SENATE MATTERS: Shared governance needs participation

While the calendar says the new year starts in January, those of us who work at the University know that it begins at the end of August. The quiet and peaceful nature of campus in the summer (except for the omnipresent construction) gives way to long lines at restaurants for lunch, drivers going the wrong way on Fifth Avenue, and desperate searches for that last parking spot. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Chris BonneauThe start of a new academic year and the excitement of students arriving and returning to Pitt always rejuvenates me, and I can honestly say that as I begin Year 17, I am just as excited to begin a new year as I was in Year 1.

This past summer was a particularly busy one at Pitt.  As you know, we hired a new provost, and as this column runs, Provost Ann Cudd is beginning her tenure at Pitt.  Additionally, the Schools of Social Work, Dental Medicine, Law and Engineering have new deans starting this fall.  And this year, the Graduate School of Public Health will be searching for a new dean and Pitt–Greensburg will be searching for a new campus president.  As in the past few years, there will be many changes afoot during the year.

I am very fortunate to take over as Senate president from Frank Wilson. Frank was a tireless advocate for the faculty and staff at Pitt, regardless of one’s role, status or campus. I have learned much from Frank during the transition over the summer and look forward to working with him throughout the year.

As I begin my term as Senate president, I am looking forward to working with the administration under the principles of shared governance that have served our University so well for so long. Shared governance is important because while it isn’t always pretty or efficient, policies that result from faculty, staff and administration working together are far superior to those that are simply handed down by fiat. There are going to be times where the relevant stakeholders do not see eye-to-eye, but a commitment to working together can lead to outcomes that work for all.

And now a plea … shared governance works best when faculty are involved and engaged. I know none of us chose an academic career because we wanted to sit in meetings or develop institutional policies. But a productive, collaborative governance structure allows us to excel at those parts of the job we love: teaching and research. I have seen first-hand how engaged faculty can make the university a better place for all; if I didn’t believe that, I would not choose to spend my time on faculty governance.

Along those lines, I encourage you to bring issues to the attention of myself, the other Senate officers, and the faculty assembly.  We are here to make the lives of faculty and staff better, and if there is an issue you think we should address, please let us know.

I hope you all have a great year, and I look forward to working with you to continue to make Pitt an outstanding institution that is welcoming and inclusive to all.