By SUSAN JONES
The Senate Educational Policies committee heard updates from Joe McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies, and Amanda Godley, vice provost for graduate studies, during its first meeting of the semester on Sept. 20.
McCarthy said he’s been hearing from students and faculty who are confused “with respect to how they should be accommodating students that are missing class because of quarantining or isolation or if they’re just sick and they haven’t gotten a test yet.”
A message was to go out to deans this week to clarify this issue.
At the meeting, McCarthy stressed that “it is absolutely not true that faculty are not allowed to record their class. That’s the main mistake that I keep hearing is that faculty are telling students we’re forbidden from recording our class because Pitt is supposed to be fully in person this semester, and that’s 100 percent not true.
“Students are likely to get the flu, but not know that it’s the flu and not COVID. We don’t want them coming to class,” he said. “We need to accommodate those students continuity of education. In classes where it’s pedagogically feasible to do, we need to record those lectures and make it available to students.”
Committee member Dawn McCormick, a senior lecturer in linguistics, said she is concerned that “much of the equipment, like the Zoom carts, has been removed from classrooms, which then creates a hurdle in some cases maybe for faculty and students to have equitable participation from the remote and the in-person classes simultaneously, if they’re in a class where student participation is key.”
McCarthy said in many cases the Zoom equipment has just been moved to the side of the room to improve sight lines or has been stored elsewhere in the building and can be returned. But he noted, that students in quarantine will only be absent for about two weeks.
“We need more of a stopgap solution than we do like a full-blown solution that can work for the entire semester,” he said. That could include using a laptop to start a Zoom session for that student. “If that would negatively impact discussions with the students in the classroom, the Teaching Center is testing out sending student workers as essentially an avatar for students that are not in the classroom, and those folks would be running a Zoom session from a seat within your room much like an interpreter might if you had a student that was hearing impaired.”
Reaccreditation: McCarthy updated the status of Pitt’s reaccreditation process with Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The first draft of the self-study, which involved work from roughly 70 people, is completed. He said the draft will soon be making the rounds of committees, deans and others for public comment. Next week, there is a preliminary meeting via Zoom with chair of the team that will evaluate Pitt — Satish K. Tripathi, president of the University of Buffalo. The team will visit campus in the spring and talk to many different groups. (Timeline for the accreditation process.) Through Oct. 15, members of the Pitt community are invited to contribute to the self-study draft (PDF). Anyone interested can submit feedback using a form.
Anti-Black racism course: He also said that the one-credit anti-Black racism course that all incoming students are required to take for now is “staying the course.” He said they haven’t even tried to build a team to expand that to a three-credit course yet, “because we haven’t figured out how we would implement it.” Because of different requirements in each school for degrees, he said it’s hard to “structure things in such a way that anything is required of all undergraduates.” But, McCarthy said, the issue is still ongoing and will be discussed this year by the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Programs.
Godley outlined a couple initiatives that the University Council on Graduate Study adopted over the summer:
Approved a recommendation to make diversity, equity and inclusion education required for all new graduate and professional students that will probably take the form of an online module.
Recommended a policy that would require advisors to meet with Ph.D. students at least once per year and make a written report of that meeting. “Some departments and programs are going to do this, other don’t, and we felt it was pretty straightforward best practices,” she said.
Godley also reported that graduate and professional enrollment is up about 3 percent to 9,250 students. Graduate enrollment has been declining over the past five to 10 years, she said. “This doesn’t make that up, but it is movement in a good direction.”
Another change Godley’s office is working on is standardizing the graduate and professional admissions processes across schools. This will allow them to track students better and gather more data on wait lists and other issues.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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