There’s a part of the Campus Master Plan that talks about the space bounded by South Bouquet Street, Posvar Hall and the law school. The space is referred to as a hardscaped plaza, and if you’ve walked through it ever, it’s a strange combination of what seems like a small circular amphitheater, various planters and barriers that I am almost positive are an organic result of successive attempts at preventing skateboarding, rather than the result of a coherent design process.

Before the pandemic, I walked through this plaza before every Faculty Assembly and Senate Council session on the way from my office to the Senate meeting room, and I came to think of it as Senate Circle. Fitting that Senate Circle would be catercorner from Sennott Square, maybe.

The Master Plan shows this space being consumed by what is probably a desperately needed and very practical expansion of Posvar Hall. I am sure if it comes to pass it will be great, but I can’t help but feel a pang of disappointment.

In my mind, I saw Senate Circle as the future home of a campus monument to equity and shared governance, concepts that must go hand in hand at Pitt. I saw it as memorializing the invisible and largely unsung heroes who have served the Pitt community over the years in the interest of ensuring that all voices are heard on matters that affect our destiny: faculty, staff, students and administrators alike. I envisioned a mural wall designed to be redone every year by Pitt artists to freshly recapture the spirit running through Pitt and plentiful seating designed to facilitate the dialogue that we always need if we are going to continue to understand one another.

And really, I probably only thought of all of this because of how intangible the Senate is, yet how important equity and shared governance are. A case could be made that these are the kind of principles an institution should invest in and strive to elevate.

So, why am I writing about this now? Because the morning that I wrote this column, the Senate was the recipient of a significant institutional investment that I hope will carry dividends toward reinforcing our mission for years to come. 

Specifically, the Senate officers were able to send an email message directly to all of our faculty. Hopefully you received it and read it. We did not have to pay for and send a Read Green message, fall back on our venerable and much appreciated campus newspapers, including the Times, or attempt to invoke word of mouth. We sent one email to the faculty we represent, who elected us. We were able to do our job in a way that we could not do it the day before.

My hope is that this is a precedent, and that future officers enjoy the right to communicate with the faculty they represent on the perfectly reasonable and accepted terms those faculty expect to be engaged by any official University entity. Shared governance is not fair governance if the communication channels available to some partners are so biased toward one party that the others are effectively shouting from outside the building. We are gratefully in the building now, and I hope we stay there. 

Senate Circle may never happen, and that is fine. The location was not ideal ultimately. It’s hard enough for faculty from Upper Campus to get to Posvar for our meetings; it would just be adding insult to injury to skew a memorial to shared governance so far into Lower Campus. Maybe there is another candidate somewhere I haven’t thought of. But even if there is never a tangible monument to shared governance and the equity it is intended to facilitate, there are still gains to be made. And we made one today.

David Salcido, a research assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine, is the Senate vice president.