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April 13, 2017

Senate considers new faculty affairs committee

Should a committee on faculty affairs be added to the roster of University Senate standing committees?

Senate immediate past president Michael Spring has been tapped as the point person for discussions that will commence this summer and extend into fall, Senate President Frank Wilson reported to Faculty Assembly on Tuesday.

“A number of people have raised the question about the potential need for a new standing committee with a specific focus on an array of issues already identified and additional ones that will grow from those,” Wilson said, citing the recent plenary session topic of faculty research productivity metrics, as well as student evaluation of teaching and non-tenure-stream faculty among the issues that could fall under the purview of such a committee.

Spring was at the helm when the Senate formed its newest standing committee, focused on research, as part of a realignment two years ago. (See April 30, 2015, University Times.)

“As we know from past experience, this is not an undertaking that should be rushed but should be done thoroughly and efficiently and will require consultation with existing committees and their chairs. It will involve deliberation, time and work over the summer and continue into the fall term,” Wilson said.

Individuals interested in being involved in the effort should contact Spring, Senate director Lori Molinaro or one of the Senate officers, Wilson said.

After the meeting, Wilson told the University Times that existing Senate committees have full agendas, adding that a faculty affairs committee could take up issues that recently have required the appointment of ad hoc committees or joint efforts among multiple standing committees. Should the Senate move forward with the formation of a new standing committee, an optimistic timeline could see members chosen as part of committee elections this time next year.

Multifactor authentication

Dan Menicucci, an enterprise architect in Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD), addressed faculty concerns surrounding the recent implementation of additional computer security requirements.

CSSD in March began requiring faculty and staff to use multifactor authentication to access services through the University’s single sign-on service, Pitt Passport, and when using secure remote access service to connect to University resources.

The requirement will be expanded to include students and emeritus faculty in mid-May, he said.

Multifactor authentication means that multiple factors are required to log in to a service: something you know (your password) plus something you have (your mobile phone, or a fob that can generate a login code).

The addition of the extra security layer aims to make it harder for someone to impersonate you, Menicucci said, citing an increase in phishing attempts.

He said some 930 University computing accounts were compromised in the last 12 months, “and these are the ones we found out about. We know we can’t catch them all.”

The rollout was made more urgent late last year when, as the result of a phishing attack, CSSD found that direct-deposit information for 22 Pitt employees was changed via PRISM into a common bank account.

“It was happening right as the grades were done and people were going away. If we hadn’t caught it, these 22 people who were pretty targeted — because they were in the upper end of the pay scale — would have lost their December paychecks,” he said.

“This bad-guy behavior keeps escalating,” he said, adding that anti-phishing campaigns were insufficient. “Education wasn’t getting us there fast enough,” he said.

Special committee updates

Wilson said an ad hoc committee is expected to report in May on the issue of divesting University fossil fuel investments. “I think we have the makings of a forward-looking report and recommendation,” Wilson said, noting that the committee was not charged with taking a position on divestment. (See May 12, 2016, University Times.)


A proposed University statement of core values could be presented at Faculty Assembly’s May 9 meeting.

A working draft is being circulated among members of the Senate special committee on diversity, inclusion and core values, Wilson said, adding that broader input from the faculty, staff and community at large would be sought.


In other business:

March for Science

The assembly took action to urge faculty to be aware of and consider participating in the March for Science-Pittsburgh, set for noon April 22 on Bigelow Boulevard outside the Cathedral of Learning.

Faculty member Lance Davidson of the Swanson School of Engineering, who is among the organizers of the Pittsburgh event, said more than 400 satellite marches are scheduled in conjunction with an Earth Day science march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“There’s no better place to basically signify the importance of science in Pittsburgh than the Cathedral of Learning,” he said, adding that the intent of the march is non-political.

Bigelow Boulevard will be closed between Fifth and Forbes avenues for a “science fest” featuring speakers and science presentations, in addition to the march around the Cathedral of Learning block.

The march’s stated goals are to show support for:

• Science that serves the common good.

• Funding for scientific research and its applications.

• Cutting-edge science education.

• Evidence-based policy and regulations.

• Diversity and inclusion in STEM.

• Open, honest science and inclusive public outreach.

Details on the Pittsburgh event are posted at

Year of Diversity retrospective

Kacey Marra, co-chair of the Senate equity, inclusion and anti-discrimination advocacy committee (EIADAC), called attention to a Year of Diversity year-end poster presentation set for noon-5 p.m. April 13 in the William Pitt Union lower lounge. The event is sponsored in part by EIADAC.

University Times leadership change

Wilson commented on the impending retirement of University Times editor Nancy J. Brown following the paper’s April 27 issue.

“Under her direction, the Times, as the independent faculty and staff newspaper, provided a source of objective reporting about issues, sometimes controversies, important to the entire Pitt community.

“This is not something that is typically found in higher education. We think Pitt should be proud of this and we are committed to helping maintain that tradition going forward. While styles may change, it’s important that we maintain and try to further the standard of journalistic excellence that has defined the Times,” he said.

“We welcome the new editor, Ellie Graves, and pledge to work collaboratively with her and Vice Chancellor Susan Rogers to that end,” Wilson said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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