PUP committee considers strengthening focus on public safety


After a short update on facilities on the Oakland campus by Senior Vice Chancellor for Business & Operations David DeJong, the Plant Utilization and Planning (PUP) committee spent most of its Sept. 20 meeting discussing whether to update its mission statement and its name.

Committee co-chair David Salcido, a research assistant professor of emergency medicine, proposed strengthening the committee’s role in monitoring public safety on campus.

The committee’s current mission statement states one of its roles is “advising on issues of safety and accessibility on campus.” Officials from Public Safety & Emergency Management generally give an update once a year to the committee, but Salcido would like to see them visit more regularly.

The pandemic has shown how timely discussion is needed on environmental safety issues, such as building access, HVAC standards and physical distancing. And, Salcido said, the committee will likely be dealing this year with another safety issue — updating the Campus Crime Awareness policy, for which he sits on the revision committee. This policy was established in 2014 in accordance with the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

“If a committee ideally were to deal with public safety and time sensitive public safety issues and then translate those back to the rest of the faculty …, we would want to probably have some regular discussion on public safety issues, not one or two sessions that are blocked out throughout the year,” Salcido said. The Senate leadership also would benefit from timely input on public safety issues, he said.

He proposed having a liaison from Public Safety & Emergency Management give a monthly update to the committee or creating a new committee dedicated to safety issues.

If safety remained within the PUP committee, Salcido said he could see “potentially adapting the committee name to emphasize safety because currently Plant Utilization and Planning does not directly address safety.” One easy solution would be to just added “safety” to the name, changing the acronym to PUPS.

But, he also noted, “plant utilization” is a bit jargony and may lead people to be confused about what the committee does.

Irene Frieze, a pro-tem member of the committee and professor emeritus in psychology, said that the committee has absorbed responsibility for several areas, such as sustainability and disability access on campus, without a name change. “I would argue against adding safety to our name, but I could see maybe changing the name to include environment,” she said.

Senate President Robin Kear said public safety is a “gap among all the committees. …  It’s not really covered elsewhere. I agree with David about plant utilization — not many people understand what that means.”

She noted that another committee also is considering a name change along with an evolution and expansion of its mission. “These committees don’t stay the same,” she said. “The name and the mission really need to keep reflecting what the work is.”

A committee name change must be approved by Faculty Assembly and Senate Council. A mission statement change only gets voted on by the committee, Kear said.

The committee voted to table the matter until next month as they consider possible new names. Co-chair Debbie Miller, vice dean for the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she would favor “Environment & Safety.”

Facilities update

DeJong said that as Pitt has moved to mostly in-person classes, facilities staff are “working hard to make sure that access in buildings can happen without causing congestion. I will say that the Cathedral of Learning is particularly challenging there because the ratio of interior space to access points is extremely high. And we’ve been working to make sure that that’s going as smoothly as possible.”

To help prevent congestion, DeJong said they are working on educating students and faculty to have their IDs ready to swipe as they enter buildings, instead of having to dig around in their backpacks for it.

“We’ve asked them to think about coming into class a little bit early, or when class is released to not go rushing for the exits,” he said. “Naturally, the first week of full operations, we had a little bit of growing pains there, but I’m already hearing that things are a lot more smooth today. … We also added more student workers to our concierge stations to assist with that.”

He also said isolation housing is still available for students living on or off campus who have tested positive for COVID-19. On the day of the meeting, only have two students on the Pittsburgh campus were in isolation housing.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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