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November 21, 2013


envelopeTo the editor:

In the past year and a half many Pitt faculty have expressed concerns regarding the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ efforts to suspend the graduate programs in German and classics indefinitely and terminate the graduate program in religious studies (University Times letters of May 17 and Dec. 6, 2012, and Oct. 24, 2013).

The Senate budget policies committee has found that the efforts to suspend or terminate these programs have not violated Planning and Budgeting System guidelines or arts and sciences bylaws (Nov. 7, 2013, University Times).  But as officers of the Pitt chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) we wish to point out that they fall far short of AAUP standards concerning shared governance and the faculty’s primary responsibility over curricular matters, articulated most recently in its report on “The Role of Faculty in Conditions of Financial Exigency” (

The Dietrich school deans suspended admissions to these three graduate programs on April 5, 2012, without any prior consultation with the chairs of the affected departments, and without discussion or approval of the suspension of these three specific programs by the school’s relevant shared governance committees.

Dean (N. John) Cooper claimed the suspensions were necessary due to “deep and disproportionate budget cuts we have received in commonwealth appropriations.”  However, these budget cuts did not rise to the level of financial exigency as defined by the AAUP, which is a “severe financial crisis that fundamentally compromises the academic integrity of the institution as a whole and that cannot be alleviated by less drastic means.”

Moreover, the AAUP standard states that even in times of financial exigency programs can be cut only if appropriate faculty bodies are involved in consultation and deliberation at every stage of the process and have access to detailed budget information, beginning with a determination that the institution is experiencing bona fide financial exigency.

If a program of instruction is discontinued for reasons other than financial exigency — such as a desire to shift funding priorities, articulated in the Dietrich school’s March 30, 2012, document “Focusing for the Future” — the AAUP standard is that the discontinuation must be shown to enhance the educational mission of the institution as a whole. The loss of these graduate programs would diminish the University of Pittsburgh as an institution of higher education, not enhance it, because they or similar programs are part of the curricular portfolio of most high-quality educational institutions, including the vast majority of Pitt’s Association of American Universities (AAU) peer institutions.

The AAUP also requires that “the decision to discontinue formally a program or department of instruction will be based essentially upon educational considerations, as determined primarily by the faculty as a whole or an appropriate committee thereof.”  The minimal participation by Dietrich school faculty in these decisions falls far short of this requirement.

Only two faculty members participated in the confidential April 27, 2012, Dietrich school planning and budgeting committee (PBC) meeting that approved the graduate admission suspensions after they had been executed, versus nine deans and directors, two staff and two students. Faculty participation was likewise low (three to four faculty) at the confidential PBC meetings that developed the school’s “Focusing for the Future” document, with its strategic priority of reallocating graduate resources from smaller to larger departments.

In marked contrast to the low Dietrich school faculty participation in the approval of these controversial proposals, about 100 Dietrich school faculty have signed professor Marianne Novy’s petition to reject them, and the University Council on Graduate Studies voted not to approve two of them and approved the third one only narrowly.

The message to Provost (Patricia) Beeson is clear: Restore these graduate programs; use best-practice shared governance in future graduate resource reallocation decisions, and restore primary responsibility for curricular decisions to faculty.


Beverly Ann Gaddy, President

John J. Baker, Immediate Past-President

Philip K. Wion, Secretary/Treasurer


Carey D. Balaban, vice provost for faculty affairs, responds:

As vice provost for faculty affairs, I carefully monitor the processes for shared governance and I agree with the conclusions of the Senate budget policies committee report of Oct. 10, 2013, that:

“…the processes used by the Dietrich school deans in preparing proposals to suspend the graduate programs in classics and German indefinitely, and to terminate the graduate program in religious studies, met the procedural requirements of the Dietrich school’s bylaws and the University’s Guidelines for Review of Academic Planning Proposals.”

It is important to note that these shared governance processes included review and endorsement by two committees within the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences (the Dietrich school council and the Dietrich school planning and budgeting committee). Of the 18 members of the Dietrich school council, 12 of them are faculty who do not hold central administrative appointments; on the planning and budgeting committee, six of the 15 members are faculty who do not hold central administrative appointments.

Finally, a careful reading of the July 2013 AAUP committee report referred to in the AAUP letter “The Role of Faculty in Conditions of Financial Exigency” (2013 Bulletin, pp. 120-147) makes it clear, from the AAUP perspective, that the processes recommended in this document do not apply to the elimination of individual programs when such changes do not involve termination or relocation of tenured faculty. For example, the report states: “If an undergraduate major or a graduate program is eliminated but lower-level courses continue to be offered (as is the case with many reductions of foreign-language programs), the professor who is reassigned from upper-level to lower-level courses is not considered to be relocated ‘elsewhere.’” Provided tenure rights are unaffected, this reassignment is regarded by the AAUP report as appropriate preservation of tenured faculty status within the institution as a whole. The current scenario in the Dietrich school appears to be consistent with this example of a reassignment of effort.


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Letters should be submitted at least one week prior to publication. Persons criticized in a letter will receive a copy of the letter so that they may prepare a response. If no response is received, the letter will be published alone.

Letters can be sent by e-mail to or by campus mail to 308 Bellefield Hall.

The University Times reserves the right to edit letters for clarity or length. Individuals are limited to two published letters per academic term. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication.

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