By DONOVAN HARRELL
University leaders updated the Pitt community on the various plans in motion for the upcoming spring semester at a virtual faculty town hall on Nov. 19.
ANTI-BLACK RACISM COURSE
Provost Ann Cudd announced at the faculty town hall that all the lecture materials from the one-credit course, Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance, have been made available online free for the Pitt community to use.
The event featured updates on student evaluations, the University’s contract processes, and accommodations for faculty struggling with childcare during the pandemic.
Chris Bonneau, president of the University Senate
Provost Ann E. Cudd
Amanda Godley, vice provost for graduate studies
Joseph McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies
Clyde Wilson Pickett, vice chancellor for the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
John Wallace, vice provost for faculty diversity and development
Lu-in Wang, vice provost for faculty affairs
Attendees asked how the University will use OMET student evaluations this semester in consideration of the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cudd said she has spoken to deans and department chairs to take into account difficulties such as increased at-home childcare.
Wang said that so far, the Center for Teaching and Learning has not found a “major difference” in teaching evaluations this in the spring and summer compared to pre-pandemic student evaluations.
An attendee later asked if the University had plans to recognize faculty who have gone “above and beyond” during the pandemic. Cudd did not mention specific efforts but said the OMETs could help deans and department chairs recognize the efforts of faculty.
Pitt’s grading system for the fall semester
Citing challenges during the pandemic, roughly 2,600 people have signed a petition calling for the University to use S/NC, or satisfactory and no credit, grades for the fall semester instead of letter grades, according to The Pitt News. The University used this grading system at the end of the 2020 spring semester since the pandemic interrupted it.
McCarthy said circumstances during the fall semester have been different from the spring with the conditions being “more predictable,” and Flex@Pitt helping the University adapt to the evolving conditions surrounding the pandemic.
After surveying other institutions, McCarthy said he found that schools that are going to a similar modified grade status had plans that didn’t stick during the entire semester or were substantially impacted by the lack of classes available on campus.
“Neither of those things are true at Pitt,” McCarthy said. “So ultimately, we're going to do what's going to be in the best interest of our students. But I don't see right now that we're likely to move to the same kind of grading policies that we enacted in the spring.”
An attendee asked if faculty will eventually be able to teach remotely and still see students who are in the classroom and online. McCarthy said that there is some ongoing “budget planning” to try and figure out how to make this possible for some classrooms. However, it’s unlikely that the University can provide this feature “wholesale” across Pitt classes.
An attendee said contracts with adjunct and other faculty have been processed slowly this semester, with their fall semester contract not being formally renewed until mid-October retroactive to Sept. 1.
Wang said the delay in processing contracts can be attributed to a lack of staff in Faculty Records and an increase in workload because of the pandemic. These experiences, however, will help staff improve, Wang said.
Accommodations for faculty with children
Pickett said his office is working with Human Resources to find ways to assist faculty struggling to work remotely while dealing with increased childcare. Issues of inequity have come from these struggles.
Godley said she recently received results from a campus-wide survey where faculty and students gave feedback on possible solutions to this issue.
Cudd said 50 percent of faculty responded to this survey. The results of the survey will be revealed “in the next few weeks,” Godley said.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
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