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September 26, 2002

Bircher wins Senate vice president runoff

The medical school's Nicholas G. Bircher has won the runoff election for vice president of the University Senate.

Voting in last spring's election for Senate officers resulted in an unprecedented tie between Bircher and incumbent Thomas A. Metzger, of mathematics. A runoff election was held this month.

As a member of Faculty Assembly and Senate Council, Bircher has been an outspoken advocate of academic freedom, particularly in the School of Medicine, and a frequent critic of Pitt Health Sciences administrators. As a Senate officer, he isn't planning to change his ways.

Some administrators "seem to believe that clinicians neither need nor want academic freedom," said Bircher, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine. "I take the diametrically opposed view that people who are training physicians need academic freedom as much, if not more than, anybody else does.

"The very last thing you would want as a patient," he added, "is a doctor who is trained to let somebody else do their thinking for them."

Another issue that Bircher plans to pursue is implementation of last spring's report by the University committee that studied whether Pitt should offer health benefits to employees' same-sex partners.

"The report said that now is an inopportune moment for the University to begin offering those benefits, but that we should do so eventually," Bircher said. "The next step is to lay out the plan for when we should move ahead in offering these benefits."

Also in this month's Senate runoff election, Lisa D. Brush was elected to Faculty Assembly as a representative of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' social sciences division. Brush is an associate professor of sociology.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 3

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