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February 16, 1995

New evaluation plan for tenured faculty not needed, committee of Senate leaders insists

Mandatory post- tenure reviews of faculty job performance are both a trend and a sore subject at campuses nationwide.

Trustees and legislators tend to favor them, believing such reviews hold tenured professors accountable for their teaching and research at a time when universities can no longer legally impose mandatory faculty retirement ages.

Academicians tend to resent the reviews as being needless, as potentially threatening to academic freedom, and as reinforcing unfair stereotypes of tenured faculty as complacent deadwood.

Some Pitt trustees are pushing for a mandatory post-tenure review system here. But a committee of recent University Senate presidents hopes to head off that effort with the following argument: In effect, the University already has such a system in the form of annual performance reviews of all faculty.

According to Pitt senior administrators and the University's Faculty Handbook, each faculty member is supposed to meet annually with his or her supervisor for a thorough performance review at the time salary raises are being determined. Supervisors are expected to provide a written performance evaluation for each faculty member and discuss the review with the faculty member. If the review is negative, supervisors and faculty are supposed to agree on plans of corrective action.

Not all schools and departments comply with the policy — but that doesn't mean the University should impose a new review system on top of it, according to the Senate committee.

Senate President James Holland told Faculty Assembly and Senate Council this month that the committee (on which he serves with three former Senate presidents) plans to make the following proposal to Pitt's administration: * First, the administration should enforce the existing faculty performance review system in all units.

* If the administration and the Board of Trustees then want to create a new review system specifically for tenured faculty, that system should come into play only in two situations — either the faculty member requests such a review, or the faculty member receives unsatisfactory annual reviews over a specific number of years. Holland suggested two or three consecutive years.

Holland said his committee plans to present its proposal to the Deans Council later this month, and to Faculty Assembly and the Board of Trustees' academic affairs and libraries committee in March.

Provost James Maher told Senate Council Feb. 13 that he is looking at how individual units comply with Pitt's existing faculty review system. Maher said he will report his findings to the trustees' academic affairs and libraries committee.

At their meetings on Feb. 7 and 13, respectively, Faculty Assembly and Senate Council also heard reports on Pitt's Business and Finance area and the Medical Review Committee (see stories on page 3) and discussed the following topics.

Alleged harassment of dental faculty On Jan. 19, signs were posted throughout Salk Hall condemning School of Dental Medicine faculty who had signed a letter to the editor in that day's issue of the University Times. The letter criticized dental Dean Jon Suzuki. According to Senate Secretary Thomas Zullo, the signs appeared by 8 a.m., just 10 minutes after the Times left its South Side printer and three hours before the Times was delivered to Salk Hall.

The University Times printed Zullo's name at the end of the letter and noted that 11 other dental faculty also had signed it. In cases where a letter has been signed by a number of people, the Times's policy is to print only one or two of the letter-writers' names and to note the number of other signatures.

The signs in Salk Hall accused Zullo and six other dental faculty of being among those who wrote the Times letter. Zullo told Faculty Assembly that the signs had two inaccuracies: At least one of the faculty members listed did not sign the Times letter, and the signs wrongly accused Zullo of being too "chicken" to sign the letter, when in fact his name appeared in the Times.

In reporting to the Assembly, Zullo stopped short of suggesting that Dean Suzuki's office was linked to the anonymous signs. But in an interview, Zullo said that this was "a logical conclusion" based on the time the signs appeared in Salk Hall and the fact that the sign-makers weren't aware that Zullo's name was published with the Times letter, indicating the sign-maker(s) hadn't seen the newspaper.

Under the Times's letters policy, persons criticized in a letter receive a copy of the letter in advance of publication so that they may prepare a response for simultaneous publication with the letter. At the request of the writers of the letter criticizing Suzuki, the Times faxed a copy of the letter to Suzuki's office minus any signatures. According to Zullo, someone who saw the letter before Jan. 19 could have assumed that no one, including Zullo, would be credited in the Times with signing it.

In response to Zullo's report, Assembly members unanimously approved the following resolution: "Faculty Assembly condemns the anonymous posting of an attack on faculty members of the School of Dental Medicine and calls upon the appropriate administrators to join us in the condemnation of such behavior as uncollegial, unprofessional and entirely inappropriate." Assembly member Phil Wion, who proposed the resolution, said it should not be interpreted as calling for the prohibition of such signs, which he said are permissible under the First Amendment and academic freedom traditions.

Postponed evaluation of Planning and Budgeting System The Assembly and Council voted to postpone a mandated evaluation of the University's Planning and Budgeting System (PBS) until the fall term. According to the document that established PBS in October 1992, the evaluation was scheduled to be completed by March 31.

Vice provost for Women's Concerns By May 1, the Provost's office hopes to hire this new administrator to oversee University programs that encourage the recruitment, retention and career development of women faculty, staff and students. The position is open only to Pitt tenured faculty members. (See story and job ad in the Feb. 2 University Times.) Provost Maher told Senate Council that the new administrator will be assigned to complete, within three years, "a well-defined agenda" of advocacy for women. Adding the new vice provost should reduce the administrative workload in Provost's area schools, Maher said, "so we might see a net reduction in administration. If we don't, I expect that the (vice provost) position will go out of existence." The provost added: "I am very aware of the fact that the last thing the faculty want to see is an expansion of the administration."

— Bruce Steele

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