SENATE MATTERS: A time to say thank you


The end of 2020 is just a few weeks away. Aside from the chancellor, I think very few of us really understand the full magnitude of the lift needed to get us to where we are today, although we all have our own unique perspectives on that lift in the niches we occupy at Pitt.

What comes to mind for me is a conversation I had with an Institutional Review Board (IRB) coordinator in early May. It was a fairly normal consultation about a new study, but it was over speakerphone from my basement while my son had remote instruction from his early autism treatment team upstairs. After the call, I remarked to myself, “When this thing is over, we are going to have a lot of people to thank.” 

The pandemic is not over, but with the end of the year near, it’s as good a time as any to express some of that gratitude.

And while the theme of this column is to thank our Senate partners for their service in 2020, I want to take a moment to digress right off the bat and thank the oft-invisible but entirely essential members of the University’s regulatory apparatus. The IRB and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee most directly affect my life, but there are many others, all working diligently to make sure our faculty can meet challenges like the pandemic head on. You kept us moving forward, and I am sure it was not easy. Thank you.

(Likewise, to the team of literal superheroes who treat my son. Thank you.)

Back to the Senate … In 2020, like any other year, the Senate was distinguished by its people. Without rehashing specific topics, thanks are due to all of our Faculty Assembly members, including Tica Hall, Doug Landsittel, Pat Loughlin, Beth Mulvaney, and Melanie Scott, to name an inexhaustive few.

We also owe thanks to our committee co-chairs and members, who guided the essential, ongoing business of our standing committees, including Tyler Bickford, Lorraine Denman, Bonnie Falcione, Irene Frieze, Michael Spring and Penny Morel. Collectively, these people, and indeed all of our members, gave us the time, wisdom and effort we needed, exactly when we needed it.

Thanks also are due to our faculty appointees to Board of Trustees committees, University Review Board, University Planning and Budget Committee, and other University-wide committees, providing essential representation for our faculty in these important venues. They extend our reach and our impact with their service.

Of course, many thanks are due to our senior administration, with special thanks to Provost Ann Cudd. Our work goes nowhere without receptive leadership, and she has been a model of strength and flexibility amidst a challenging year. Special thanks also are due to Rob Rutenbar for demonstrating an unflappable commitment to our shared governance process. At Pitt, we own what we create, and he will always be the first to remind us of that right.

Linda Tashbook is as fine a human being as there is anywhere, and we are lucky to have her with us here at Pitt, let alone in the Senate. Lori Molinaro is the singular, unsung hero of the Senate, the constant, intrepid optimist that keeps our ship afloat. Our President Chris Bonneau works harder than anyone I know, which I am sure is why he swears so much. And Sue Jones and the University Times provide the editorially independent stream of journalism that is an absolutely essential companion to shared governance. Special thanks are due to all of them. They all were with us throughout this year without fail.

In closing, as the new year approaches, know that new problems will come, the breadths of which are not worth considering now. But remember all of those names above, and all the many more I unintentionally left out; they will come ready to help.  Thanks.

David Salcido is the University Senate vice president and recommends a warm stout on a cold evening.