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November 21, 2012

Info sought on room assignment problems

The University Senate’s plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee is seeking documentation for what PUP co-chair Patricia Weiss called the “perennial issue of adequacy of classroom space.”

At the Nov. 7 Faculty Assembly meeting Weiss asked members to help gather anecdotes from undergraduate program directors in their areas to document any difficulties with room assignments for scheduled classes.

She said the committee especially would like to hear from faculty in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, where classroom space may be a larger problem than in other areas of the University.

Weiss said PUP is following up on the issue, which was raised at an expanded Senate executive session prior to the start of the fall term.

She hopes to gather as many detailed anecdotes as possible by Dec. 1 in order to prepare a presentation to share with representatives of the University administration.

“Anything you can do to gather information and get it back to us will be very helpful,” she said.

Weiss said she already had a summary from one department’s undergraduate studies director that outlined both the difficulties with finding rooms and the solutions that had been devised.

She said documentation “can be anecdotal as long as it’s specific and we can get a sense of what’s going on.”

In response to a call for comments by Senate President Thomas C. Smitherman, John B. Lyon, chair of the German department, said he has had an ongoing problem in scheduling introductory language classes. Although the classes require media-equipped classrooms, they “again and again” are scheduled in Nationality Rooms that lack the equipment, he said.

Weiss said the committee wants to understand the dimensions of the problem and to uncover any patterns that may be emerging.

“The more specific the anecdote and the more cases that we have, the fuller the picture will be,” Weiss said.

Submissions should be emailed to Weiss at or to Lori Molinaro at the Senate office,

Graduate program suspensions

Senate budget policies committee (BPC) chair John J. Baker provided an update on the suspension of graduate programs in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences departments of religious studies, German and classics. (See June 14 University Times.)

Baker said the three departments had been asked to submit proposals for their graduate programs to the provost.

He reported that David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management and a chancellor’s liaison to BPC, in a recent report to the committee “made it clear that the provost expects the planning and budget procedures to be followed and I think we can take their word for that.”

Baker elaborated: “Basically that means that the planning and budget committees in arts and sciences as well as the Provost’s office should review whatever the final proposal is. So, the basic message is that this process is ongoing and we don’t know exactly what the status of it is at this time.”

He added, “I think there are questions that could be asked but I’m not convinced that it’s our role to do that. The role of budget policies is to monitor that planning and budgeting procedures are followed. We intend to do that and that was the purpose of getting the update. In the future we will ask either for the chair of the arts and sciences planning and budget committee to report to us as to what they’ve done or ask to attend the meeting.”

Baker said, “Our objective is to make sure that procedures are followed. I think they will be.”

Lyon, chair of the German department, asked whether the proposals take the place of the regular process for terminating a program. “According to the bylaws they’re supposed to actually make projections as to budget impact and impact on other programs in the University and those kind of things. And we haven’t seen any of those things,” he said.

Baker said he also would like to see additional financial information, adding that he has concerns about the potential impact on the departments’ undergraduate programs.

Juan Manfredi, vice provost for undergraduate studies, who attended the meeting in place of liaison Carey Balaban, said he would convey the questions to Balaban, vice provost for faculty affairs.

“My understanding is we plan to follow the planning and budgeting system to the letter of the law,” Manfredi said. “I would not expect any deviation from those parameters.”

Library committee reports

Library committee chair Dennis Looney outlined recent changes to the physical space at Hillman Library and reassignment of library staff to create teams of department-specific liaison librarians — changes designed to be more user friendly.

He noted that the library’s 4th floor has been revamped to serve graduate students, the ground floor has been converted into a “knowledge commons” for collaborative research and that more group study spaces have been created throughout the library.

“There have never been fewer books taken out from the library than now, but there have never more people using the library than now. The library is being used in a radically different way from previous generations of library users. It’s become a study space or a knowledge gathering space. A lot of collaborative work is being done in the library.” (For details on changes at the University Library System, see Sept. 13 University Times.)

• Looney said ULS also is experimenting with patron-driven acquisitions, a new model being used at other libraries. Rather than placing standing orders for new books, “They’ll buy the book if you want the book, but you’ve got to tell them you want the book,” he explained.

Under the new model, librarians want to know that someone in the community wants a book before they purchase it for the library. Looney said, “If a library book is not checked out within the first two years of its purchase, there is a 98 percent chance that it will never be checked out.”

• Looney offered an update on the University’s open-access policy initiative, which would make faculty members’ scholarly work freely available through the ULS D-Scholarship institutional repository. (See Oct. 13, 2011, University Times.)

“All the professional schools have now approved this policy and are participating in D-Scholarship,” Looney said, adding that it is under deliberation in the Dietrich school and soon should be a campus-wide initiative endorsed and embraced by the faculty.

• Funding has been secured for asbestos abatement in Hillman Library, Looney reported. The project, currently in the planning phase, will take place within the next several years, he said.

“It’s going to be, when it is undertaken, extremely disruptive for perhaps six months to 12 months,” he said, adding that faculty will be informed in advance.

In other business:

• The Senate’s anti-discriminatory policies committee has submitted its proposed recommendations for review and promotion of non-tenure stream faculty to the tenure and academic freedom committee.

Final proposals are to be presented to Faculty Assembly at the Nov. 27 meeting, Smitherman said.

• Smitherman said the Senate’s plenary session date has been confirmed for April 18. The topic is “The Oncoming Cyberlearning Revolution in Higher Education.” Among the scheduled speakers are Cynthia Golden, director of the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education; Alan Lesgold, dean of the School of Education, and psychology professor Charles A. Perfetti, director of the Learning Research and Development Center.

• University Senate members wishing to attend a legislative luncheon with state Sen. Tim Solobay at noon Nov. 30 must register with the Senate office by Nov. 23.

• As a follow-up to Smitherman’s presentation on the National Academies report on research universities (see Oct. 11 University Times), Provost Patricia A. Beeson is scheduled to attend the April 2 Faculty Assembly meeting “to discuss what Pitt is about, what Pitt is doing and what are the accomplishments that have pushed Pitt up the academic ladder so fast and where are we going from here,” Smitherman said. He said the provost also has agreed to help organize special sessions on graduate programs and findings on cost savings and efficiencies at Pitt, two areas identified as vital to the future of research institutions that are up to the universities to solve.

• Senate athletics committee co-chair Lou Fabian’s special report on student athletes has been rescheduled for the Feb. 19 Faculty Assembly meeting, due to schedule conflicts.

Faculty Assembly’s Nov. 27 meeting will be held at 3 p.m. in 2700 Posvar Hall.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 45 Issue 7

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