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April 13, 2017

University Senate Matters

Changing the climate for NTS faculty

I was very pleased to have strong faculty and Senate Council approval of our second Senate ad hoc committee report on non-tenure-stream (NTS) faculty. (For the full report, go to University Senate website.)

This report represents two years of effort by a dedicated group of faculty, staff and administrative staff. It builds on another two years of work by an earlier group, with many of us serving on both committees.

I first became interested in the concerns of my full-time faculty colleagues in the non-tenure stream when I was the undergraduate program director in psychology. I found that many of the faculty teaching our large introductory classes were full-time members of the department, but were not associated with our graduate programs or in the tenure stream. These NTS faculty, most of them women, largely were invisible to me and other tenured faculty. In the gender subcommittee of the anti-discrimination policies committee (now the equity, inclusion and anti-discrimination advocacy committee), I raised concerns about these NTS faculty, wondering if there was a widespread tendency for these faculty to be predominantly women. The subcommittee’s research showed that while this was the case in some units, gender discrimination did not appear to be an issue generally for NTS faculty. The group did find that clearer communication of policies regarding full-time NTS faculty was needed; its recommendations were approved by Faculty Assembly and Senate Council.

As the newly elected Senate vice president at the time, I decided we should examine the climate for NTS faculty in more detail. This led to the formation of the ad hoc committee to analyze University policies and procedures related to NTS faculty.

The ad hoc committee learned that while NTS faculty situations varied widely from one unit to another at Pitt, there was a general tendency to treat this group as less important than tenured faculty. We pointed this out in our first report. We further noted that NTS faculty often were omitted from important committees in their units and sometimes weren’t even invited to faculty meetings. NTS faculty evaluation procedures did not always consider their specific duties, and often there was no possibility for them to be promoted or engage in professional development activities. We recommended that all these issues be addressed for full-time NTS faculty. (For the 2015 report, go to

After the first report, the ad hoc committee decided to examine the issues of part-time NTS faculty. In this report, we elaborated on the need to improve the climate for part-time as well as full-time NTS faculty. Recommendations noted the need to make sure that NTS faculty know the unit bylaws within each unit about hiring, promotion and their ability to participate on various committees. Recommendations also addressed the need to formally evaluate and reward good performance of NTS faculty.

Because a member of the senior staff from the Provost’s office worked with the ad hoc committees, many of our recommendations were implemented even before we brought them to the Senate for formal discussion. Provost Patricia Beeson herself has been supportive and helpful in making these important changes.

As a result of our efforts and the important changes in procedures made in the Provost’s office, full-time NTS faculty now are routinely invited to faculty meetings, often have a more formal evaluation process and more promotion opportunities, and even can be awarded the status of emeritus when retiring. I am proud of all that the ad hoc committee has accomplished and feel this not only helps our NTS faculty, but also makes the University a better place for everyone.

We are hopeful that these types of concrete changes also will be implemented for our part-time NTS faculty in the near future.

Irene Hanson Frieze is the chair of the Senate ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream faculty and is an emeritus professor of psychology. She served as Senate vice president for six terms and was president in 2005-06. She can be reached at

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