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December 8, 2005

Regional faculty presidents praise inter-campus communication

Calling it a new era of inter-campus communication, faculty leaders from three of Pitt’s regional campuses reported to Faculty Assembly last week on issues particular to their academic homes.

The president of Pitt-Titusville’s faculty council was unable to attend the meeting.

Faculty presidents Sayre Greenfield of Pitt-Greensburg, Don Ulin of Pitt-Bradford and Richard Ulsh of Pitt-Johnstown, praised the initiative of University Senate officers on the Pittsburgh campus for opening lines of communication among the elected faculty councils, something they said had been lacking in recent times.

“We had a meeting of all the faculty presidents up at Bradford last year and what came out of that was that we decided to form a council of campus leadership,” Ulsh said.

That council convened in part to discuss appropriate faculty salary benchmark groups for the regionals that would parallel the Association of American Universities’ public institution members, which are the central administration’s measuring stick for comparing Pittsburgh campus faculty salaries. (See April 28 University Times.)

“The salary benchmarking issue really simmered for a few months, and this fall I realized that since we [at UPJ] opened up this can of worms, we should probably take the responsibility for finishing the job,” Ulsh said.

He appointed a committee that included representatives of the other two regionals, charging members to develop a list of 15-30 schools as salary benchmarks, Ulsh said, “and do it on a rational basis. That means to find institutions that are similar in mission, in requirements of hours of teaching load, in student/faculty ratio” and that are competitors for student and faculty recruitment, he said.

That committee is expected to report its recommendations in April, Ulsh said.


The UPJ faculty president also reported on a structural overhaul of his campus’s Faculty Council (the campus’s equivalent of Senate Council) and Faculty Senate (similar to Faculty Assembly).

“When I was elected to my first term three years ago I found that there was a lack a participation,” Ulsh said. “It was difficult to find people to run for office; meetings were consistently below the stated requirements for a quorum. There was open discussion about whether we should even have a Faculty Senate, which was a sign that we had a morale problem.”

So Ulsh conducted a faculty survey from which a set of improvement guidelines was drawn, and then appointed an ad hoc committee to look at ways of implementing the guidelines.

The results included:

• Revamping the 35-year-old bylaws, which are expected to be on line by the end of January.

• Reducing the number of Faculty Council meetings from seven to three per academic year, while consolidating meeting agenda items.

• Launching a faculty discussion web site for exchanging ideas that might otherwise be covered in council meetings.

• Eliminating or combining some standing committees.

• Converting to a secure on-line voting format for council membership and officers, which has increased voting participation by more than 30 percent, Ulsh said. “There also is more interest in running for office. We used to have some uncontested elections,” he said.

• Re-organizing the council membership to make it more proportionally representative of the campus’s academic divisions.


Pitt-Greensburg’s Greenfield told the Nov. 29 Assembly that he also welcomed the opening of communication lines among faculty across campuses.

“The campus at Oakland has been for my 11 years at UPG very much a ‘remote deity’: the great supplier of library services and, occasionally, administratively, the formulator of tenure-track lines that we desire,” he said. “For the most part communication between our campuses is a rare thing below the level of top administrators.”

Pitt-Greensburg faculty at associate and assistant professor levels teach four classes per semester, while full professors teach three, Greenfield said. In addition, he said, expectations of research and publication are fairly high, even in comparison to some regional private liberal arts colleges.

“We do consider ourselves primarily devoted to teaching, but a substantial portion of the faculty are invested in their own programs of research,” he said.

UPG suffers in faculty recruitment and retention from a low number of tenure-stream positions, Greenfield maintained. The fine arts subdivision of humanities has no tenure-track positions, and only two tenure-stream positions exist in the combined foreign-language areas, he noted.

“In our internal operations, the campus has tried to eradicate so far as possible the discrimination between the tenure-track and non-tenure-track professors, such as [equal eligibility] to serve as leaders of search committees for new hires,” Greenfield said.

However, non-tenured faculty do not serve as division chairs or in several semi-administrative positions, which puts the impetus on tenured faculty to assume those additional duties, he noted.

“We also have a considerable number of professors who are not in tenure-track lines, but have published more than those who are,” he added.

Other items under discussion at UPG are the place of foreign languages in the curriculum; possible revisions in academic integrity guidelines; concerns that the state legislature is challenging academic freedom; developing a salary comparison group, and filling the position of vice president of academic affairs, he said.

“That search process has not been an easy one,” Greenfield said, “because it involves defining what kind of a college we will become over the next few years and it requires attracting someone willing to work within the strengths of an institution that has its own agenda of pursuing the values of a liberal arts college, without quite having the leeway or the resources to pursue those values exactly as we wish.”

The regional campus aspires to be a high-quality liberal arts college, where, for example, faculty emphasize the connections among disciplines more than identifying themselves individually with particular departments, he said.

UPG faculty also have formed a committee to develop ways to increase student applications, he said. “We run very much off of tuition after sending a portion of what our students pay to the general coffers of the University,” Greenfield said. “Or to put it another way, our budget is very sensitive to enrollment.”


Bradford faculty president Ulin said that challenges facing his campus include a dearth of full-time faculty, faculty retention, a location in a sparsely populated region from which to recruit students, the development of support programs for students with the intellectual capacity to succeed but who are ill-prepared to start college and pressures from Pitt’s central administration to increase enrollment.

“Our mission is to offer affordable, high-quality higher education in a part of Pennsylvania where higher education would otherwise be inaccessible,” Ulin said. “Most of our students are the first in their families to attend college, and a high percentage are nontraditional and are frequently tied by family or other commitments to the region. But there are only so many students in our region. Paradoxically, if our mission is to serve the region, we can only do it by attracting large numbers of students from outside the region.”

One solution to that problem, Ulin said, is to offer programs that both serve the region and take advantage of UPB’s location, such as environmental studies, rural studies, outdoor recreation — programs that would be of interest to students from anywhere.

“In the end we find we have to be almost all things to almost all people, which isn’t necessarily a good business model, but it’s a demand that emerges unavoidably,” Ulin said. “Maybe this is hubris on my part, but I think we’re almost single-handedly driving the economic, intellectual and cultural growth in a part of Pennsylvania that’s seen precious little of any of that since the oil boom days.”

Pitt-Bradford currently enrolls 1,200 full-time equivalent students, Ulin said. “The word [from Pitt’s administration] is that we have all the resources we need to enroll 1,500 — to increase enrollment by 300 students — and if we don’t there are threats of budget reductions to bring us down by that 20 percent. However, no one in Bradford has ever been shown the formula by which those numbers are arrived at, but given the special demands and challenges we face, we wonder how we could possibly accommodate 300 more students without additional resources.”

UPB has a number of programs with only one or two full-time faculty, including English, criminal justice, history, political science, communications, physics, sociology and anthropology, and several that have as few as three full-time faculty, Ulin said.

“So I run the English program,” he said. “I advise almost all English majors while teaching eight different courses per year. And that’s pretty typical. So, the workload and salaries do make it difficult to keep faculty, especially in high-demand fields.”

Ulin also praised the new open lines of communication among Pitt’s campuses. “I really believe, with the support of the Oakland faculty and with this communication among the campuses, the regionals really can help the University to realize its commitment to the people in communities in western Pennsylvania who are very deserving, and historically underserved people who might otherwise be beyond the reach of the University,” he said.

UPJ’s Ulsh added, “We’ve entered a new era of inter-campus faculty communication, and I think this is a very healthy thing. I would hope we could add in the near future shared goal-setting. I don’t think it’s enough to simply say we studied this issue and this is what is what we found. I think we need to then set goals, set priorities based on these studies. So I remain hopeful about the future, but reserve judgment to see what comes out of this.”

In other Faculty Assembly developments:

• Senate President Irene Frieze reported that a recommendation has been forwarded to the provost to allow mass e-mails to faculty in the form of a one-page monthly newsletter with links provided for more information. The proposal is awaiting action by the provost, she said.

• The Senate’s spring plenary session is titled, “Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Reality:

Commercialization of Academic Initiatives.” Senate Vice President Michael Pinsky reported that the focus of the session will be on lower-campus initiatives. The date is set for March 29.

• Pinsky also reported that Steven Kanter, vice dean at the School of Medicine, has systematically alerted medical school faculty of the existence of their account, in effect ending a long-standing problem with dual Pitt and UPMC e-mail accounts.

• Assembly members agreed that the Senate’s expanded executive committee should ask for a report from the consultants Pitt hired to review uses for the University Club.

• Herbert Chesler reported that the benefits and welfare committee is looking into Pitt’s smoking policies, particularly whether areas near entrances to Pitt buildings should continue to be designated as smoking areas. Chesler invited opinions on the subject to be forwarded to him at 8-1706 or

• The community relations committee reported that Pitt’s Community Outreach Partnership Center and the University Honors College have announced funding opportunities for faculty in the range of $3,000 – $5,000 for research service learning undergraduate courses and applied research projects. Funding is available for the summer and fall 2006 terms and can be used for course development, students assistants, materials, travel, guest speakers or summer salary supplement.

Applications are due Jan. 10 at 3600 CL. For more information, contact either Amy Eckhardt (4-6880; or Tracy Soska (4-3711;

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 38 Issue 8

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