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June 24, 1999



The terms of University Senate officers, including of course the president's, end on June 30 each year. I thought it appropriate at this point to make a few comments about the year now ending and some observations for the coming year, in respect to the University Senate and the University as a whole, as I am to continue in office. From what I can tell, based on discussions in University quarters and media content, the two largest, non-recurring subjects this year (the state appropriation is a recurring subject) were the same sex domestic partners health benefits issue (hereinafter benefits), and the plan to move football off campus for practices and games, coupled with establishing a distinctive campus environment where Pitt Stadium now stands. With regard to the latter, a final policy decision has been made; remaining to be completed are the details of the arrangements between the University and various other parties when football is off campus, and constructing the new campus.

The benefits issue is quite different in that, while the University's policy position has not changed during the year, and is not likely to change in the very near future, this issue is not viewed by many as finally decided, and it may well return this coming year to agendas of the University Senate. The University's motion for dismissal of the discrimination claim brought against it before the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations was denied last week, so that litigation continues, with no prospect for resolution soon.

While reading the Harvard Law Bulletin spring 1999 issue, I ran across a description of the change at the Harvard law school concerning women students. It took from 1871, when the first woman applied to, and was rejected by, the Harvard law school, until 1950, for the school to decide to admit women to its entering class, thus making a change in policy. Many university schools of law, including the University of Pittsburgh's, never excluded women, or had already ended exclusionary policies well before Harvard acted. The connection I make between the Harvard law school's 80-year resistance to women students and the benefits issue is that I expect, long before 80 years pass, that the University policy on benefits will be changed, assuming no national health program is established that eliminates the employer's role in employee health benefits. I think it is unrealistic for those who support the present policy as proper, rather than as an accommodation to political realities, to believe it can continue in place for a long time, given the changes that are taking place in our society. One might question whether any advantages will accrue to the University from holding to the current policy for a lengthy period of time, although the threats from some legislators to punish the University financially if it grants such benefits now certainly cannot be ignored.

The next Faculty Assembly meeting will be held on July 6 in 2P56 Forbes Quad. The major subject on the agenda is faculty annual review processes and their link to faculty compensation. I look forward to a forum on the subject, with participation of both Faculty Assembly members and other faculty in attendance who desire to express their views. I decided to place the subject on the agenda because of several recent developments, such as the introduction of new faculty annual evaluation forms in some Health Sciences schools, and the issuance of a comprehensive statement of compensation policy for the School of Medicine.

Space does not permit detailed review of the policy here. Their provisions provide for application of productivity standards that can increase compensation above the amount directly associated with tenured status, or reduce the base salary of tenured faculty up to 20 percent per year, even when the faculty member's teaching performance is satisfactory. The documents also deal with the salary allocation for clinical faculty between the University and the University of Pittsburgh Physicians, a UPMC subsidiary. The description of salary allocation does not apparently draw distinctions among faculty based on tenure.

No one can reasonably object on principle to performance evaluation, particularly faculty who do it regularly — we call it grading. Key questions about any evaluation process concern the relevant items and scoring standards for measuring performance, and the objectivity of the reviewers. When faced with the need to assess performance, the temptation may be to use easily quantifiable items — the old "We can count it, so let's use it" approach–and ignore methods that may be more meaningful for judging performance, but less quantifiable. While the changed, and to be changed, faculty evaluation forms are to be employed in evaluation of Health Sciences faculty, they could provide the basis for new forms and faculty load expectations in the units in the Provost's area in the future.

I urge all faculty members interested in these evaluation-related issues to attend the July 6 Faculty Assembly meeting. Copies of the June 15 transmittals from Dr. Levine to the School of Medicine faculty will be sent to all Faculty Assembly members. Other faculty who would like to see them should call the Senate office (624-6505) for copies. As president of the University Senate, I seek to provide an opportunity for faculty to express themselves to help me to gauge faculty opinion and to decide what, if any, steps I might take.

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