By DONOVAN HARRELL
The final Senate Council meeting of the school year on May 20 was also the final meeting for several members of shared governance.
Members voted to approve resolutions on policy adjustments to the Provost Advisory Council on Undergraduate Programs (PACUP) and the University Council on Graduate Study (UCGS), and Chancellor Patrick Gallagher also discussed the University’s budget and the ongoing faculty unionization campaign.
This year’s state funding allocation process may be more uncertain this year, Gallagher said, as the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives have new leadership teams.
“Last year, there was no drama at all, as they immediately gave the (state-related) schools their appropriation,” Gallagher said. “This year, while there’s no budget issues that we’re concerned about in terms of the state not being able to support the state-related system, there’s lots of other issues that are being raised in the context of support for our bill.”
Gallagher said that at this point in time, he can’t “characterize where things stand other than to tell you we’ll be monitoring this very closely.”
“I don’t really know how to gauge or characterize the support, and how difficult or easy the passage of our appropriation will be, probably until we get very close to when those bills start to move.”
The chancellor later pivoted to the recent order from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board that requires the University of Pittsburgh to submit a list of employees eligible to vote in a faculty union election.
Gallagher said he was “surprised” at the decision, which requires Pitt to send information on 3,000 employees to the PLRB and allows for faculty from the School of Medicine to set up its own separate bargaining unit
This order comes after a multi-year legal dispute between the University and the United Steelworkers, the legal representatives for Pitt’s faculty unionization effort, over the size of the proposed bargaining unit.
Gallagher said the University is negotiating with the United Steelworkers and that he’ll make sure the Pitt community stays up to date on this topic.
PACUP and UCGS resolutions
John Stoner, co-chair for the Educational Policies Committee, said during the Senate Council and Faculty Assembly meetings that the two draft resolutions on the PACUP and UCGS committees update the language and the ways the committees’ function “to bring them each into alignment with each other to the degree possible.”
These changes would create parallel structures for both committees that would make sure each committee has adequate undergraduate and graduate student representation.
Some members of shared governance had some concerns about the policies, however.
During the May Faculty Assembly meeting, a faculty member voiced his concerns about the transparency of the committee meetings, which are often closed session meetings.
Morgan Pierce, president of the Graduate & Professional Student Government, was also concerned with the fact that student members on both committees are appointed members and don’t include the Student Government Board and GPSG presidents.
“I do have a concern that that could perpetuate inequalities,” Pierce said. “There are certain students who it’s easier for them because they recognize the hidden scripts of higher education that they tend to end up in rooms with deans, and it’s easier for those students to be appointed to positions like that.”
Regarding the transparency of the committees, Joe McCarthy, vice provost of Undergraduate Studies, said during Faculty Assembly that the committees provide counsel to the Office of the Provost on the strengths and flaws of proposals.
“And open discussion really puts a lot of pressure on the provost to accept what our advice is,” McCarthy said. “So, it kind of makes it a de facto decision-making body rather than an advisory body.”
Stoner later said it’s possible for there to be open sessions when people outside the committees are invited to discuss topics with the committees.
Amanda Godley, vice provost for Graduate Studies, agreed with Pierce’s concerns but added that she would be concerned with the increased workload for student representatives.
The language on the draft policies was ultimately changed to make sure student government presidents would consult with the committees as needed.
Senate Council leadership also will shuffle around over the summer now that elections for Senate Council officers and other shared governance bodies have concluded.
Senate officers recited a poem in tribute to outgoing President Chris Bonneau, who often began meetings with poems and other forms of creative writing. Bonneau will transition into the role of immediate past president.
Bonneau’s predecessor, Frank Wilson, and Lori Molinaro, director of the Office of the University Senate, also visited Bonneau in person to award him with an engraved Pitt chair.
Gallagher thanked the Senate officers, outgoing Staff Council President Andy Stephany and Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for Engagement who is leaving Pitt to become president of Carlow University, for their contributions to the Pitt.
Wilson, who has been an active member of shared governance for six years, said that he began his journey “agnostic, to say the least, about the idea of shared governance.”
Over time, after seeing students, faculty, staff and administrators passionately engage in difficult, controversial issues for the betterment of the University, his opinion changed, he said.
And that cooperation is key to the success of the University, he said, as it heads into a new school year still grappling with complicated, controversial topics
“The challenge for all of us is to realize that if we all work together, we have a chance of surviving the tsunami that is headed towards us,” Wilson said.
Senate Service Award
The annual Senate Service Award was presented to Linda Tashbook, an adjunct professor of law and the foreign international and comparative law librarian at Pitt Law.
She has served continuously in the Benefits & Welfare committees since 2013, chairing it sfrom 2017 to 2019 and has also served as an elected member of Faculty Assembly. Bonneau said one of our biggest contributions to Pitt and to the Senate was the creation of the Mental Wellness Task Force, which involves guest speakers as well as a book club, and she was integral in the planning of our two plenaries on mental health in 2020.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-383-9905.
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