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April 5, 2001

Faculty Assembly okays plan for evaluation of department chairs

Faculty Assembly has endorsed a plan for faculty to annually evaluate their department chairpersons' job performances.

"In schools or units which do not have department chairs or use other titles for administrators, the individuals to be evaluated by faculty under this policy are those academic administrators who are responsible for the annual evaluation of faculty in the unit," stated one of two resolutions approved by the Assembly on April 3.

The other resolution recommended that:

* The Office of the Provost conduct the evaluations based on the format and process tested last fall in a pilot project in the schools of education, information sciences and public health. The pilot project used a two-page form that asked faculty to rate their bosses' leadership and communications skills, abilities as administrators and mentors, and contributions to accomplishing departmental goals.

* To protect evaluators' anonymity, faculty members' written comments should be sent in typed form to the person evaluated and to his or her supervisor.

* In an annual report to Senate Council, the Provost's office should summarize evaluation findings by major academic groupings.

The proposal is on the agenda of Monday's meeting of Senate Council, which includes Pitt senior administrators, staff and students as well as faculty members.

Pitt's administration is not required to follow recommendations of the Assembly or Council. But Provost James Maher has endorsed the idea of faculty evaluations of department chairs, and a Senate Council vote in favor of the plan would indicate it is likely to become University policy.

At its Jan. 30 meeting, Faculty Assembly tabled the proposal after members questioned how the surveys would work in schools without traditional academic departments, and disagreed with an initial recommendation that the Senate itself (rather than the Provost's office) conduct the surveys.

Assembly members discussed, analyzed and fine-tuned the proposal for more than an hour during Tuesday's meeting, prompting an exasperated Senate President Nathan Hershey to plead: "It's not like we're rewriting the Constitution of the United States here!" Practical details can be worked out with the administration during Monday's Senate Council meeting and in ensuing months, Hershey argued.

Eventually, by a show of hands, an overwhelming majority of Assembly members endorsed the proposal.

–Bruce Steele

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