Debate on smoke-free campus policy rancorous at Faculty Assembly


The Faculty Assembly decided on Jan. 8, that an ad hoc committee should be formed to fully examine Pitt’s existing smoking and tobacco-use policies and the overall need for making the University smoke- and tobacco-free.

This recommendation, brought by the Benefits and Welfare Committee, follows a few months of discussion about a draft policy on a smoke- and tobacco-free campus, which has faced pushback from some on the committee.

The draft policy — created by a group of Pitt faculty, staff and students in 2016, according to Senate President Chris Bonneau — called for a prohibition on using, selling or distributing and advertising tobacco products, including e-cigarettes/vaporizers, at “all facilities and on all University property.”

Pitt’s current policy, which has been in effect since 2007, prohibits smoking within 15 feet of “primary entrances” to University-owned buildings and establishes designated smoking areas.

In addition, it calls for University faculty, staff and students to make a “good faith” effort to make sure people are not violating this policy.

The Benefits and Welfare Committee believed that neither the draft policy nor the existing policy “establishes an enforceable plan that protects the diverse self-interests of individuals and the shared interest of the University community related to the health risks of smoking,” according to the committee’s recommendation.

The recommendation calls for an ad hoc committee, which would report to the Benefits and Welfare Committee, to be formed.

This ad hoc committee would perform several duties, including defining and quantifying Pitt’s secondhand smoke problems; reviewing the University’s existing education efforts relating to tobacco use; examining Pitt’s smoking cessation services; developing ideas for enforcing Pitt’s current smoking policy; and considering the varied viewpoints, services and policies on this topic throughout the University.

In a brief comment period after Linda Tashbook, chair of the Benefits and Welfare Committee, presented the motion, Ben Bratman, a professor of legal writing with Pitt Law, called the proposed smoke- and tobacco-free policy “patronizing ... utterly ill-conceived and impractical.”

Abbe de Vallejo, an associate professor of pediatrics and immunology in the School of Medicine, said he agreed that an ad hoc committee was needed, but added that Pitt needs to take a firm stance against smoking.

Both Bratman and de Vallejo asked Tashbook, an adjunct professor in the School of Law, what the University administration’s stance is on smoking and tobacco use on campus.

“Well that’s what we’re kind of asking for — is for a fuller and clearer stance on this,”

Tashbook said.

The resolution to create the ad hoc committee passed with two votes in opposition and one abstention. It will head to the Senate Council next for consideration.

Update on NTS and PT faculty policies

Tom Songer, an assistant professor of epidemiology and member of the standing Faculty Affairs Committee, then presented an update that outlined progress made with several concerns from non-tenure stream (NTS) and part-time (PT) faculty.

Songer said he and other committee members worked closely with the Office of the Provost to get clear updates on the progress Pitt has made with regards to the 2015 NTS and 2017 PT & NTS ad hoc committees’ reports.

According to the Faculty Affairs Committee update, there were seven main areas to be addressed:

1. Clear and accessible policies within units

2. Promotion and career tracks

3. Incentive structures

4. Strengthen review process

5. Review decision-making processes of academic units

6. Orientation process with timely access to resources

7. Reasonable appointment times and compensation when possible for cancelled courses.

One of the notable changes made includes the ability for NTS faculty to be eligible for emeritus status. Progress on incentive structures and review decision-making processes of academic units are still to be determined.

“Generally, I think it’s important to communicate that there has been some response to, and particularly, good response to recommendations,” Songer said. “But (this) is an ongoing process.”  

A full summary from the Office of the Provost can be found here, and the full Faculty Affairs Committee report can be found here. In addition, links to NTS faculty promotion and tenure policies and guidelines, as of November 2018, can be found here.

Faculty Assembly also passed a motion on new governance structures for information technology. Find a related story here.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.