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September 15, 2016

Faculty input urged on sr. VC for research

Senate President Frank Wilson urged faculty to ask questions and offer their input as the University searches for a senior vice chancellor for research.

The newly created position would return some research-related functions that recently moved to the Provost’s area to the Chancellor’s area, Wilson told Faculty Assembly this week.

“There was a lot of discussion between the Senate officers and the administration over the summer” about the new position, Wilson said.

He urged faculty to attend one of a series of open meetings in which senior administrators are to explain the new position and answer questions about its implications.

“It will be explained as a hybrid kind of position, not exactly an academic position but absolutely connected,” he said.

Dates have not been announced but Wilson said sessions are to be scheduled on the upper and lower campuses in Pittsburgh; he said one session is to be simulcast to the regional campuses.

No additional details were available from the University administration prior to the University Times’ Wednesday publi-cation deadline.

Existing procedures that define the composition of search committees don’t cover this new position, Wilson said, but the Senate has been asked to recommend at least three faculty members to serve. He said at least half the search committee is to be made up of faculty.

N. John Cooper, dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been named to head the search committee.

Senate past president Michael Spring said in addition to returning functions such as compliance and the Institutional Review Board to a centralized location in the Chancellor’s area, where they were housed under the previous administration, having a senior vice chancellor for research would serve to raise the University’s visibility with federal funding agencies and could aid in expanding Pitt’s ability to engage in large multi-institutional projects.

“I think that, in our discussions, the provost, the senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences and the chancellor were all in agreement that this kind of move would benefit all of the involved faculty,” Spring said.

Draft policy on consensual relationships

Wilson said that a draft “policy on consensual sexual, romantic and intimate relationships with students and between employees” will be the main topic of discussion for the Assembly’s next meeting, set for 3 p.m. Oct. 11 in 2700 Posvar Hall.

Laurie J. Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development and diversity, and Pamela W. Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, will attend, Wilson said.

Kirsch chaired a provost’s ad hoc committee that has spent the past year reviewing Pitt’s existing policy and developing recommendations to revise and strengthen the University’s sexual misconduct policy.

The proposed policy on consensual relationships continues the committee’s work, developed in response to changes in federal Title IX interpretations and the Violence Against Women Act. (See May 12 University Times.)

Wilson said Assembly members would be receiving copies of the draft via email from the Senate office. He urged faculty to read the draft document prior to the meeting to facilitate the discussion.

“It is important and it is the final piece that has come before us,” he said, adding that the proposed policy contains significant changes and potential points of controversy.

Fossil fuels divestment

Wilson said he is securing commitments from individuals to serve on a Senate ad hoc committee that will examine the issue of divesting the University’s investment in the fossil fuels industry. Michael Goodhart, faculty member in political science, raised the issue at the Assembly’s May 10 meeting, citing the activity of the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition student group. (See May 12 University Times.)

Wilson said he expected the committee would present a report to the Assembly in early spring.

Research metrics and faculty evaluation

The University Senate’s spring plenary will focus on best practices in research metrics and faculty evaluation, Robin Kear, Senate vice president, announced to the Assembly Tuesday.

“I think it’s an understatement to say there has been movement in the way data and metrics are used in faculty evaluation and tenure. I can only imagine this has been uneven using different tools and standards — sometimes understandably so — by disciplines, schools, departments and deans,” she said.

She cited the Leiden Manifesto — a set of 10 principles to guide research evaluation and the use of metrics named for the 2014 conference on science and technology indicators from which they arose — published in Nature on April 22, 2015, and a May 2016 faculty council in Bloomington, Indiana, that adopted a policy on responsible use of metrics, based loosely on those principles.

“This is a good chance to get ahead of potential issues related to this topic and to work toward best discipline-specific approaches and other potential outcomes involving research metrics,” Kear said.


The Senate now has a Twitter account: @pittsenate, said Kear, who will be monitoring the account.

Global operations support

Ian McLaughlin, global operations support manager at the University Center for International Studies (UCIS), outlined his role as a new central point of contact to aid faculty in working internationally.

Whether faculty are working overseas, are participating in international work from here, or are bringing international guests to campus, McLaughlin can assist in connecting them with campus resources.

He called attention to information at, which links to resources including:

• Travel readiness, including trip registration, emergency services and insurance coverage for faculty and staff traveling overseas on business.

• Computing Services and Systems Development’s technology loaner program.

• International payments, including honoraria to foreign visitors, payments for services abroad and international tax issues.

• Legal issues including export control, shipments of hazardous or restricted materials and permanent establishment issues.

• International research, including cooperative agreements and memorandums of understanding.

McLaughlin said additional services are on the horizon: interpretation and translation services via Language Select, which includes 200 different languages; an international agreement database to streamline agreement processes and make them paperless; Ernst and Young international consultants; and a faculty and staff development program course on international processes and protocol, planned for next spring.

University Times digital transition

Kear, who is representing the Senate officers in meetings with University Times editor Nancy Brown and Vice Chancellor for Communications Susan Rogers as the University Times transitions to a digital-only publication, provided an update to the Assembly.

“We as the officers feel the University Times is a very important unique communications piece for both faculty and staff of the University,” she said, citing its role in the University’s shared governance process.

“We appreciate the objective, accurate and succinct quality of the reporting on Senate issues and affairs as well as other happenings of the University,” Kear said.

“When we heard in mid August that the U Times was going to move to a digital version by mid-September, we were naturally concerned. Our main goal was and is to preserve the type of content that we have now and we’re going to be watching this as the communication platforms change over the next year,” she said.

“I believe we understood the argument for the move from paper to digital. We were not necessarily trying to fight that, but we are really trying to keep watch over the content.”

Kear reiterated that all faculty and staff on all campuses are to receive the electronic publication.

“We hope and believe that by expanding the reach of the University Times in this way that it will increase its value to our community. I think that more quality communications will only raise awareness as we all work together in this University,” she said.

Wilson added, “I expect there’s a good chance that more people actually will end up reading the University Times than when the print edition was out there.”

Faculty member Maria Kovacs of medicine noted that internet access isn’t always available to everyone. “I just think that this limits access in a way,” she said, expressing concern that the decision was made without the Senate’s input.

Faculty member Chris Bonneau of political science noted that people visiting campus or taking campus tours often pick up print copies of the University Times and the Pitt Chronicle, which also moved to a digital-only platform this fall. “They’re not going to go on the website and see it if they don’t know it exists,” he said, asking that print copies be preserved in some locations.

John Stoner of history suggested placing a QR code or signage with links to the digital publications in locations where readers were accustomed to picking up the publications.

Lifesaving smartphone app

David Salcido, faculty in emergency medicine and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Resuscitation Logistics and Informatics Venture (PittReLIVe), called attention to the PulsePoint smartphone app, which notifies those who know how to do CPR when there is a cardiac arrest victim nearby.

The app is integrated with Allegheny County 911 dispatch and automatically sends a signal to nearby users when a cardiac arrest call is received, enabling volunteers to help before EMS arrives.

The free app is available for download via Google Play and the App Store. More information is available at

Expanded executive committee to meet

The Senate officers and chairs of Senate committees will meet Oct. 17 in an expanded executive committee session. Wilson said he hopes the Senate leaders will make connections regarding issues that are of interest to multiple Senate committees.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to form special working groups,” he said, adding that such collaborations will make the Senate’s work more efficient and effective.

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 2

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