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October 9, 2014

Discussion of IP rights continues

A provost’s task force is continuing to meet to discuss the implementation of a process for assigning intellectual property (IP) rights to the University.

Provost Patricia E. Beeson suspended a Sept. 16 deadline for faculty to sign a blanket IP rights assignment agreement and convened the advisory group in response to a Sept. 9 Faculty Assembly resolution that  “strongly urged” the provost to delay the requirement for up to six months to give the University Senate tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC) time to gather additional information. (See Sept. 25 University Times.)

TAFC took issue with a lack of faculty input in developing the IP rights assignment agreement and confusion among faculty as to the implications of the July 1 document.

The task force has met twice, and despite a Sept. 30 deadline for making recommendations, is scheduled for a third meeting today, Oct. 9, said University Senate President Michael A. Spring, a task force appointee. He had no explanation for why the deadline was not met.

The provost could not be reached for comment before the University Times went to press.

In his Oct. 7 report to Faculty Assembly, Spring said he appreciates the “speed, collegiality and thoroughness with which the provost has engaged these matters. It is my hope that the task force will conclude this work shortly. I can’t tell you how diligently and carefully prepared the provost has been and how astutely and completely she’s listened to a diverse group of faculty.”

Following the meeting, Spring told the University Times that task force members have presented diverse views and suggestions in the course of the discussions. While he had no details on when the provost might act in response to their input, “I think whatever comes out of it, she’s going to make sure it’s presented to faculty in a way they understand,” he said.

Spring noted in his comments to the Assembly that the IP assignment issues raised during the September meeting drove a record number of page views and visits to the collection of relevant documents posted in the “initiatives” section of the Senate’s site.

Through Google Analytics data, “We were aware of other universities looking at us, news outlets and many of you looking through those documents. The IP rights issues, I think, were well exposed and well studied,” Spring told faculty.


In his report to Faculty Assembly, Spring also noted:

• The Senate’s fall plenary session, “Managing Research Data: Challenges and Opportunities at the University,” set for noon-3 p.m. Oct. 23,  will be streamed and recorded. The keynote speaker is Liz Lyon, former associate director of the UK Digital Curation Centre, who is a visiting faculty member in the School of Information Sciences. Her talk is titled: “Gearing up for Data? Institutional Drivers, Challenges and Opportunities.”

• The Senate executive committee has begun meeting informally in the University Club College Room, typically on the Thursday before the Assembly meets. Its next gathering, open to faculty, is at noon Oct. 30.

• The Senate’s expanded executive committee, which includes committee chairs and co-chairs, will meet Oct. 13 to review the past year’s accomplishments and set goals for the coming year. The group also plans to meet with Chancellor Patrick Gallagher on Nov. 17.

• Dedication of the pair of benches installed outside the chancellor’s Cathedral of Learning office windows in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Mark A. Nordenberg and his wife, Nikki Pirillo Nordenberg, is set for 5 p.m. Oct. 15. The benches were sponsored by the University Senate and Staff Association Council.


In other business, Assembly approved unanimously a motion to change the name of the Senate commonwealth relations committee to the governmental relations committee.

Commonwealth relations committee co-chair Debora Rougeux presented the committee’s motion, explaining that the committee was formed shortly after the University became a state-related institution and the original name reflected that its relationship with the commonwealth was a high priority.

The new name reflects that the committee’s mission has since expanded to include fostering rapport and understanding between Pitt faculty and members of federal, state, county and local governments that have an impact on the Pittsburgh and regional campuses. Because the name change involves a change to Senate bylaws, Senate Council also must approve the motion.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 47 Issue 4