Updated gift policy and longer Senate officer terms approved


Senate Council members unanimously voted to adjust Pitt’s gift acceptance policy and lengthen University Senate leadership term limits.

During the meeting on March 26, Carey Balaban, a member of the Tenure and Academic Freedom committee and a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, introduced the updated proposed Gift Acceptance and Naming Policy, which seeks to standardize the University’s requirements for accepting gifts and naming buildings and facilities on behalf of the University.

Members of Faculty Assembly previously decided that some language in the proposal needed tweaking. It addressed multiple concerns raised about a part of the draft policy that says the University should not accept gifts that invite public scrutiny or damage the University’s reputation. 

Balaban and other committee members also discussed the policy during the Faculty Assembly meeting on March 17, where members also unanimously approved the revisions.

“We’re very grateful to the Faculty Assembly for making suggestions that really did tune up this policy very nicely,” Balaban said during the March 17 meeting.

Nick Bircher, chair of the Bylaws and Procedures committee, introduced a proposal at Faculty Assembly to increase the terms of University Senate officers from one to two years. People would not be allowed to serve more than two consecutive terms.

Additionally, elections would be staggered so the president and secretary would be elected together, while the vice president would be elected the following year.

With the changes, presidents would have enough time to learn the position during their first year, Bircher said.

“The two basic arguments in favor of this are one, the continuity that provides that if you have a longer term and potential for a second two years of your life to do that, and secondly, this also incorporates the advantage of capitalizing on the learning curve in your first year,” he said.

Bonneau later said that increasing the vice president’s term limits could allow for the president and vice president to get better understandings of each other’s working styles. The increase also makes the vice president position “more desirable,” he said.

However, if a Senate Council vice president wanted to run for president, they would first have to resign from their position, Bircher said. Members would have to select a new vice president in another election.

Some Faculty Assembly members were unsure of the staggered election schedule. Some argued that it could add continuity issues if the vice president left their position if they wanted to run for president.

Bonneau said he didn’t believe there would be continuity issues since the immediate past president continues to serve in Senate Council in an advisory position.

Paul Adams, an associate professor of political science at Pitt–Greensburg, said he agreed with the term limit increase, but the staggered schedule could cause some problems.

“I would say that not staggering the president and vice president (elections) might save potential headaches,” Adams said.

Adams later introduced an amendment to the proposal which would instead have the president and vice president elected during the same year, while the secretary position would be elected the next year.

“As we are demonstrating here today, the bylaws are not carved in stone,” Bircher said.

Faculty Assembly members voted to pass the gift acceptance policy and the new election policy with the changes Adams suggested. With these changes, the president and vice president would be selected this year and would not face re-election until 2023. 

The election for the secretary position will take place this year and in 2022, then the term limit will extend to two years.  

These changes would begin on July 1 when the newly elected officers begin their terms.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905. 


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