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February 23, 2012

Assembly OKs guidelines for senior searches

Faculty Assembly this week unanimously approved amended guidelines for search committees seeking to fill senior academic positions.

The amended guidelines were introduced by Nicholas Bircher, chair of the University Senate bylaws and procedures committee. Following the search for a new provost in 2010, Bircher said, “it was noted these guidelines were in need of being updated, specifically to eliminate references to positions no longer extant in the University.”

The purpose of the guidelines is to establish mechanisms for creating representative search committees in the spirit of shared governance and developing procedures for determining how such committees normally should function.

Bircher’s committee was charged with reviewing the guidelines that govern the processes for naming search committee representatives, including faculty, staff and students; which positions are to be defined as senior academic administrators under the guidelines; rules governing confidentiality of candidates’ names; the role of public meetings during the search process, and guidelines for screening the candidate pool.

The guidelines specifically cover searches for the provost, the senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences, academic deans, regional campus presidents, the director of the University Library System and directors of selected University-wide centers, that is, those centers whose directors hold membership on the Council of Deans.

The guidelines do not cover the search for a chancellor, which is overseen by Pitt’s Board of Trustees, Bircher noted. However, he said, the makeup of a chancellor’s search committee is expected to conform to the spirit of the guidelines.

In proposing the amended guidelines, Bircher noted his committee had input from senior administrators as well as the Office of General Counsel.

Most of the changes to the guidelines for search committees are minor clarifications, Bircher told Faculty Assembly Feb. 21.

Those few substantive changes, he said, include clarifying precisely which administrators are covered under the guidelines and resolving the ambiguity in earlier versions between selection versus election of staff and student representatives. The committee also decided that the current petition process whereby the guidelines may be altered should be retained.

Under the revised guidelines, both the Staff Association Council and the Student Government Board have the option either to elect their representatives to a search committee or to select them without an election process, Bircher said.

“We extended to those organizations the courtesy of self-determination and latitude with respect to that process,” he explained. “Finally, we determined which centers qualified for these University-wide guidelines.”

The bylaws and procedures committee also noted that, unlike almost all other University-wide policies, the guidelines had not been posted on the Senate web site. Assembly members also approved the committee’s request that they be posted as part of approving the amendment guidelines resolution.

The amended guidelines are expected to be presented to Senate Council on Feb. 29.


In other Assembly business:

• Irene Kane, chair of the benefits and welfare committee, reported that Human Resources is updating its web site to improve communications about Pitt’s health, education and retirement benefits, as well as information on work-life balance topics, perks such as discounts and employee training opportunities.

She added that HR and TIAA-CREF are conducting a survey to assess overall satisfaction with retirement offerings. As of mid-month, more than 500 employees had responded to the survey and results are being compiled. Kane’s committee requested that a second survey be sent to a randomized group of 500 staff and faculty for comparison’s sake. Results of that second survey are expected in March.

• John Baker, chair of the elections committee, reported that candidates for the three Senate officer positions had been identified. He said the election for officers, as well as for new Faculty Assembly members, will take place electronically March 24-April 7. Elections for Senate committee slots will take place April 10-21.

• Senate President Michael Pinsky decried Gov. Tom Corbett’s recent budget proposal to cut Pitt’s commonwealth appropriations by 30 percent. “Since almost every good-paying job with a future career path requires higher education to make it possible, this approach by the governor strikes at the very hope and future of our citizens,” Pinsky said. “If these state funding cuts continue at the intensity they are now, within a year or two we will be receiving no state subsidies at all and will become a de facto private university, whether we say it or not.”

He urged members of the University community to join the March 13 Pitt Day in Harrisburg effort to protest the proposed cuts to legislators, or to write to state representatives about the impact of the cuts on higher education and the future of Pennsylvania.

—Peter Hart

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