By SHANNON O. WELLS
At its final meeting of the 2021-22 semester on May 19, Senate Council approved an Institutional Conflict of Interest policy, reflected on the semester’s successes, and recognized faculty, staff and student accomplishments while previewing the next phases of projects and proposals.
Following are some items discussed at the meeting:
Institutional Conflict of Interest (ICOI) Policy — Senate Council overwhelmingly approved this policy creating an ICOI committee to assure institutional financial interests or University officials’ external engagements — notably those of department chairs, deans and officials in the chancellor’s office — do not influence or appear to influence the integrity of Pitt’s core missions. This policy is intended “to identify and provide management plans for potential ICOIs by reviewing ‘threshold university transactions’ and advising on whether they should be undertaken, undertaken only if revised, or passed by.”
Research committee co-chair Penny Morel said the committee will comprise faculty and institutional officials. The senior vice chancellor, approved by the University Senate, will nominate eight faculty members who rank as associate professor or higher (both appointment and tenure stream). The group also will include representatives from Staff Council, the community, UPMC and chairs of the existing COI Committee and Institutional Review Board. The committee cannot include senior university officials, Morel noted.
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher thanked Morel and other members of the research committee, along with Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research, “who’s been championing this for a while,” he said. Gallagher, who recused himself from the vote because of his position, said, “I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. I think this is an incredibly important policy at this time frame, for a couple of reasons. This policy attempts to basically combine disclosure with risk or conflict management, not avoidance, which is fundamentally important in many aspects of academic autonomy and academic freedom.
“In other words, this idea that we’re protected from undue influence, whether it’s a foreign government, donor, an agency or some other type of funding — and this is a difficult and highly detailed thing to navigate — I think this committee has done a remarkable job in pulling together something that is quite effective.”
Senate leadership changes — Gallagher thanked Gosia Fort for her service as Senate Council secretary and welcomed Morel, a Department of Medicine faculty member, as her replacement.
“I want to thank you for three years of service and tell you how much I’ve enjoyed working with you and appreciate your service to the University,” he said. “Also, welcome to her replacement Penny Morel. (We’re) looking forward to working with Penny.”
Senate President Robin Kear also thanked Fort, who “has been, as the chancellor said, ‘our fearless Senate secretary’ for her wise counsel through this year, as I have gotten to know her better, and for her faithful representations of our deliberations over the past three years.” Fort will continue to represent the Health Sciences Library System in Faculty Assembly and on the Faculty Affairs committee.
Primary election — Gallagher acknowledged Chris Deluzio, who ran for a 17th District Congressional seat, and Pitt law professor Jerry Dickinson, who ran for U.S. House District 12. (See related story.)
“They should be very proud of their involvement in the democratic process, and I just wanted to give a shout out to of our two of our very own who are involved directly in this primary season,” Gallagher said.
State appropriation issue — “We remain concerned about the level of support to pass the appropriation that’s needed to provide the in-state discount to Pennsylvania students,” Gallagher said. "It does require a supermajority vote, and it has to happen late in the process. So, all of that is pointing toward a very busy season in June, and you could expect to hear a lot from us as things start to happen again.”
Public Safety Advisory Committee — Gallagher said the committee, led by Pitt Law’s David Harris, has been “refining a vision for creating a structure for community-based public safety, which moves beyond simply the prevention of crime and violence and policing and looks at a broad range of conditions that define our well-being, including food security, equity and diversity.
“I think for a cohesive, tight campus like we have here in Pittsburgh, that makes a lot of sense, with the boundaries between what’s campus and what’s community not so clear,” he said. “I’m really excited about this.”
Committee on Student Focused Public Safety Concerns — Started last fall, the committee has 10 student members nominated by different campus groups. Gallagher called this “a model approach where students have a regular, built-in venue to raise safety concerns, discuss them and communicate directly with this public safety office and with the administration,” he said. “It’s something I think we should continue to build on and use going forward at a time when our safety and well-being is very much front of mind for all of us, and we all want to feel safe on the campus and in this campus environment.”
Faculty union and shared governance — Robin Kear, Senate Council president, noted that in shared governance, Senate Council isn’t privy to negotiations between the University administration and the union bargaining committee, “but we try to monitor those discussions as best we can … and we’ll continue to do that over the summer.”
“We continue to feel strongly that a robust University Senate and Faculty Assembly that represents all the faculty are vital to shared governance and to ensuring that all voices are heard,” Kear said. “We will be working hard to protect the Senate’s role in shared governance as those discussions move forward. And we invite each of you to join us in those efforts.”
Senate Service Award — Kear congratulated 2022 award recipient David Salcido, a Department of Emergency Medicine research assistant professor. An elected member of Faculty Assembly since 2017, Salcido served as Senate vice president from 2019 to 2021, “especially working hard during the beginning of the pandemic (in 2020),” Kear noted.
He is co-chair of the Campus Utilization Planning and Safety Senate Committee (CUPS) and credited with establishing the quarterly Health Science Faculty Assembly meetings, which “assembly members find extremely valuable,” Kear said.
Since his appointment in 2019, Salcido has served on the Risk and Compliance Board of Trustees as well as the Oakland Plan Steering Committee and is resident chair of the Oakland Biking and Pedestrian Committee. “On a personal note, I’ll say that David is just a wonderful person and someone that we are very lucky to have in shared governance,” Kear said. “So, congratulations, David.”
Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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