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March 5, 2009

Breastfeeding resolution amended

Faculty Assembly last week amended its resolution urging Pitt units to provide private space for new mothers to pump breast milk.

A similar resolution was passed by Assembly in January, but the wording was altered to accommodate an objection from the senior administration, according to Paul Munro, chair of the University Senate’s plant utilization and planning committee, which proposed the resolution. (See Feb. 5 University Times.)

In addition to breast pumping, the previous resolution advocated finding space for new mothers to breastfeed their babies.

The new resolution, which members approved unanimously, states: “Resolved, that Faculty Assembly encourages all units of the University to identify private space, if needed, within existing facilities for mothers who wish to express breast milk.”

As the University Times went to press, Munro was expected to introduce the resolution to Senate Council, which met at 3 p.m. yesterday, March 4.

Assembly members also heard a report from Senate Vice President Susan Hansen on Pitt’s revised sexual harassment policy (Policy 07-06-04). Hansen chaired a working group with representatives from three University Senate committees and lawyers from the Office of General Counsel to revise the wording.

A change was required, Hansen said, to comply with a recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Case No. 07-2220, Christian M. DeJohn v. Temple University) ruling holding that Temple’s harassment policy, which has wording similar to Pitt’s, is unconstitutional because it is too broad.

Hansen reported that two sections were added to Pitt’s revised policy: “Section III-B, Sexual Harassment Standard When Constitutionally Protected Speech Is Implicated” and “Section IX, Application of Policy in the Academic Setting.”

In a nutshell, the first new section refers to First Amendment protections. To rise to the level of prohibited sexual harassment, the section states, “the law requires a tenable threat of material and substantial disruption of University operations or interference with the rights of others.”

The latter new section states that the sexual harassment policy “does not prohibit legitimate academic activities … involving content of a sexual or gender-related nature that is reasonably related to the academic topic.”

In addition, Hansen said, a clause was added that broadened the group of people who are protected from retaliation to include those who provide “information in an investigation of sexual harassment” in addition to those who make a claim of sexual harassment.

The new policy went into effect Feb. 17.

Assembly members discussed whether the policy was sufficiently clear in covering an accused person’s rights in response to those claims of sexual harassment that are made in bad faith or that intentionally provide false information.

Senate President John Baker pointed out that University policies can be modified by the senior administration and that the faculty are free to make suggestions or offer advice. “We will certainly pass on these concerns to the lawyers for a response,” Baker said.

In other Faculty Assembly developments:

• The renovated University Club at 121 University Place is expected to open on April 1, according to Eli Shorak, associate vice chancellor for Business. Guided tours of the facility will be held on March 25 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.), March 27 (noon-4 p.m.) and March 30 (3-6 p.m.). The web site contains information on club dues and facilities. For more information, contact Cathie Caliguiri-Kahn, 412/383-9496;

• Baker said he is hopeful that the April 7 Faculty Assembly meeting can be held at the University Club to allow members to browse around the renovated building. He is seeking assurance that a club meeting room could be equipped with microphones. Baker said microphones will be needed for discussion of a tenure and academic freedom committee proposal to extend the “tenure clock” for basic science faculty in the medical school from seven to 10 years. “I want every member of this Assembly to be able to express an opinion on this very important issue,” he said.

• Wesley Rohrer, co-chair of the Senate community relations committee, presented a summary report on last October’s Senate plenary session (see Nov. 6 University Times). Copies of the report are available at the Senate office, 1234 CL; 4-6504.

• Irene Frieze, chair of the Senate elections committee, said faculty members still are needed to fill the ballots for Senate officers and Assembly. Interested faculty should contact the Senate office at 4-6504.

—Peter Hart

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