, which continues to result in improvements in the health care and wellness programs; 2) creating a University-wide faculty distribution email information system for Senate communication, including our monthly Senate newsletter and electronic voting; 3) creating a structure by which community service initiatives within the University can be used for academic credit by defining the academic principles inherent in scholarly community service activities; 4) re-populating the Faculty Assembly representative distribution to match proportional faculty numbers by increasing School of Medicine representation from three to nine members; 5) addressing overly restrictive interpretation of Institutional Review Board policies on conducting University-wide human research, and 6) defining job security for School of Medicine non-tenure stream faculty when new definitions of faculty status were announced.

ROHRER: During the past 25 years I have served as an active member on two Senate committees, plant utilization and planning (PUP) and athletics, and am currently co-chairing the community relations committee (CRC). During the 1990s the PUP committee worked with the University administration to develop an earlier iteration of the University’s master plan. One of the faculty priorities expressed in that plan was to preserve and enhance green space development on campus, a value that eventually was realized in the Schenley Plaza project.

As a member and later co-chair of the community relations committee, I participated in the planning and implementation of two Senate plenaries addressing the role of civic engagement, community service and service learning in the tripartite mission of the University. I coordinated the fall 2008 plenary on the Quality of Life in Oakland with my co-chair, Ed Galloway.

As Senate president I expect to give due priority to the University’s relationships with its community constituencies and neighbors.

As co-chair of CRC one of my goals for 2009-10 is to encourage closer relationships with our sister institutions of higher education. I would as president encourage communication among the faculty governance bodies of our sister institutions. The Oakland Vision 2020 planning initiative suggested by [City] Councilman [Bill] Peduto might provide a suitable focus for such discussions.

Another priority would be the concerns that have been raised about alleged violations of academic integrity. This phenomenon should be of sufficient concern to encourage a focused inquiry among administrators, faculty and students resulting in recommendations for action.

I also would accord special priority to an examination of the status and contributions of the non-tenure stream faculty.

What is the impact of diminishing and uncertain commonwealth support for Pitt? How should the University respond?

PINSKY: The University is a community bound together by a bond of academic excellence that can only be realized if the faculty are supported and know they have a role in the serious decision-making that may come. I know that previous presidential candidates have touted their desire to increase faculty pay by benchmarking salaries to other universities. All of these promises and efforts have come to naught because the leadership misunderstood the University’s economic realities.

With the reduction in state support this year and almost assuredly a further reduction next year, we face the real problem of either accepting salary reduction or decreased numbers of faculty. We have already been notified about a freeze in salaries as an initial effort and I agree with this first step. Other institutions have had faculty vote for voluntary small reductions in salary so as to prevent firings. It is my strong belief that any across-the-board or school-selective decision regarding changes in faculty compensation based on these new and transient economic realities should be made through direct and open discussions with the faculty themselves, either through the University Senate or, if on a school level, the entire school faculty. These rough economic times are likely to resolve in less than two years and we must be careful to ensure the trust of the faculty with the administration so as not to poison the well once recovery is realized.

ROHRER: Unfortunately, the current economic crisis threatens to dominate the agenda not only for the University but all other sectors of our society, especially if the recession extends beyond 2009. The financial crisis presents obvious challenges to financial management and budgeting, institutional development, enrollment management, and program management and quality assurance at the University, school and department levels. The challenge to find creative ways to do more with less may be an inevitable consequence.

In my view our University leadership has continued to make a clear and compelling case to the commonwealth for a more equitable share of tax-based revenues for the University considering the high added value it provides to the commonwealth and the nation by educating graduates well-prepared for the job market, producing the benefits of basic and applied research, serving along with UPMC as a major employer in the commonwealth and generating economic benefits throughout the region. Working with leadership of the other state-related universities, we should continue to express our dissatisfaction with the illogic and inequity of the exclusion of students at our state-related institutions from the governor’s [proposed] tuition relief program. Finally, I urge that we use the Senate more effectively as a forum for developing strategic approaches for the faculty and student leadership to advocate collectively to preserve and to enhance commonwealth support for the University.

With tuition continuing to rise, is Pitt pricing itself out of the range of many qualified students? What can be done about rising tuition?

PINSKY: The rising cost of tuition is a national phenomenon and the probability is that tuition rates will continue to rise into the future. I have three children now in or about to enter college life, so these increased tuition costs are quite tangible to me. Hopefully, these tuition increases will be lessened to match inflation and be offset by a return of the stock market so that the Pitt endowment can continue to grow.

There are two realities that need to be stated. First, Pitt is essentially a private university to which only a small amount of public funds are given to promote state-wide educational initiatives. We have a primary responsibility to recruit only the very best of the applicant pool and when accepted find a way to allow them to pay for their college education. There are many other local and state universities and colleges with much lower tuitions available for those wanting a college education.

Furthermore, deserving students with academic merit are eligible for municipal, state and University scholarships. Thus, limiting applicants to receive higher education in Pennsylvania based on lack of money is not really an issue either unique to the University or the state. I support the use of a combination of merit-based scholarships and student loans to cover the cost of a college education. Hopefully, as our endowment grows following the end of the recession, the University will have additional funds to cover increased merit-based scholarships.

ROHRER: The steady increase in tuition levels at the University over the past decade (more than doubling since 1997-98) and the differential for out-of-state residents are significant concerns in spite of a consensus that Pitt continues to be a fine long-term investment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some programs have been unable to compete for the “best and brightest” applicants who otherwise are attracted to the University and our programs but cannot afford the tuition premium faced by non-resident students. This challenge is intimately linked to the commonwealth funding issue since it’s unreasonable to suggest that incremental belt tightening will alone sustain our fiscal balancing act.

However, I would be strongly opposed to cuts in staffing or extended freezes of faculty and staff salaries as a strategy for offsetting tuition increases since this will ultimately threaten the quality of programs and productivity. Although individual schools and programs should consider the likely effects on enrollment and budgets of reducing the out-of-state differential, I believe that this issue is of sufficient importance that a University-level study and broad discussion of the implications of the out-of-state tuition differential should be a major priority for 2009-2010.

Does the salary freeze for fiscal year 2010 have a negative effect on faculty recruitment/retention and on staff retention? To what degree are unfilled vacancies affecting Pitt’s academic mission?

PINSKY: The salary freeze for fiscal year 2010 must be creating some financial hardship for the faculty and staff, but it is not occurring in isolation. All of America is in a recession. The unemployment rate is higher now than it was for the past 60 years. People with jobs know that finding another one of equal or better pay and benefits is lower now than before. I have worked directly with the Nordenberg administration for several years and believe they are both effective and dedicated to the survival and growth of the University as a world-class institution. I also believe that our faculty are smarter than to see a salary freeze as a reason to leave because they understand the economic realities.

However, there must be open discussion amongst faculty and administration as to any further reductions in compensation or reductions in force. These discussions need to be proactive, collegial and realistic. The unfilled faculty positions must reflect an increased workload and stress on the remaining faculty. However, it is out of adversity that the best of America has come. I have a strong belief that our faculty have this strength and ability to come together to weather this severe but passing economic downturn.

ROHRER: It is too soon to predict the effects of the salary freeze for the year ahead. Under the circumstances, I believe that the freeze is a prudent and reasonable response to harsh macroeconomic realities that face not only Pittsburgh but most universities and colleges today. I’m confident that most of us in the University community understand the severity of these economic challenges and are fully committed to maintaining the standards of excellence that have characterized the University overall and its exceptional, internationally recognized academic programs, scholarship and research over the past several decades. However, the prolongation of a salary freeze and/or initiation of significant cuts in faculty and/or academic support positions beyond 2009-10 would be ill-advised and counterproductive. I urge the Senate early in 2009-10 to give top priority to addressing the ramifications for the University community of a prolonged recession or worse and request that the University leadership present its contingency plan for such an eventuality.

Besides the salary freeze, what other economies have you seen the University undertake? What other measures should Pitt be taking?

PINSKY: As a member of the Senate’s sustainability subcommittee I have seen tangible proof that the University has made major strides to reduce energy costs and lessen our burden on the environment. This is manifested by switching from incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs in all buildings; heat (or cold) air recapture for vented air from buildings, and the use of mainly local foods in the cafeterias to reduce transportation costs.

It is absolutely essential that the University sustain this energy-cutting enterprise into the future as energy costs rebound following the recession. We, the faculty, have a major role to play in this partnership. I encourage all faculty and staff to become aware of the sustainability subcommittee’s web page on the Senate web site. It lists all the ongoing and potential initiatives. A University-community partnership should yield tangible short-term cost savings.

ROHRER: The current economic crisis does call for internal scrutiny to ensure that all avoidable expenses, inefficient processes, including unnecessary paper handling, and low-priority investments be identified and addressed. This situation provides an excellent opportunity for the University to continue to encourage green (high performance) building construction and renovations and other long-term cost-saving investments for the future.

The implementation of the student self-registration process planned for 2009-10 may prove to be a good example of process improvement resulting in cost efficiencies. However, I suspect that the opportunities for significant cost savings from administrative process improvement will be limited. With limited returns to ongoing process improvements, attention must be placed on enhancing revenue flows while keeping tuition increases reasonably constrained. Though it is a challenging time for institutional development, ambitious goals for alumni giving and other sources of donations and bequests must remain a top priority.

In light of the plummeting value of the endowment and the recent investment scandal, what could be done to better manage and protect Pitt’s money?

PINSKY: I am not sure we need to take a cheap shot at our University’s investment practices. I reviewed in detail the decision to invest with the New York firm that apparently misused our and CMU’s funds as well as misrepresenting what they did. This review came from my reading of the newspapers and the University’s own online statements. I have known the University treasurer, Amy Marsh, for many years, and know her to be extremely savvy on market trends while also being thoughtful in her decisions and thorough in her research. Her vetting of this firm appeared adequate. Furthermore, our endowment is wisely invested in a diversified portfolio, so this loss, though terrible, was not catastrophic.

I believe that this episode is part of a much larger international process resulting in global investor confidence in the major financial institutions being severely shaken. Hopefully, the Obama administration will be able to enact new federal regulatory laws that create effective financial oversight that will minimize the potential that such events occur in the future.

ROHRER: There is likely no magic bullet for protection against financial fraud and abuse as evidenced by the many individual investors and money managers duped by the Madoff Ponzi scheme and other less-publicized examples of fraud, mismanagement, conflict of interest and greed. Pitt’s situation is best viewed as being representative of the ills that have affected the entire financial system worldwide including banking, credit and equities markets. I am confident that the University will attempt to maximize recovery of misappropriated investments and will apply due diligence in the future in following a conservative investment strategy. I would expect that our faculty in the Katz Graduate School of Business will contribute to the forensic analysis and expert debate associated with the current financial crisis and the regulatory, policy and ethical failures that have contributed to it.

Is the tenure system healthy at Pitt? What protections do you see for non-tenure stream faculty?

PINSKY: The tenure system is not healthy throughout the United States, so why should it be healthier here in Pittsburgh? As a tenured professor for the past 15 years I say this with a certain degree of regret. We are witnessing an evolution of higher education academia. As salaries continue to increase and alternative teaching and research job opportunities evolve, younger faculty are going to have fewer opportunities to realize the perceived security of tenure nationwide. What we do have we will keep and the promises made yesterday will be kept. What we need is a clear unvarnished discussion with the academic leadership and administration as to exactly what tenure will mean at Pitt in the future and what we can say to our junior faculty who undertake a life of higher education teaching and research. We already have clear documentation as to what criteria are needs for awarding tenure. If I become president one of my primary initial initiatives will be to create an ad hoc committee to work with the administration and various school deans to clarify the interface between these written criteria and the financial realities that come with them.

ROHRER: My primary concern is about the status and treatment of our non-tenure stream faculty at the University, a largely unheralded group who contribute quite significantly to the teaching, research, clinical and service programs of the University. The logic of the tenure system is to ensure that productive faculty with proven records of teaching, scholarly and research productivity are shielded from undue interference in their exercise of academic freedom from forces within or outside the University community. This intention is exemplary even if these protections occasionally provide a cover for less productive faculty. In general the system seems to work well enough and results in a highly productive faculty able to pursue their scholarly interests unimpeded.

However, non-tenure stream faculty members have no comparable privilege or warranty for long-term career development and stability irrespective of the merit and value-added of their contributions. A non-tenure stream faculty member’s contract can be terminated for good reason, poor reason or no reason at all. In this respect and perhaps others the non-tenure stream faculty can be characterized as constituting a second tier or class of faculty that rarely receives due recognition. Although the University conducts periodic reviews of salary distribution and differentials across these classes of faculty, I’m not aware of any recent study either of the net benefit and productivity of non-tenure stream faculty or of a survey of their perceptions of job satisfaction, concerns about and suggestions for enhancing their roles and status within the University. Although I’m not suggesting that this issue is unique to Pittsburgh, perhaps we might take a bold step forward and address the implications of this often unexamined issue.

In recent years, there has been an emphasis on wellness initiatives. Are we seeing any results? What else could the University be doing?

PINSKY: I have been the chair of the Fitness for Life committee for the past three years, which interfaces directly with the Pitt Benefits and Facilities Management departments to optimize faculty and staff health and wellness. As a internal medicine physician for the past 35 years, I understand the importance of wellness programs, preventive medicine practices and health screening services in maintaining quality of life. Regular exercise, diet control and smoking cessation are our major initiatives now. However, one does not know if their blood pressure is elevated, or if they have a high blood glucose (pre-diabetes), lipids or cholesterol, and these risk factors shorten life just as fast. We have been working with the UPMC Health Plan and have developed incentives to get faculty to get these screening tests and then to see their PCPs to address any problems that may be identified. Furthermore, I support the sustainability subcommittee’s recommendation to make the Pitt campus a completely smoke-free environment.

Finally, we are starting a pilot study to assess these risk factors in post-menopausal women. Before the menopause, women are relatively protected from the risks of atherosclerosis and can tolerate higher lipid levels than men with less untoward effects. After the menopause this protection is lost. This pilot program is futuristic and places Pitt’s health benefits approach to health at the vanguard of preventative medicine. I am humbly proud to be part of this initiative.

ROHRER: As an educator in public health I am encouraged by the fitness awareness and health promotion campaign sponsored by the University’s Fitness for Life initiatives in conjunction with UPMC’s community health education programs, e.g., MyHealth Weight Race. My general observation is that the University community reflects the attitudes and behavior of our broader community: a growing awareness and appreciation that fitness, healthy diets and exercise are important for overall mental and physical well-being and are important measures to prevent chronic disease and prolong healthy aging. As an aging distance runner, I can attest to the considerable benefits of even a modest fitness regimen.

Has Pitt done enough to respond to complaints from surrounding areas about student behavior, such as the post-Super Bowl rampage? What is the University’s responsibility toward its neighbors?

PINSKY: Pitt’s response to the bad student behavior post-Super Bowl is ongoing, but reflects a firm commitment by the University to be a good neighbor in Oakland. Vandalism and destruction of private property in Oakland occurred post-Super Bowl by a few Pitt students. They need to be held responsible for their actions within the context of the community through the legal system. I believe that the chancellor’s immediate response and clear delineation of the impact of those behaviors on the offending students speaks well for the University and should help strengthen our relations with the community. I would not request that the University do more than to report to us on the follow-up results of these rulings.

ROHRER: Student misbehavior in the form of assault, property damage, public inebriation and other forms of unwarranted behavior associated with the Super Bowl victory of the Steelers simply cannot be justified or condoned. The attendant community anger and the distress expressed by the chancellor and other top administrators are appropriate responses. As Chancellor Nordenberg indicated, this situation was especially unfortunate and frustrating given the investment that University leadership has made in building and nurturing mutually productive partnerships with community organizations, residents and business owners in Oakland. A focal theme of the community relations committee has been to encourage and engage in ongoing dialogue and planning efforts with our community partners. Student misbehavior violates our social contract with the community of Oakland.

Thus far I believe that the University is approaching this unfortunate display of civil disturbance with appropriate fact-finding, deliberation and targeted action. It is important to draw clear lines of distinction between exuberant collective celebration and mob destruction and mayhem.

One of the recommendations of the CRC’s Senate plenary report (Oct. 23, 2008) is appropriate to cite in this context: “Enhance efforts … to prepare students for living off-campus as responsible residents of the neighborhood.” The vast majority of Pitt students act as good citizens living in harmony with their neighbors, and many of them are making positive contributions to Oakland and adjacent communities through volunteer service. Unfortunately, the negative actions of a very few can discredit the reputation of the majority.

Is the University’s three-pronged mission of teaching, research and public service in the proper balance?

PINSKY: Not all faculty perform each of these tasks equally, nor should they. We should, however, give credit as appropriate for community service within the academic realm when its efforts reflect academic achievement. I believe that our initiative to make the creation of generalizable knowledge from community service [part of] the definition of academic achievement will go a long way toward making public service more universally applied. However, the issue is not imbalance but lack of overall emphasis. We so focus on teaching loads and student evaluations, as well as “defensive” research to sustain research funding, that we often lose track of why we are at the University. We are here to teach the next generation of leaders today and discover knowledge that will make them and society even better tomorrow.

My platform is “academic freedom, academic merit and academic responsibility.” We need to support existing defined academic criteria for retention and promotion and create better and more open ways of sharing those activities with the junior faculty who are so vulnerable to neglect. I envision taking our message to the faculty at large through their elected representatives. I would task the Faculty Assembly representatives to hold “town hall” meetings to discuss local issues and give faculty feedback on existing activities as well as to garner from them their concerns, which would be brought back to Faculty Assembly for debate. If general themes of discontent, concern and frustration exist, then they will be discussed with the administration to find reasonable solutions.

ROHRER: As an unintended consequence of the impressive growth of externally funded research programs since the mid-1980s and the implications for University resource allocation and faculty incentives, it can be argued that an imbalance had emerged in which funded research had become the “900-pound gorilla” with teaching seen as a necessary but auxiliary enterprise and little but lip service accorded to service.

Under the leadership of Chancellor Nordenberg, dramatic progress has been made in the recognition and support of meritorious teaching and mentoring. In the Graduate School of Public Health, for example, a faculty incentive program was created to support development of innovative approaches to curriculum design and instruction of the core curriculum. Clearly, the teaching component of the three-legged mission has been strengthened.

I am less sanguine about achieving comparable recognition for service, especially viewed as a broader enterprise than contributions to the profession. I would endorse a more global perspective on service. Service in the form of professional practice to the broader community should be incorporated as a duly-weighted criterion within the tenure review, annual performance review and merit compensation processes. Fostering the development of service learning courses and experiences promises multiple pay-offs by encouraging teaching innovation, student citizenship and direct benefit to the target communities.

As Senate president I would give considerable priority to the status of service. Indeed I believe that this issue is sufficiently important that the CRC should partner with other Senate committees to study the relationships among teaching, research and service and recommend ways that the latter can better support and inform the other aspects of our mission, e.g., by enriching the student’s total educational experience, identifying new research opportunities and integrating exceptional faculty service more equitably within the incentive structure.

What do you see as the role of the University Senate vis-à-vis the regional campuses?

PINSKY: Regional campuses represent an important arm of the University as a whole. They were created as extensions of the University into the state. Importantly, their problems and needs share some common and some different issues. From a faculty perspective they already have representation in the Senate and when I was vice president, I met regularly with these representatives. We give them a voice at our monthly meetings to state their special issues and seek resolution, to join in Senate committees to influence Senate policy and to return to their campuses to report on these deliberations and seek additional advice. This representation has served the regional campuses well in the past, but might not do so in the future. I will be open to discussing with their representatives specific issues that they wish to present during my tenure as president. In the past there were specific issues they wished to address and others may occur.

ROHRER: Although my experience with the regional campuses has been quite limited, I am convinced that our four regional institutions play an important role in the life of the University and contribute significantly to the local communities they serve. Anecdotally, I’m aware of students who have used the more intimate regional campus experience as a foundation for developing both greater maturity and strong academic record to be positioned for transfer admission to the Oakland campus. As a Johnstown native, I take some pride in the fact that UPJ has a beautiful campus environment with excellent facilities and maintains strong undergraduate programs.

As Senate president I would explore opportunities for more frequent interaction between faculty representatives in Oakland and our counterparts at the regional campuses, including scheduling some joint Senate sessions and/or plenaries at the regional campuses.

What are other universities doing that you think Pitt should emulate?

PINSKY: I think that all universities are a product of their regional environment, funding, scholastic standing, faculty and physical plant. As I travel around the country to various universities, which I do often, I am struck by how some use their environment to match with their physical plant to improve the normal flow of daily activities from commuting and parking to eating and drinking. To a large extent Pitt is limited in what it can do and within those limitations is doing exceptionally well.

I do regret not having the football stadium on campus, but apparently student attendance at football games has never been higher. One item that has bothered me since coming to Pitt 28 years ago was the abysmal state of the faculty club and related social centers to allow faculty to mingle. This lack of social centers is to me one of the greatest flaws on our main campus. However, the University has taken over the University Club. This multi-use building will house other services, but the faculty club will be one of them. It will house a meeting area, restaurant, bar and health facilities, and all at reasonable prices. I urge all faculty so inclined to consider joining this club. The University has met our request and now it is up to us to show we wish to use it.

Finally, the Fitness for Life wellness program with exercise centers and other gathering places around campus creates an environment of exceptional quality, one that we can all be proud to call our own.

ROHRER: Certainly the University should continue to benchmark its academic, research and service programs and achievements against its peer AAU institutions. Thanks to the University leadership and the culture of excellence that has been strengthened during the past 10-15 years, Pittsburgh is an institution that others wish to emulate in virtually all our academic disciplines and professions.

In scanning the environment to identify exemplary programs and innovative approaches to problems, we should pay special attention to how our peer institutions are responding to the challenges and opportunities (legal, economic and creative) associated with electronic publishing and the dissemination and archiving of knowledge. The excellent Senate plenary hosted by the library committee in March set an agenda for concern in this regard — and was an excellent example of how the Senate can effectively provide a forum for discussion and catalyst for action around issues of common interest.

The Senate, as an advisory body, does not wield actual decision-making power. Why should faculty get involved with the Senate?

PINSKY: The University is a living being that needs the support of its faculty and staff to function properly. Good leadership is more about understanding issues and reaching consensus than ruling by fiat. Thus, the administration wants, and probably needs, our support to create an effective educational and research program.

In my experience, they have always been receptive to our opinions, suggestions, motions and proposals. The primary reasons for not following our suggestions when the administration did not follow them was usually financial — it cost too much — or political, it would hurt our appropriations or affiliations later on.

Furthermore, by discussing these proposals with the administration in private we have often gained great progress — more so, I believe, than if we tried to debate these issues publicly with the administration.

As a single faculty representative, I have initiated and followed through on several programs that have changed our academic environment for the better. I have done that through finding kindred spirits with whom to team up, making sure that our conclusions were supported by well-documented facts and that our proposed solutions were reasonable.

I know many faculty feel the same desire to make our University better. We are working toward those goals now and with the support of new faculty members to the Faculty Assembly we will continue to do so into the future. Now with the economy forcing universities to make hard decisions, your voice is needed more than ever if your work environment is to stay pleasant and allow you to be productive in your teaching, research and community activity roles. Join us and see why Pitt is one of the best universities in the United States.

ROHRER: Having staked out my position on the importance of service to the University mission, I must be candid in admitting that of all forms of service, participation in University governance is least likely to be recognized and rewarded. Nonetheless there are benefits both to the participating faculty and the institution as a whole in maintaining a viable faculty governance structure and processes.

Participation provides a rare opportunity for broad interdisciplinary dialogue about issues of strategic relevance to the entire University community. Leadership skills may be further developed and professional networks expanded. The observation that all too often universities may be characterized as consisting of “academic silos,” disciplines and departments that act as self-contained microcosms operating in isolation from potential collaborating partner units, has no little salience. Broad participation in University governance provides an ongoing opportunity to lower silo barriers and shape the culture to encourage interdisciplinary deliberation and problem-solving at the strategic level.

My own experience suggests that Pittsburgh has benefited considerably from this dynamic of faculty participation in governance through the University Senate. It is certainly true that the Senate serves in an advisory capacity rather than as a final decision-making body. Nonetheless, through its committee structure, the Senate has influenced the texture of academic life in the University, helped to set the agenda for administrative action and initiated and influenced academic policies of substance, including same-gender benefits, smoking restrictions, recycling and salary inequities, to name a few. The track record of the Senate over the past decade should be encouraging to those considering participation in faculty governance.

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