Senate committee pursues earlier involvement in capital budget process


During its first meeting of the fall semester, the Campus Utilization, Planning and Safety committee (CUPS) focused on getting more involved in the capital budget planning process, heard an update on re-envisioning classroom space around campus, and shared topics of interest for future discussion.

Following member introductions at the Sept. 28 Zoom meeting and a short discussion about meeting times, David Salcido, committee co-chair, explained the intention to form a five-member subcommittee that would provide input and feedback on capital budget-based priorities before the larger budget process starts moving forward.

Salcido noted that CUPS member Irene Frieze advocated for reinstating input from the committee, as it had provided in the past.

“And right now, what we tend to see are projects that are already in progress, so they’ve already been sort of stamped and approved and are happening,” he said. “So this committee could have more input into projects before they happen. And this would be the way we can have that input.”

Salcido and CUPS committee member Jeanie Buchanich, research associate professor of biostatistics, have met with David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operations, to discuss the advantages and logistics of the subcommittee.

“What I learned was that there are different stages in the evolution of projects, from a concept to a fully funded item in the capital budget,” Salcido said. “We will probably discuss whether the priorities and interests that are understood by the committee — reflecting their constituencies — are represented in the priorities that they would bring to us, and then determine if we have any particular feedback on items that are on his list. So that would probably be a conversational reading.”

A subcommittee is appropriate, Salcido explained, because some matters it would be reviewing “would probably be confidential and very preliminary. … The discussion has got to be limited, small, but still very informative. So our committee can still have an impact, but in this closed discussion with (DeJong), so that would probably be independent of these meetings, and we’d have to schedule those.”

He said he envisioned the subcommittee would regularly convene for capital budget discussions once in the fall and again in the spring.

Sitting in as a CUPS guest, University Senate President Robin Kear encouraged the subcommittee idea.

“(This) is something this committee has asked for in the past, and I just want to reiterate that this is a very important chance for this group to have input and for the faculty and staff and students to have input on capital budget planning,” she said. “I think this is a really important step, and I hope the (Budget) committee members showed enough interest .… I just wanted to support (Salcido’s) comments.”

Salcido said he and Buchanich would send out a message to CUPS committee members seeking five volunteers for the subcommittee and summarizing what its goals will be.

In other business, Lucy Russell, vice provost and Provost Ann Cudd’s chief of staff, shared information with the committee on a re-envisioned Classroom Management Team. She is the new chair of the team, which has been rebranded as the Learning Space Management Committee.

“The Classroom Management Team has been really active shaping our learning spaces, and it has re-envisioned itself,” she said. ‘We’re looking for a faculty member who’s an active instructor who is really interested in learning spaces to serve on the committee.”

The team meets the last Wednesday of the month from 9 to 10:30 a.m., which, she acknowledged, would sometimes conflict with regularly scheduled CUPS meetings, “but not every month.”

Greg Smith, capital projects and physical resources manager in the provost’s office, defined the committee as being responsible for the “maintenance, renovation and development of learning spaces and adjacent group study spaces” at Pitt.

The group comprises members from the registrar’s office, the Center for Teaching and Learning, departments of Information Technology and Facilities Management, offices of Planning, Design and Real Estate, and Construction.

“We are now seeking out further involvement from our faculty and our students,” Smith said. “We will also have a much more visible web presence to allow our faculty in particular — but our students and staff as well — to be able to contact us and be more forward facing to the University community so we are able to address needs (involving) learning spaces all across campus. We think it’s critically important to make sure that our faculty are included in that.”

Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at


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