Cohon forum updates campus

President Jared Cohon discussed his various travels abroad, the end of his term, and a new committee to oversee the university’s ethics policies in his semesterly open forum. (credit: Thomas Hofman/Photo Editor) President Jared Cohon discussed his various travels abroad, the end of his term, and a new committee to oversee the university’s ethics policies in his semesterly open forum. (credit: Thomas Hofman/Photo Editor)

University President Jared Cohon held an open forum on Tuesday on Carnegie Mellon policies and actions.

He addressed the upcoming end of his term as president, the university’s response to the Pennsylvania State University incident, and other issues pertaining to the current state of the school.

Sponsored by Staff Council and held in Rangos 3, the forum had an audience of roughly 40 individuals, almost all of whom were faculty or staff members.

“Things are going very well for the university in every respect,” Cohon began optimistically in his opening statement, which contained details regarding his recent travels abroad as well as Carnegie Mellon’s recent official communication sent in response to the Penn State controversy.

Cohon is set to step down from his position as university president on June 30, 2013. He outlined the search process for a new president and how it will be conducted, but emphasized his continued active role in the university by joking, “I am not a lame duck, I am not a lame duck, I am not a lame duck.”

Cohon revealed that he plans to remain at the university after stepping down from his role as president, citing his continued involvement with the civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy departments along with his continued love of teaching.
Cohon also covered the recent official communication regarding the university’s “commitment to the health, safety and welfare of ... students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests,” sent out via email on Nov. 29.

Prompted by the recent events at Penn State, the message contained information and instructions for any member of the university community who witnesses an ethical violation.

As Cohon elaborated, the university has “a good, solid set of procedures which should cover any ethical, moral, or legal breach you can think of.” He also stated that individuals should not be constrained by the structure and processes in place, and that if a violation of ethics occurs, students should immediately report it to the police.

Coupled with this information, however, was an announcement both in the email and at the forum that a new committee headed by university Vice President and General Counsel Mary Jo Dively and Vice President for Campus Affairs Michael Murphy will be created to review Carnegie Mellon’s existing policies and draft new ones.

Cohon reminded the attendees that a hotline already exists for such matters. Students can call (877) 700-7050 or go online to to report any ethical issues.

The opening remarks also described Cohon’s trip to Asia, where he attended alumni events in Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo; and Beijing. Cohon recalled these events in a very favorable light, stating that attendance at these alumni events was twice as large as usual.

He also discussed Carnegie Mellon’s new partnership with Sun Yat-sen University, and Carnegie Mellon’s current financial situation. In the last fiscal year, the university turned a profit, and has a good outlook due to contributions such as the Dietrich gift, which Cohon estimated would produce significant sums of money for the university in the foreseeable future.

Cohon also answered pre-submitted and impromptu questions from the audience.

The question prompting the greatest amount of discussion regarded the Morewood parking garage and its role in the master plan currently being considered by the city, specifically potential increases in parking costs and temporary parking relocation while the new underground parking structures are being constructed.

Vice President for Campus Affairs Michael Murphy responded that off-site parking with shuttles to campus would be a likely solution, but that other options are still being considered.

However, some attendees remained discontent with the transportation situation, with one audience member calling out, “If [Morewood] becomes a $100 lot, I’m screwed!”

Cohon addressed questions regarding public bus service on Forbes, travel approval, zero-waste events, the conclusion of department budget cuts, and future research funding from national and governmental organizations.

The final discussion of the event was about Carnegie Mellon’s satellite campuses, which are all reported to be doing well, although Australia may face some financial difficulties in the years to come. As Adam Rauf, the chair of Staff Council, put it, the forum was “a chance for Dr. Cohon to speak candidly with us.”

Cohon closed the event by thanking all the attendees for their questions and input, and ended by driving home a message: “All seems to be going well.”