A-Senate Notebook: Smith Hall still causing controversy, discussions in A-Senate


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Samantha Madar | Photo Editor Provost Michael Gealt speaks to the A-Senate on Tuesday in Pearce Hall.

Faculty members in the College of Business Administration are still concerned about the rate at which their coworkers are getting brain cancer.

Members of the Academic Senate brought their concern to University President George Ross' attention during Tuesday's meeting.

"It's an unusual phenomenon," said Jim Hill, a political science faculty member and a-senator. "We're all aware of the rumors and have been for years. I'm curious whether you're going to continue the exploration of this."

Ross said the issue had been brought to his attention and the building had been tested in the past for any contaminants.

"The situation with Smith Hall goes back to the 2000s," Ross said. "It was tested in 2005 and 2011. Through a series of meetings we're deciding whether to go for a third test."

Some senators weren't reassured by Ross' statements about new testing.

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Crina Tarasi, a member of the marketing and hospitality administration department who has an office in Smith Hall, said the faculty have not been consulted on these tests. She said the statistics are not in the favor of the 20 to 30 faculty members with offices in the building.

"The (NIOSH) report did not consider all the cases," Tarasi said. "They're all done in the hallways and not in our offices. We're three times more likely to get brain cancer than to die of a heart attack. To us, those are some pretty shocking statistics."

A forum was held this month between administration and faculty, which allowed CBA faculty to express their concerns – which professors said have been largely ignored. The forum was supposed to act as a dialogue for possible solutions to the paranoia sparked by the discovery of colleagues with brain cancer.

CBA Dean Charles Crespy and Dan Lyons, the environmental administrator for risk management and environmental health and safety, were both in attendance during that forum.

Ross said he takes cancer seriously and doesn't want to dismiss the faculty's concerns.

"I'm really at a loss at this point," he said. "I'm prepared to go forward."

It has not been decided whether there will be a third study on the building.

Search for FaCIT director to start soon

The search for a new director for the Faculty Center for Innovative Teaching should start "soon," said Vice Provost Claudia Douglass.

"Most of the team is set up," Douglass said. "It might be May by the time we're (interviewing). We have over 30 applications already."

The current director, Jim Therrell, put in his retirement at the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year and will leave CMU in July.

Douglass said the search for a new director should not affect new faculty orientation.

Board of trustees meeting set for May 1

The final CMU Board of Trustees meeting of the academic year will be held at 8:30 a.m. on May 1 in the Bovee University Center. Ross reminded a-senators that committee meetings will happen all day Wednesday, and the public is welcome.

"Folks, that doesn't happen at every university," Ross said. "The main discussions will be around tuition for next year."

An agenda for the meeting will be posted at the end of this week or the beginning of next week, Ross said.


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