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September 25, 2008


To the editor:

As a former member of the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Women’s Concerns (PACWC), I have been just informed that the chancellor has approved changes to the Pitt faculty medical and family leave policy. Such changes, I understand, were recommended by a subcommittee of that body and include extending the parental leave associated with the birth or adoption of a child from two weeks to four weeks, as well as automatically stopping the tenure clock for the untenured individual faculty parent.

Let me say, first of all, that these changes, albeit very modest, are welcome and that we should all commend the work that Nancy Tannery, the chair, and the other members of the subcommittee (Irene Frieze, Kathy O’Connor, Karen Cameron Scanlon, Maureen Porter, Laura Ferlan and Irina Livezeanu) carried out in order to formulate their thoughtful recommendations.

I believe, however, that the whole history of this policy is worth telling and is not being told: Such omission deprives us of perspective. I would like to remind everybody interested in the issue that the recommendations that are now being followed to strengthen the family leave are only the most recent of a long series. Not long after President Clinton had signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law, a task force was formed at this University to review the faculty medical and family leave policy. The committee was chaired by Barbara Epstein and its members were Associate Provost Elizabeth Baranger, Sara Berga, Herbert Chesler, Laura Hastings, Cynthia Lance-Jones, Karen Matthews and myself. We worked almost two years (1992-1994) at our task and our proposal, among other things, already called for four weeks of paid faculty parental leave. Needless to say, that proposal encountered the opposition of then-Chancellor Dennis O’Connor, then-Interim Provost Mark Nordenberg and the deans of various schools. In the end, we had to consider ourselves lucky that our hard work brought about the present policy which is now (i.e. 14 years later) being revised.

My two kids and scores of other Pitt faculty children were born even before that policy could go into effect. I am happy for the colleagues who will be able to take advantage of a more (but only very moderately) progressive policy.

Francesca Savoia

Associate Professor of Italian

Department of French and Italian Languages and Literatures


Robert Hill, vice chancellor of Public Affairs, replies:

Reconstructing the mid-1990s’ history of the development of Pitt’s faculty medical and family leave policy is not without its challenges. One aspect of that history is quite clear, however. The administration of the University generally was supportive of the task force report advanced at that time and adopted a new policy based on its recommendations — among other things, establishing paid parental leave.

The policy ultimately approved in January of 1995 (several months after Chancellor Nordenberg’s service as interim provost had ended and several months before his service as interim chancellor began) did differ in some respects from the policy that had been recommended, which is quite typical for these processes. The reduction of paid parental leave from four weeks to two weeks most likely was the product of benchmarking that analyzed the length of paid leaves then being offered by peer institutions.

The extension recently approved was the product of a comparative analysis focused on other public AAU universities. The PACWC benchmarking subcommittee concluded that extending the term of paid parental leave available to faculty members, among other changes, would make Pitt’s policies more family-friendly and could help in recruitment and retention efforts. The administration agreed and, as noted, that policy change recently was approved.


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