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February 19, 2015

Assembly okays NTS recommendations

A final report of the University Senate ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream (NTS) faculty issues apparently is not so final. Senate leaders are asking the committee to continue its work following its Feb. 10 report to Faculty Assembly.

Faculty Assembly approved the five recommendations contained in the report, which called for:

• A review to determine whether school- and unit-level decisions regarding NTS faculty should be made at a higher level to increase consistency.

• Clearly explained and accessible policies within each unit.

• Clearly defined tracks for promotion and career development.

• Annual reviews.

• Clear incentives for promotion.

Those recommendations moved to Senate Council for action Feb. 18, after the University Times went to press.

The NTS ad hoc committee also had recommendations for several Senate standing committees:

• Benefits and welfare should continue to review benefit policies for NTS faculty.

• Budget policies should periodically review NTS faculty salaries.

• Computer usage should ensure that NTS faculty have access to technology resources, even when their teaching duties extend beyond their contract dates.

• Educational policies (EPC) should ensure that NTS faculty with teaching duties have input into their unit’s curriculum content and curriculum change decisions. It also should review teaching evaluation policies for NTS faculty to ensure they are treated fairly.

• The equity, inclusion, anti-discrimination and advocacy committee (EIADAC) should consider the possibility of discrimination and an unfavorable work environment associated with NTS status.

• The library committee should ensure that NTS faculty have access to library resources, even when their teaching duties extend beyond their contract dates.

• Tenure and academic freedom (TAFC) should ensure that a clear mechanism exists for NTS faculty to bring grievances and appeals of appointment decisions to the committee.

The ad hoc committee also recommended that tenure and academic freedom consider a name change (such as “tenure, renewal, promotion and academic freedom”) to make it clearer that NTS faculty issues can be brought to the committee.

Senate Vice President Irene Frieze, who chairs the NTS ad hoc committee, invited Senate committee chairs to discuss the recommendations. “These are only our advice. Each committee has to think about these issues and decide if these recommendations make sense,” she said.

She noted that the committee has focused on full-time NTS faculty issues. The report indicates that more remains to be done: “The ad hoc committee on NTS faculty was given two years to develop recommendations regarding NTS issues. In reviewing the relevant documents, we were able to develop the above recommendations. However, as we learned additional information we have found and continue to find important issues which we did not have time to systematically investigate,” it states, suggesting that a new ad hoc committee look into:

• Systematically reviewing school- and unit-level policies to determine whether some NTS decisions should be made at a higher level in order to have more consistency across units. “Such policies include: titles used to designate different types of NTS faculty and the privileges, benefits and responsibilities associated with these titles; contract lengths; job duties; salaries paid; annual review process for full- and part-time NTS faculty; requirements and incentives for promotion; procedures governing promotion, and criteria for being designated as emeritus when retiring.”

• Expanding the ad hoc committee’s work to focus on part-time NTS faculty and research associates.

• Reviewing University bylaws to determine if changes are needed in light of the growing importance of NTS faculty.

Senate President Michael Spring said, “The executive committee has encouraged the ad hoc committee to continue its work before we decide whether we extend it or appoint a new committee to do those.”

Faculty Assembly authorized the ad hoc committee in September 2013, charging it with analyzing University policies and procedures related to full- and part-time NTS faculty. (See Sept. 12, 2013, University Times.) Under Senate bylaws, ad hoc committees are subject to a two-year time limit.

The ad hoc committee expanded on earlier work by the Senate anti-discriminatory policies committee (now EIADAC)’s gender subcommittee. That subcommittee in December 2012 issued a set of recommendations on policies pertaining to full-time NTS faculty. (See Jan. 10, 2013, University Times.)

Spring thanked Frieze and her committee for what he called a “Herculean task.” He told Faculty Assembly: “This is a big chunk of work that has taken a year and a half to pull together. And it’s built on a lot of work that went on prior to that. I don’t believe that it’s the end of that work,” he said, citing additional issues yet to be pursued, including those related to part-time NTS faculty.

Senate past-president Tom Smitherman added, “The committee has seven months left on its contract. It takes a long time to constitute a committee and to get momentum. And the committee currently has momentum … I hope they will continue their work in the next seven months and consider this a not-quite-final final report.”

Frieze said the committee would continue working in response to the executive committee’s request. “I don’t know which specific issues we’ll take on,” she said, leaving those decisions to the committee to decide.


The ad hoc committee’s full report is posted in the documents section of the committee’s page at


Faculty Assembly also forwarded to Senate Council an EPC resolution on providing updated, meaningful course information to students and a TAFC resolution requesting a statement from the provost to indicate that University policies on academic freedom apply to electronic communications.

Expanded course information

The Assembly approved EPC’s recommendation that the provost work with unit leaders to ensure that students have access to “updated and meaningful” course information, such as expanded course descriptions or syllabi, to aid in course selection.

The resolution leaves the units to decide details on what information would be provided and how to make the information available to students, recognizing that there may be challenges to implementation.

EPC co-chair Zsuzsa Horvath said, “We are aware that teaching assignments, especially for adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, are often made shortly before the semester starts,” adding that it also may be difficult for new faculty or those who are teaching a course for the first time to provide detailed information.

Electronic communications

Assembly approved a resolution by a TAFC subcommittee that was formed to review Pitt policies in light of repercussions at other universities stemming from faculty members’ electronic communications. (See Nov. 20, 2014, University Times)

The subcommittee found existing University policies on academic freedom sufficient to cover the use of electronic media, but requested a statement from the provost to reassure faculty that Pitt’s academic freedom policy “covers all mechanisms of communication used in teaching and scholarship, including electronic media.”

The subcommittee’s report, with links to resources on academic freedom and electronic media, is posted in the “initiatives” section of the Senate website.

TAFC report

A report on TAFC’s recent activities included the provost’s report on the number of faculty who transferred from tenure-stream to non-tenure-stream status in academic years 2003-04 through 2013-14.

TAFC co-chair Maria Kovacs reported that the combined permanent and temporary transfer numbers were stable, ranging from 33-36 faculty members per year. “These transfers are in line with University policy. The idea seems to be to give people more time to do whatever it is to do to qualify for tenure.”

Kovacs said she is awaiting details on the number of tenured and non-tenured faculty to provide an idea of how the rates compare across schools.

Over the 11-year span, temporary transfers ranged from a low of five University-wide in 2003-04 to a high of 23 in 2010-11. Permanent transfers showed less variation, ranging from 10 (in 2004-05, 2007-08 and 2010-11) to 17 in 2009-10.

Smitherman pointed out that extraordinary circumstances must arise in order to stop the tenure clock temporarily, which makes a statistical analysis of temporary transfers difficult.

In other business:

• Spring announced he would not seek re-election in the upcoming Senate elections.

Nominations, including self-nominations, for a Senate office or standing committee should be made to the Senate office by the end of February.

• A scheduled benefits and welfare committee report was postponed due to time constraints.

—Kimberly K. Barlow