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May 1, 2014

Senate to look into tenured faculty policies

The University Senate plans to create an ad hoc committee to examine guidelines for evaluating tenured faculty and associated salary decisions.

At its April 29 meeting, Faculty Assembly approved a resolution from the tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC) to create the ad hoc committee. The resolution, which passed 20-10 with two abstentions, was introduced by TAFC co-chairs Barry Gold, a faculty member in the pharmaceutical science department, and Maria Kovacs, a faculty member in psychiatry.

Gold said: “The driving force for this is that we have either officially or unofficially been approached by a number of faculty. Tenured faculty are actually getting their salaries reduced. Significant deductions in salary and the process by which this is taking place is quite obscure — where the policy comes from and how these reductions are being decided.”

Kovacs added: “We are very concerned about what’s happening with tenured faculty and what we think is that we would like to have a better sense of how these evaluations are applied University-wide.”

Last year complaints surfaced about a School of Medicine policy that allows for a 20 percent pay cut for tenured faculty who fail to meet performance standards.

After the Faculty Assembly meeting, University Senate President Michael B. Spring said he rejects the notion that this is a one-school issue. The motion to form the ad hoc committee specifies a University-wide analysis of such policies, he noted.

The TAFC resolution states that the “constructive discharge of tenured faculty is antithetical to the fundamental protections afforded by tenure. …”

Gold said: “The reality is we have no clear University policy on significant salary reductions for tenured faculty and that does put a tremendous amount of power into the hands of a dean or a chair to target out specific individuals for a variety of different reasons.  I think that’s something that needs to be addressed here at the University of Pittsburgh if tenure is going to mean anything in the future.”

Once created, the ad hoc committee plans to meet with University administrators to discuss current guidelines and undertake an examination of the current review procedure.

Spring told the University Times it is unlikely that there will be enough time to form and charge an ad hoc committee this year.

Related documents and more information are available on the Senate website, Spring said.


In other business:

• University Senate Vice President Irene Frieze, who headed a Senate ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream (NTS) faculty at the University, presented an interim report on her group’s initial recommendations. They included such measures as instituting more clear and public policies on review and promotion within each school, as well as instituting “tracks” for NTS faculty as a means of obtaining longer terms of employment.

Faculty Assembly members discussed the recommendations, but no vote was taken on the recommendations, which will be evaluated and discussed at a future Faculty Assembly meeting.

• Susanna Leers, co-chair of the plant utilization and planning committee, outlined several recent University renovation projects and plans for future projects, including the Graduate School of Public Health building, Clapp Hall, Posvar Hall, David Lawrence Hall and upgrades to Cathedral of Learning elevators.

—Alex Oltmanns