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May 14, 2015

At Provost request: Assembly takes no vote on travel policy

Proposed changes to the University’s travel registry guidelines have met with opposition from some faculty members, prompting the University Senate to table the issue indefinitely at the provost’s request.

Provost Patricia E. Beeson sought the Senate’s endorsement of a plan to require faculty to register their itineraries and their contact information when traveling abroad on University business.

Currently, staff and certain students must register their University-related international travel while faculty are “strongly encouraged” but not required to do so.

In a memo to the Senate on the March 2015 proposed travel policy revision, Beeson stated: “The Ebola virus epidemic this past fall made apparent the need for the University to be aware of international travel conducted by members of the community, not only to make them aware of travel alerts, but to take appropriate precautions upon return.”

The changes, which she said were approved by the Council of Deans, not only would require faculty to register their international travel, but would require undergraduates in any Pitt-sponsored program abroad (rather than only for-credit programs) likewise to register.

The Senate executive committee endorsed the changes and raised the matter in Faculty Assembly in April but postponed a vote to allow faculty time to review the issue. (See April 16 University Times.)

While opinions spanned the spectrum, a majority of nearly three dozen faculty members who commented via the Senate web page prior to the May 12 meeting opposed the plan, labeling it additional bureaucracy for little gain, an unnecessary burden, heavy-handed and an affront to academic freedom.

Some expressed concern for how the information might be used or to whom their travel could be disclosed, and whether there would be penalties for faculty who did not register their travel.

Several faculty viewed the proposed requirements positively, calling it reasonable, helpful and a source of peace of mind for families.

Others found it acceptable to require faculty bound for risky areas to register their travel, but questioned the need for others to disclose their travel plans.

One suggested that, rather than requiring faculty to register, the University create a visible web page with guidance for concerned family or colleagues, should a cause for concern arise regarding a faculty member abroad.


Debate continued in email exchanges after University Senate President Michael Spring alerted members Monday that he planned to ask for a vote rather than entertain additional discussion at the May 12 meeting.

“At Faculty Assembly, I will simply ask for a vote on the motion and pass that on to Provost Beeson as well as all comments made by the faculty,” Spring stated in his May 11 email, citing a full agenda for Assembly’s final meeting of the academic year.

However, no motion was presented at Assembly’s May 12 meeting. Instead, Spring announced: “I received a note last night from Provost Beeson thanking the Faculty Assembly for bringing the concerns about travel to her attention. In light of the discussion, she asked that the travel registration policy be tabled as she considers how best to address the concerns that have been raised.”

Spring continued, “I think it’s best to just allow the provost to mull over the extensive and very concerned remarks that all of you have made over the past month,” adding, “I suspect some of you will be getting a call over the summer to form an ad hoc committee to advise the provost.

“It’s my conviction that there’s a lot of good intent behind this new policy,” he said, adding, “The provost listens very carefully to what goes on in Faculty Assembly and indeed she and her staff have been listening over the last several weeks. I’ve been sharing with them your comments and she decided it was in the best interest of all to fall back and take a look at what was well intentioned,” he said.

Travel registry guidelines and registration information can be found under the “My resources” tab on the portal.

Faculty comments and information on the travel registry discussion are posted under the “International travel” tab at

In other business:

Computer science faculty member Alexandros Labrinidis invited faculty members who are interested in being kept informed about a potential new campus entity for computing and information science and engineering to sign up for a mailing list he has created. Faculty can register at


Maureen Beal, assistant vice chancellor for financial operations, reported on the University’s purchasing strategies.

Her PantherExpress team manages contracting, ordering and payment processes for more than $700 million in goods and services purchased each year, including more than 2,500 contracts for services, 160,000 purchase orders for goods and nearly a half-million payment requests.

Her team’s goals “are to make purchasing and paying as easy as possible,” she said. “Also to reduce product and service costs, delivery time, returns for defects and administrative time, not only our time centrally but your time in the departments,” she said.

“If you have any suggestions on ways to improve our service to you, I’m here to listen,” she told faculty. “We try very hard to listen to your needs. We benchmark relentlessly. Not only our processes and the cost of our processes — the transaction processing costs — but the cost of products and services that we buy.”

Beal said, “We employ a sourcing methodology that really enables us to take advantage of the University’s massive buying power to achieve lots of benefits for the University community. We aggressively employ e-commerce where we can for administrative cost savings and we measure and review … for continuous improvement.”

The University consolidates its purchasing with a small number of suppliers and is a member of several purchasing consortiums in order to gain leverage to drive down prices and get other benefits, she said.

About 70 University-wide and responsibility center-wide agreements are in place. Purchasers at Pitt aren’t required to buy from these suppliers, “but we ask you to make them your first stop,” Beal said. “You’ll find you get very deep discounts, free delivery, no-hassle returns, pre-negotiated legal terms and e-commerce with these suppliers.”

E-commerce strategies also save time and money, she said. Online catalogs with Pitt-discounted pricing save time for buyers; electronic purchase orders go directly to the suppliers and e-invoices streamline payment.

Beal estimated that the contracts saved departments some $20 million, or 20 percent in fiscal year 2014. Savings from e-commerce amounted to about $3.6 million in FY14.


Committee reports Budget policies

BPC is charged with monitoring the University’s planning and budgeting system and with making recommendations on matters including tuition levels, compensation policies and the creation, merger or termination of academic programs when budgetary considerations are involved.

BPC co-chair John Baker said: “The administration does not share much information on the University’s budget and finances with the committee,” therefore, BPC’s primary activities are limited mostly to salary-related reports.

“We have requested more budget transparency and several years ago we did agree to have closed executive sessions so financial information could be presented,” Baker said. “This has had some positive effect,” including the confidential presentation in September of the University’s revenue and cost attribution study “for the first time in five years,” Baker said. The document shows costs and revenues for each responsibility center.

• In October, the committee received the annual average salary of faculty and librarian peer analysis report for fiscal year 2014. The report, based on the annual AAUP salary survey, compares Pitt salaries with pay at public AAU peer institutions. (See Oct. 23 University Times.)

Baker noted that the University’s stated goal is for average faculty salaries on the Pittsburgh campus to be at or above the median for each rank, or No. 17 among the peer group of 34 schools.

The survey once showed pay only for the professor ranks, but two years ago was modified to include instructor and lecturer salaries as well as the number of faculty at each rank. “These are very positive steps,” Baker said. “It still omits no-rank faculty as well as the ‘all ranks’ faculty salary.”

He said the “all ranks” faculty salary on campus is $93,700 while the corresponding public AAU median is $104,000.

• Co-chair Beverly Gaddy said a BPC subcommittee has proposed parameters to facilitate production of a report on part-time faculty salaries that would correspond to the annual mean and median salary report for full-time faculty.

• She said the committee reviewed a report on the effect of cost of living on Pitt faculty salaries in November (see Dec. 4, 2014, University Times) and a FY1998-2013 faculty and staff salary cohort report in December (see Jan. 8 University Times).

• BPC’s March public meeting focused on the FY14 mean and median salaries of full-time employees report (see April 2 University Times). In executive session BPC received an annual report on faculty salaries and teaching load.

• Last month, BPC discussed the analysis of salary increases for full-time continuing faculty in FY2015 and an updated 15-year salary cohort report for continuing faculty and staff FY2000-15. (See April 30 University Times.)

BPC will meet in executive session May 22 to recommend a salary pool increase amount to the chancellor for the upcoming fiscal year, she said.

Equity, inclusion and anti-discrimination advocacy

EIADAC co-chair Claude Mauk reported that the committee added working groups focused on international populations and on race and ethnicity this year.

Current EIADAC initiatives include improving the University’s diversity web page. “What we’re hoping is that it will be more like other universities” with news and a calendar of diversity-related events to facilitate communication throughout the University community as well as among the University’s various diversity committees, Mauk said.

He said the international populations working group is developing a weeklong orientation for international graduate students in partnership with the Office of International Services and Graduate and Professional Student Government.

While international undergrads can draw on services from the cross-cultural and leadership development office, “The international graduate students largely come to the University and get immediately placed into their departments and fields and don’t often get a great deal of information about the Pittsburgh community itself and the University,” he said. “We think it will have a strong impact and lead to an improved experience for these international graduate students.”

EIADAC co-chair Marilyn Hravnak added that the gender equity working group is seeking an updated pay report.

Governmental relations

Governmental relations committee chair Linda R. Frank reported that the committee has focused on making connections with local and state government officials this academic year.

“On every occasion when I’ve reached out to government officials, whether they be state or local officials, I’ve met with incredible enthusiasm and interest in collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh Senate faculty. I have been very pleased with the response we have gotten,” Frank said.

• State Rep. Dan Frankel met with the committee in September to discuss education funding and budget issues.

• The committee met on the Pitt-Bradford campus in October with staff from state Sen. Joe Scarnati’s office.

• Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald met with the committee in December. Dialogue included talk about new opportunities for joint ventures for faculty and students, Frank said.

• Allegheny County Health Department director Karen Hacker talked with the committee in January about ACHD priorities including health mapping in the Monongahela Valley, access to health care, issues around vaccination, sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and drug use in the county.

• Mayor Bill Peduto was January’s guest. He discussed the role of Pitt in Pittsburgh and the importance of collaboration between the University and the city.

• City council member Corey O’Connor will meet with the committee in May and Chancellor Emeritus Mark A. Nordenberg will discuss the Institute of Politics at the committee’s June meeting.

Faculty participation remains a challenge. “We’re going to continue to do outreach to recruit people to come to our meetings,” Frank said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow