Faculty Assembly OKs reaffirmation of academic freedom


After debating whether they needed to do more, the Faculty Assembly voted to endorse a memo by Provost Ann Cudd that reaffirms Pitt’s commitment to academic freedom.

The proposal was presented by the Tenure and Academic Freedom committee, which voiced the same concerns during its meeting in March.

Abbe de Vallejo, co-chair of the committee, said the provost’s memo is a restatement of the prior affirmation of academic freedom made in 2002 by then-Provost James Maher, which was reviewed by the Tenure and Academic Freedom committee in 2014 and reaffirmed. These ideals date back to the 1940 American Association of University Professors’ principles of academic freedom.

The provost’s memo has shortcomings, de Vallejo said, “but we will address those in several different ways.”

“The committee will work together with the provost, together with different stakeholders, and certainly this body, on how we can strengthen this,” he said, noting that several of Pitt’s peer institutions have developed specific policies on academic freedom.

“We know that academic freedom is under attack from all different sides,” he said.

“I’m glad that our provost did this at all in the current climate,” Senate President Robin Kear said. “Because it’s always good to reaffirm these kinds of values.”

She encouraged faculty to reach out to de Vallejo and the committee to discuss “nuances of academic freedom and the different specific pressures that we have here at Pitt.”

Several Faculty Assembly members expressed reservations on voting to endorse the memo without including more detail about what academic freedom means in 2022.

Former Senate President Chris Bonneau pointed out that “nothing we do with this reaffirmation says that we won’t do anything else and we’re not doing anything else. … I think, personally, we should endorse it because I think it shows good shared governance. … If we don’t want to do that we can, but I think that sends a very terrible message. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Eventually, Faculty Assembly endorsed the memo with 36 yes votes, one no and two abstentions.

Other action

Kear also provided updates on some other issues:

  • The provost’s committee on including work on diversity, equity and inclusion and community engaged scholarship in promotion and tenure decisions is wrapping up, and the recommendations will be discussed on April 18 at the Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy committee and April 28 at Faculty Affairs. Kear said the final product will most likely be a memo from the provost to the Council of Deans.

  • Kear said feedback she received on whether Pitt should continue to require people to swipe their IDs to enter University buildings was mixed. The pandemic-related measures have raised security issues that the Campus Utilization, Planning and Security committee will continue to consider. She said the Office of Business and Operations also will conduct a third-party security review this summer.

  • The deadline is April 22 to submit proposals to present at the 2022 Diversity Forum, called “Rewiring Our Systems: Transforming the Intersections of Inequity.” The forum will take place virtually from July 25 to 28.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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