By SUSAN JONES
The policies put in place at the beginning of the pandemic for University-related travel are being removed, Senate President Robin Kear reported at the April 21 Senate Council meeting.
The policies, which required that all University-paid business travel be booked via Concur or Anthony Travel, had been widely criticized by faculty and staff over the past few months as other travel restrictions have eased worldwide. Complaints ranged from mandatory fees to excessive time to book flights to a lack of help when mid-travel rearrangements had to be made.
“What this means is that faculty and staff can choose to book travel this way, or they can book travel on their own and be reimbursed according to pre-COVID norms that were in place,” Kear said.
The return to pre-pandemic rules will be in effect pending a review of the existing FN 28 University Travel, Business Entertainment, Honoraria, and Miscellaneous Reimbursable Expenses Policy.
The changes include:
The requirement for faculty and staff to register any domestic travel is being removed, although faculty and staff are encouraged to enter their travel plan on a voluntary basis for domestic travel.
If faculty and staff do choose to use Anthony Travel or the Concur system, Pitt is temporarily removing all fees associated with travel bookings. And there will be no fee for international transactions on the Pitt Travel Card.
The International SOS system for international travel is still in place, whether employees are conducting work or traveling to conferences abroad.
“I appreciate the willingness of the chancellor and Hari Sastry and the CFOs office to work with us on this issue,” Kear said.
Lorraine Denman, a faculty member in the Department of French and Italian, voiced the sentiments of many: “Thank you for your work on the travel policy updates. I know that will be very helpful for many faculty members.”
Kear also gave updates on a couple other issues:
She said Provost Ann Cudd and CFO Sastry will be issuing a memo to the deans about strengthening unit level planning and budget committees. “The goal is to strengthen the existing PBC structure and improve the functioning of the PBCs,” Kear said. Cudd and Sastry also plan to attend the May 11 Faculty Assembly meeting to discuss the new budget model.
The provost committee on including work on diversity, equity and inclusion and community engaged scholarship in promotion and tenure decisions has completed its draft, which is now being reviewed by Senate committees. It also will come before Faculty Assembly in May.
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher used part of his report to discuss what likely will happen next as the Board of Trustees works to find his successor.
“There’s some things we can say with reasonable certainty about what the timing is likely to look like, and, since a number of people have asked, I thought it’d be helpful to sort of outline that,” said Gallagher, who announced on April 7 that he will step down next year after nine years in the position.
The chancellor said it is very unlikely the board will begin even putting together a search committee until the trustees complete the process of nominating and electing a new chair. “And candidly, that was one of the things that drove my timing on why I announced when I did is I wanted that information to be openly known to the Board of Trustees as they went through this process,” he said.
Vice chair Mary Ellen Callahan has been serving as interim chair since board chair Tom Richards died last year. Nominations are expected to last through the end of May with a new chair elected at the board’s late June meeting.
If the process goes like it did when Gallagher was hired, then the search committee would be made up of trustees and representatives from across the University — faculty, staff and students. Faculty members who sit on the committee will be elected by the faculty at large.
Gallagher noted that it will be a lot easier to form the search committee when classes are in session, so it’s likely the committee won’t really get going until the fall. But he expects the Board of Trustees to start to outline the process between June and the fall.
“On a personal note, I just wanted to say the outpouring of support has really been overwhelming. I just want to say thank you to all of you who have reached out,” he said. “This is something that I didn’t do lightly, but I’m candidly really excited about being a professor of physics here at the University of Pittsburgh — with my apologies to my colleagues in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. They didn’t know this was coming either.”
Other Senate Council business
Members voted to endorse a statement from Provost Ann Cudd reaffirming the University’s commitment to academic freedom. “I think it’s important for every provost to weigh in on academic freedom,” Cudd said. “And I think it’s important for us to show a long standing commitment to this as a University.”
Winners were announced in the Senate Council seat elections as well as for secretary. Penny Morel, a faculty member in the School of Medicine’s Department of Immunology, ran unopposed for the secretary position, which she will now hold for two years.
The Senate seat winners were:
From the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences
Humanities: Dawn McCormick, Linguistics; Claude Mauk, Linguistics;
Natural Sciences: Jennifer Cousins, Psychology; Peter Bell, Chemistry
Social Sciences: John Stoner, History
From other schools and units
Engineering: Ahmed Dallal, David Schmidt
Public and International Affairs: Jennifer Murtazashvili
Law: Ben Bratman
Social Work: Leah Jacobs
University Library System: Christopher Lemery
Dental Medicine: Alejandro Almarza
Public Health: Lisa Parker
Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Nicholas (Alex) Cutsumbis,
Health Sciences Library System: Gosia Fort
Pharmacy: Brian Potoski
Nursing: Jonna Morris
Medicine: Martica Hall, Raymond Pitetti, Melanie Scott
Senate committee elections are going on now through May 9.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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