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March 22, 2012

On the issues:

University Senate candidates queried


Beverly Ann Gaddy

This year’s election for the University Senate presidency matches Beverly Ann Gaddy of Pitt-Greensburg and Thomas C. Smitherman of the School of Medicine.Gaddy, associate professor of political science, has been a member of the UPG faculty since 2003. Her teaching and scholarship primarily lie at the intersection of religion and politics, political theology and political theory. Gaddy’s University Senate service includes membership since 2008 on Faculty Assembly and Senate Council and service as vice chair of the Senate’s budget policies committee, as pro tem member of the educational policies committee and as a member of the gender discrimination initiatives subcommittee.Previously, she served on the University planning and budgeting committee, 2008-11.

At Greensburg, she served two terms as president of the UPG Faculty Senate, 2008-10; four terms as a representative to the UPG Senate Council, 2003-06 and 2008-10, and a member of the president’s advisory committee on enrollment, 2008-10.

She also is president of the Pitt chapter of the American Association of University Professors.


Thomas C. Smitherman

Smitherman, professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology,  joined the Pitt faculty in 1990. His clinical, teaching and research interests are in coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction and imaging of the heart.

Smitherman’s University Senate service includes membership on Faculty Assembly, 2006-present; Senate Council, 2008-present, and the Senate elections committee, 2000-04 and 2008-12. He was a member of the Senate bylaws and procedures committee, 2004-07, and committee chair, 2006-07, when he was the lead author of two reports that led to electronic balloting for Faculty Assembly and to increased School of Medicine representation on Faculty Assembly. He was a featured speaker at the 2011 Senate spring plenary session, “Teaching Excellence and Tenure.”

At the School of Medicine, Smitherman was a member of the standing committee for tenured faculty promotions and appointments beginning in 2001, serving as chair 2003-09. He also served on the dean’s ad hoc working group on criteria for faculty appointments and promotion in 1999, and on the standing committee for clinical non-tenure track promotions and appointments, 1996-98.

Senate officers serve one-year terms beginning July 1. The Senate’s electronic balloting will begin March 24 and run through April 7. Short descriptions of the candidates’ academic and service-oriented experience, as well as position statements, will be posted online along with the ballots.

(For the slate of Senate officer candidates, as well as candidates for Faculty Assembly slots, see related story this issue.)

Last week, the presidential candidates responded in writing to questions posed by University Times staff writer Peter Hart. Candidates were asked to limit each response to approximately 250 words. Some responses have been edited for length, clarity or publication style.


UNIVERSITY TIMES: Why should people vote for you? What issues will you focus on as University Senate president?

GADDY: The University of Pittsburgh has not only significantly increased its national and global reputation over the past several years, but is a rewarding place to work.

My primary focus will be to help it become more so, through strengthening our system of shared government, building upon our already-effective working relationship with the administration, increasing faculty voice and involvement in policy-making and encouraging greater transparency in administrative practices.

Another focus will be the promotion of faculty rights, including those of contingent (non-tenure stream and part-time) faculty, and issues of equity. We should remain mindful that our primary mission is to the citizens of Pennsylvania through the provision of high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs and research. A strengthened faculty voice, especially in academic matters, is essential to that mission.

I have served in multiple capacities at Pitt since arriving here in 2003. These include two terms as Faculty Senate president at Greensburg, four terms on Senate Council in Greensburg, four years as Greensburg’s representative to the University’s Senate Council and Faculty Assembly, three years on the University planning and budgeting committee, and as elected member of the Senate educational policies and then Senate budget policies committees.

I participated in the creation of the gender discrimination initiatives subcommittee and remain involved with it, and have served on several other committees at both the Greensburg and Oakland campuses.

I am also an active member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), currently serving as president of the Pitt chapter, and chair of the AAUP Pennsylvania Conference’s governing committee.

SMITHERMAN: In my decade or so in working with the University Senate, I have been impressed greatly by the effectiveness and productiveness fostered by a cooperative and collegial relationship between the components of the University Senate: faculty members, students, staff and administration. I would focus on continuing that cooperative and collegial way of conducting our business and our meetings.

In recent years, two major initiatives have been started thanks in great part to the efforts of the University Senate: (1) CERTS: Community Engagement for Research and Teaching through Service and (2) the Fitness for Life program for University of Pittsburgh employees. In the next academic year, I favor continuing to bring these initiatives to full realization, augmenting and enhancing them when needed and feasible, as opposed to starting any major new University Senate-proposed initiatives.

For more details, I refer to Senate Matters, Community Collaborations: A Strategy for Future Research, University Times, Oct. 27, 2011, as well as Fitness for Life, posted at

Budget issues, especially proposed steep cuts in Pitt’s state appropriation, seem to be today’s dominant topic. What impact have the budget problems had? What aspects of educational quality are most vulnerable to the budget cuts?

GADDY: The budget remains our primary concern at this time. This is true not just for Pitt or Pennsylvania, but nationwide. The U.S. has long boasted the best universities in the world, drawing the most talented and gifted students from around the globe to study here. But with the current attacks upon higher ed in our country, coupled with the slashing of state funding for education, U.S. universities face the real risk of erosion of this global reputation.

We have a world-class faculty at Pitt, one dedicated to excellence in teaching and research. Our budget priorities must be to (1) maintain the quality of our faculty so that we can continue to provide value to our students and service to our community and maintain Pitt’s high prestige, and (2) keep tuition as affordable as possible for Pennsylvania residents, regardless of family income.

SMITHERMAN: The cuts in state support for the current year were draconian and the proposed cuts for the next year are even more so. The actual dollar support from the commonwealth for state-related universities was fairly flat from 2001-02 to 2010-11 but declined steadily when corrected for inflation.

At the same time state spending overall rose by almost 40 percent. But for the University of Pittsburgh, similar to the other state-related universities, support dropped drastically and disproportionately (compared to state spending overall) to $136 million for 2011-12 from $168 million in 2010-11 and is proposed to drop to $95 million in the governor’s proposed budget for 2012-13!

Thanks to economies the quality of our educational activities has not yet been seriously eroded. There are serious concerns going forward, however, which include, first, the cost of tuition for Pennsylvania residents.

Several publications have rated Pitt as a high-value educational experience. In-state students now have a reduction of tuition of about $9,500. The difference is made up roughly by half from commonwealth support and about half internally.

The pressure of the decreasing support from the commonwealth to Pitt seriously jeopardizes both of these components of in-state tuition reductions. In-state tuition could approach out-of-state tuition.

The second major concern is that the proposed cuts have a major potential to hurt Pitt’s mission and negatively impact its status as western Pennsylvania’s major economic engine.

For more details I refer the reader to the chancellor’s written testimony to the state House of Representatives on Feb. 22, 2012, as reported by the Pitt Chronicle, Feb. 27, 2012.

What economies have you seen the University undertake? What other measures should Pitt be taking?

GADDY: Some cost-savings have been realized through the elimination of faculty and staff positions, wiser use of resources, increased productivity, limiting spending on travel and supplies and improved utilization of space. We have also accomplished much in the area of sustainability over the past few years, but this is one area where we can seek improvement. Energy conservation, green building, paper-use and waste reduction, encouraging biking and mass transit ridership and other environmentally friendly practices not only yield cost-savings, but provide the additional benefit of reducing our impact upon the environment.

SMITHERMAN: Chancellor [Mark] Nordenberg reported to the University Senate several months ago about the number of economies that have been achieved and, in some cases, the dollar amounts saved.

The effort, an ongoing one, has been remarkable. It includes the following initiatives and savings: (1) channeled spending program and strategic purchasing, $78 million savings over the past four years; (2) budget cuts, $43 million over the past three years; (3) postretirement medical benefits, $30 million over the past four years; (4) contract negotiation for energy, $17 million [projected] over the next five years; (5) energy conservation, $8 million over the past four years; (6) IT and telecommunications, $7.2 million over the past four years; (7) employee benefits, $7 million over the past four years; (8) electronic reporting, $1.6 million annually; (9) library savings, $1.7 million over the past four years; (10) increased productivity; (11) administrative restructuring; (12) reduced number of low-enrollment courses, and (13) programmatic consolidation and elimination.

Going forward, I think that continuing and enhancing these efforts is the best way to try to further contain costs.

For details I refer the reader to the report “Efficiency and Cost Cutting” at

Given that state support is an increasingly smaller proportion of Pitt’s budget, should the University cut its ties with the state and go private?

GADDY: Going private would change Pitt in fundamental ways, affecting far more than our revenue sources. It would dramatically alter our mission. Yet the reality is we are losing so much state support that we must ask at what point we are no longer public. As Chancellor Nordenberg noted in a recent hearing before the state Senate appropriations committee, last year’s cuts combined with those proposed for next year amount to over $100 million, making us “half as public as we were two years ago” (University Times, March 8, 2012). As much as I am committed to public higher education and would very much regret to see our public mission altered, we must evaluate every possibility.

SMITHERMAN: I think that it would be premature for the University of Pittsburgh to cut its ties with the state and go private now. A strong consensus exists that the relationship between the commonwealth and the University of Pittsburgh, since that relationship began in 1966, has been extraordinarily mutually beneficial. During this time, in part related to state support, the University of Pittsburgh has moved to world-class status. During this time, the University has made extraordinarily valuable contributions to the education and training of thousands of students from the commonwealth, and the University of Pittsburgh — along with its related institutions — has become the principal economic engine of western Pennsylvania.

It is widely believed that the renaissance of the Pittsburgh region after the collapse of the steel industry would not have been possible without the University of Pittsburgh and its related institutions.

One can hope that in time reason will prevail and that we can return to the prior relationship to the state. If that does not occur and state support continues to decline to the point that Pitt is placed into a de facto state of no or essentially no state support, then it would be more timely than now, in my view, to consider cutting Pitt’s ties to the state.

Should Pitt recruit more out-of-state and international students in an effort to raise more tuition revenue?

GADDY: Pitt should continue to recruit out-of-state and international students for the enrichment they bring to our University community. Broader cultural and ethnic diversity and an increased talent pool only serve to enhance our prestige and rankings, as well as making Pitt an increasingly pleasant place to work.

If increasing our diversity in this way has the effect of bringing in more tuition revenue, that’s fine, but I hope that raising more revenue in tuition would not be our reason for doing so.

SMITHERMAN: Currently almost two-thirds of Pitt’s students are in-state residents and just over one-third are out-of-state students. The quality and number of applicants has continued to rise each year over the last few years.

I think that it is appropriate to recruit the best students that we can, including out-of-state and international students, but to take Pennsylvania residents first, all other things being equal, until and unless our state-related relationship changes.

Should endowment spending policies be altered to counterbalance difficult economic times?

GADDY: We should at least consider every possibility of dealing with our budget problems in these times. Pitt does have a very large endowment, ranking 26th nationwide at the end of FY 2011, according to a report from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (University Times, Feb. 9, 2012), and this was before the $125 million gift from the late William S. Dietrich II, former board chair.

Given that Pitt’s endowment at the end of FY 2011 stood at nearly $2.51 billion, it is hard to understand why we should be cutting funds to our educational programs. While I realize we are not free to dip into our endowment to cover our budget shortfalls, perhaps we can explore other possibilities.

SMITHERMAN: No, for two major reasons. First, a large part of the funds in the endowment are dedicated (“earmarked”) for a specific purpose(s). Second, the amount of the annual draw-down of the endowment fund is restricted by regulations and financial prudence. It is my understanding that the current annual draw-down amount is at or near the maximum.

Bills have been introduced to extend the state’s Right to Know law to the state-related schools, which currently are exempt from many of the law’s provisions. Should Pitt and the other state-related schools be covered by this state law?

GADDY: While I understand the reasons why Pitt and the other state-relateds were exempted from many of the provisions of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law, as a political scientist I am concerned that public institutions remain accountable to the public and transparent in their dealings.

My experience with Senate budget policies leads me to believe that there is not yet sufficient transparency at Pitt. To the degree that the Right to Know law will help to increase our accountability to the public, I am in support of extending the law to Pitt and the other state-related schools.

SMITHERMAN: No. Given the low percentage (less than 10 percent) of the University of Pittsburgh’s budget from the commonwealth, the current law (Act 3 of 2008) still seems to me to be a reasonable one for the state-related universities. Act 3 of 2008 was a complete overhaul of the prior law and did extend some provisions of the law to the state-related universities: a financial disclosure requirement which includes information in IRS Form 990 (except for individual donor information), the salaries of all officers and directors and the highest 25 salaries paid to employees.

For more information I refer the reader to the explanation and description of Act 3 of 2008, the Open Records (Right to Know) Law, at

The Port Authority has outlined possible 35 percent cuts in service system-wide for September — including eliminating almost all service after 10 p.m. What effect would such cuts have on Pitt? What steps should Pitt take to aid faculty and staff getting to and from work?

GADDY: I am very concerned about the Port Authority’s proposed cuts and the negative impact it will have on those students, faculty and staff who rely upon public transit. I am one of those riders. I wish there was an easy answer to this dilemma. It is difficult for the University to commit more resources to van or bus services in the face of drastic cuts to our own budget. Beyond doing more to encourage ride-sharing, biking, etc., we need to collectively consider what we can do to increase transportation access for our entire community.

SMITHERMAN: The extraordinary proposed cuts in service by the Port Authority doubtless will have a negative effect on the Pitt community. I suspect that the greatest effects will be on our students and staff.

There are two ways to work to mitigate these effects. First, we should all continue to work together to try to influence those who control the state and county budgets for transportation to achieve greater funding for public transportation.

Second, it would seem reasonable to consider enlarging and enhancing Pitt’s existing bus transportation system. We must be mindful in those considerations that this step may increase costs to the University of Pittsburgh and that any such changes in our bus system must be negotiated with the Port Authority before being put into place.

An enlarged and enhanced Pitt bus system could be considered a contribution to the community somewhat analogous to the role of the University of Pittsburgh Police system.

Is the tenure system healthy at Pitt? What protections do you see for non-tenure stream and part-time faculty?

GADDY: It appears that the health of our tenure system varies from one school to another at Pitt.

As for the issue of contingent faculty, according to a recent report from the AAUP a majority of all faculty nationwide hold part-time appointments, with non-tenure stream positions of all types accounting for 68 percent of faculty appointments.

Many classified as part time actually teach the equivalent of a full-time load, but for less salary and benefits.

While the problem appears not to be as great at Pitt, given the variability in classifications of part time from one school to the next it is difficult to obtain firm numbers University-wide. In the budget policies committee we are working to obtain these numbers and salaries from the administration.

Excessive reliance upon contingent faculty harms our mission of providing quality teaching. It also damages faculty governance and academic freedom as non-tenured faculty feel less secure in their positions to speak out.

Non-tenure-stream and part-time faculty need to be assured of the University’s long-term commitment to them. This could be partly accomplished through multiple-year contracts and greater assurance of continued employment upon satisfactory performance. Positions that require comparable responsibilities and qualifications should be comparably compensated and rewarded, whether tenure-stream or not. Part-time faculty should be compensated at the applicable fraction of a comparable full-time position.

SMITHERMAN: The tenure system is healthy at Pitt. A report in November 2011 from Dr. Carey Balaban, chair of the tenure and academic freedom committee, provides evidence for this judgment.

The need for tenured versus non-tenured faculty differs greatly from school to school and the tenure system must be judged on a school-by-school basis.

The Arts and Sciences and the regional campuses are teaching-intensive, and about 70 percent of the faculty members are tenured.

In the Health Sciences there are fewer full-time students. There is an important teaching focus, but there is an even greater focus on research and service. About 30 percent of [Health Sciences] faculty members are tenured. Overall, the number of faculty members who are tenured or are in the tenure stream has remained stable since 1999, except for a spike in the numbers in the medical school, which — when corrected for the increase in total number of faculty in the medical school — has also remained steady.

There is not a growing number of part-time faculty members at the University. In the Arts and Sciences, there are very few part-time faculty members. The principal use of part-time faculty has been to keep class sizes smaller and to allow certain courses with a narrow appeal to be offered.

Faculty members in the non-tenure stream are often on a renewable contract, which provides substantial protection.

In the professions, the proportion of part-time faculty members is about the same as it was in 1996 and many of these faculty members are part time by choice. Accordingly, I think that this is much less of an issue at Pitt than at many other universities.

What are other universities doing that Pitt should emulate?

GADDY: Perhaps other universities should look at how they can emulate Pitt!

Certainly there is always room for improvement, however. While shared governance has been eroding at many universities, in part because of the decline in tenured or secure faculty positions, there are universities that have built strong systems of shared governance, with robust faculty involvement. I would like to see us emulate these universities.

SMITHERMAN: All professors note that current tools for assessing the focus of our courses and the quality of our teaching and the extent of our students’ learning are less than optimal.

Last year, the potential for improvement in our courses and programs by more formal and structured self-assessments became increasingly clear to me as a result of two things.

First, Provost [Patricia] Beeson discussed at the March 2011 Faculty Assembly meeting that interest in and use of self-assessment of curricula and courses was growing at many universities. She noted that she was planning to institute a self-study program to submit to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, looking in depth at a strategy to which the University has been committed for a long time, as part of our upcoming reaccreditation process. That was completed earlier this year.

At the same time, I was preparing my presentation for the Senate plenary session, “Teaching Excellence and Tenure.” Within the medical school, there was a virtually unanimous feeling among course and program directors that a detailed self-assessment of major courses was a tremendous opportunity for better assessing the quality of our teaching, with the proviso, “if we just had the time and resources.”

I am hopeful that this process can continue and grow at the University of Pittsburgh.

For more details I refer to the Pitt’s Middle States Reaccreditation Self-Study Report Completed, Pitt Chronicle, Jan. 23, 2012, and my presentation on Teaching Excellence and Tenure, University Times, April 28, 2011.

The Senate, as an advisory body, does not wield actual decision-making power, so why should faculty get involved with the Senate?

GADDY: Faculty should get involved with the Senate because faculty involvement enhances the University and results in improved policies, especially in those areas related to our academic mission, budgeting, academic freedom and tenure, and faculty rights and welfare.

Thus faculty who care about providing the best programs for our students while strengthening the reputation of our University should evaluate how they may increase their involvement in faculty governance. While the Senate may formally be advisory only, we do have influence in policy-making, both through our committee system and in Faculty Assembly. This system enables us to communicate our concerns effectively to the administration, and I do believe our views are respected and listened to. The more widely our faculty participate in these bodies, the more our influence will be felt.

SMITHERMAN: According to our bylaws, “Section 1. Purpose: The Senate of the University of Pittsburgh is an official University body for shared governance. Through its various organs, it considers and makes recommendations concerning educational policies and other matters of University-wide concern. The Senate shall foster discussion and maintain adequate communication channels among students, staff, faculty, administrative officers and the Board of Trustees on all matters affecting the welfare of the University or its constituent members.”

Members of the faculty greatly value shared governance. Along with the rights and privileges of being a member of the faculty comes the responsibility of good citizenship to participate in this shared governance. The principal way to do this is to become involved with the Senate.

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