By SUSAN JONES
A wide-ranging Faculty Assembly meeting on Oct. 8 covered everything from compensation for Senate officers to questions about a Koch Foundation grant to two GSPIA professors (see related story), with presentations by Mark Henderson, Pitt’s new chief information officer, and David DeJong, recently promoted to vice chancellor for Human Resources, thrown in for good measure.
This meeting definitely went over Senate President Chris Bonneau’s self-imposed one-hour time limit.
Bonneau said he was surprised when he was elected president last year that the Senate officers did not receive any compensation, either monetary or time off, and wondered if this had discouraged other promising candidates from applying.
He started a conversation last year with Kathy Humphreys, senior vice chancellor and secretary to the Board of Trustees, and Provost Ann Cudd about correcting this issue.
Lori Molinaro, director of the Senate office, benchmarked officer compensation and against Pitt’s peer group — AAU public universities — and found that compensation at other universities was the rule, not the exception. Bonneau said that at Penn State, the Senate president does not teach during his term in office.
Bonneau pointed out after the meeting that even Pitt’s Student Government Board officers receive a stipend. He said compensation for the Senate officers was necessary “if we’re going to be a valued member of shared governance.”
Starting this semester and going forward, the four Senate officers — president, vice president, secretary and immediate past president — will receive a pot of money, which they will then decide how to split among themselves. Bonneau declined to say the amount of money they’ll receive.
Human Resources update
DeJong outlined some of the changes he previously talked about in an interview with the University Times, including a shared services center to handle “level one” issues for HR and payroll, which is under the chief financial officer’s office.
He also plans to work with department administrators to determine frequently arising HR issues “that really can and will be handled within the unit itself.”
Two big issues he wants to tackle are the long-delayed classification and compensation system for staff — “The first 40 to 50 questions I get when I go anywhere are on that topic” — and uneven use of performance evaluations for staff.
“Just as every faculty member deserves an evaluation, so do staff,” DeJong said. He would like to institute a process used by Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for Faculty Affairs, Development and Diversity, for faculty evaluations, “which is to very clearly communicate expectations for what we expect from annual evaluations, and then we will audit the participation in that process to make sure that it’s 100 percent.”
Several Faculty Assembly members voiced their own HR concerns.
In regard to staff classifications, Abbe De Vallejo, a professor of Immunology, said that a better job needs to be done, particularly for research staff, in detailing the position’s qualifications. “When you post a job, somehow HR has this one size fits all description, particularly in research. They put in qualifications that have nothing to do with what’s needed for the job. There has to be an input from faculty on job descriptions.”
De Vallejo and David Salcido, Senate vice president, also had complaints about the length of time it takes to get someone hired or promoted.
The issue of professors getting state clearances to work with children stirred some discussion. The law requires new clearances every five years, and the law has been around for five years, so many professors are dealing with this issue, DeJong said.
The University contracted with a third-party vendor to get the clearances done and to make sure that the results were certified with the state attorney general’s office, but several people ignored emails from this unknown source. DeJong and Provost Ann Cudd recently sent an email telling people the importance of getting the clearances. That caused a stir, DeJong said, because there was a lag between starting the process and completing the clearance, so some people who got the email had already started the process and others on the list no longer needed the clearance.
“We’re very near 100 percent now,” he said.
Update from the CIO
Mark Henderson, who grew up in Pittsburgh while his father served as associate provost and provost at Pitt, said he was glad to be back home. He started here in July, coming from the University of Illinois.
As part of visioning for Computing Services and Systems Development, Henderson is thinking about: How do we enhance the student experience? How do we use smart phones and other devices to better engage with students “who live on devices like this”? How do we enhance faculty experience and faculty support? And how do we create systems that really support the activities of the community here on campus in a safe and secure way?
“How do we get you the information you need, how you need it, where you need it, on whatever device you’re using, in a timely manner?” Henderson said.
He talked about several issues (many of which he also touched on in an interview with the University Times) but by far the biggest response from Faculty Assembly came after he said his office would be working on a persistent wireless network along the entire Oakland corridor, from Carnegie Mellon through the Pitt campus and at UPMC facilities, so that people don’t have to log in and reauthenticate when they move back and forth. The different networks also cause issues for software licensing.
Martica Hall, from the School of Medicine, pointed out that sometimes they hire research associates or project coordinators through UPMC, “so the person I’ve hired to work with me on a federally funded project can’t access the software because they’re not Pitt employees.”
“That relationship has to be addressed because it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse by the day,” said James Becker, of the School of Medicine, who further stated that he can have software on his computer licensed through Pitt that the IT staff at UPMC will tell him to remove if he’s plugged into the UPMC network.
Henderson said he and Rob Rutenbar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for Research, met with Edward McCallister, UPMC’s chief information officer, and “this software licensing thing has risen to the top of our priorities.”
Over the past week and a half, they have negotiated with 14 software vendors and reached agreement with 12 of them on the UPMC side, Henderson said, after letting them know that many of the UPMC research employees are funded largely by the University. The two holdouts are two of the larger vendors — IBM SPSS and Matlab.
“I just want to assure assembly that before Mark came here this was one of the top priorities on his list,” said Michael Spring, chair of the Computing and Information Technology Committee and former Senate president. “It is a problem that’s 20 years in the making. … I do believe Mark when he says he’s that close, but those last couple inches could be painfully difficult.
“I’d be very surprised if Mark gets the work done within this calendar year, in its totality. But it surely is a priority.”
The Faculty Assembly will meet again on Nov. 5.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-648-4294.
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