University of Pittsburgh
Faculty Assembly Meeting
Minutes of September 2, 2003
1. President Bircher called the meeting to order at 3:01 PM.
2. The minutes of the Faculty Assembly meeting on June 3, 2003 were approved
3. President Bircher asked for new items of business for the meeting.
There were none.
4. Remarks of the President, Nicholas G. Bircher
President Bircher welcomed new and old members of Faculty Assembly. He
observed that it has been a long time since a member of the Medical School
has served as president of the Senate. He reported that the Expanded Executive
Committee met on August 28. Some of the issues for the Senate raised at
the meeting include:
· Anti-Discriminatory Policies Committee—the continuing issue
of health benefits for domestic partners. The new health plan is for one
year and self insured. The domestic partners issue should be part of the
negotiations for health benefits.
· Community Relations Committee—would like to hold a plenary
session in fall 2004 on scholarship and community engagement. The plenary
session might be tied to a conference on community interaction.
· Commonwealth Relations Committee—has been meeting with
legislators. It is crucial that faculty provide input and their expertise
to these legislators, who are willing to listen.
· Budget Policies Committee—reported that the conflict between
salary caps and cost of living increases has not been fully resolved.
Professor Wion, chair of that committee added that another issue is the
appropriate peer groups for salary comparisons. Some years ago it was
agreed that the target for salaries at the Oakland campus would be the
mean of all AAU salaries, but the salary gap between privates and publics
has been widening and the administration has been focusing more on public
salaries. The target for regional campuses has been the regional campuses
of other public AAU schools, but this has not been very satisfactory.
A better benchmark is needed.
· Computer Usage—a continuing issue is access to email accounts
of deceased faculty members. The current policy of two weeks appears to
be a problem.
· The University Press is continuing to do well despite a generally
· Benefits and Welfare—has recommended a recreational advisory
committee to the Chancellor and would like to receive a utilization report
on the Petersen Center. It would also like information on signups to the
various plans offered with the new health plan. The Security Blue plan
for retirees is apparently under review. Professor Holland, co-chair of
the Benefits and Welfare Committee, added that his committee would like
to be involved in the discussion. Another issue is whether defibrillators,
which can now be found in the Petersen Center, can be placed in other
locations around the University.
· The Athletic Committee—continues to be interested in the
use of the Petersen Center.
· Educational Policies Committee—conducted a survey of part-time
faculty a few years ago and identified problems for part-time faculty.
It is considering conducting another survey.
· Admissions and Student Aid—there are no new issues but
a continuing concern with financial aid.
· Bylaws Committee—proposed change in the bylaws will be
reported in the University Times on September 11. If a petition signed
by at least 50 members of the Senate requesting a vote of the full membership
is not received within 45 days of the announcement, the recommended changes
will go into effect without our having to mail ballots to all members
of the Senate.
· The fall plenary session has been changed from October 29 to
November 6 and the topic will be “Perspectives of Shared Governance.”
· The spring plenary session will have the topic “Examining
the Roles of Women at Pitt.” Senate Vice President Irene Frieze
will chair that plenary planning committee. Anyone wishing to serve on
the committee should contact her or the Senate Office.
· An ad hoc committee to study the Expedited Review Process has
been formed. Nathan Hershey will chair the committee. Other members are
John Baker of Dental Medicine and Carey Balaban of Medicine. A third member
will be appointed shortly.
· The Senate has a website now at www.pitt.edu/univsenate. President
Bircher recommended that everyone take a look at it.
· The Provost will be asked for a report of the Blue Ribbon Panel
on Academic Freedom.
· The Senate officers will meet some time this year with the Chairman
of the Board of Trustees, Judge Cappy.
· President Bircher said he would like to recruit authors for the
column “Senate Matters,” in the University Times.
· President Bircher has sent to the Chancellor nominations for
faculty appointments to the Board of Trustees committees.
Questions and Comments
· Professor Wion noted that when tuition goes up, financial aid
tends to go up by at least the same percentage. He also reported that
the University’s budget has not been approved because of the delay
in the Commonwealth’s budget. Dr. Bircher observed that tuition
is one of the few things that rises as rapidly as health care costs.
· Professor Pinsky, chair of the Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee,
said the committee would be meeting in two weeks to address its mission
statement. Its mission changes as the needs of the faculty change and
the new one will be more synergistic with the concerns of the ad hoc committee
on academic freedom.
· Professor Munro raised an issue with respect to graduate assistantships
in the School of Information Sciences. When they want to offer a graduate
assistantship to students from outside Pennsylvania, they have to come
up with out-of-state tuition. This puts pressure on IS to favor in-state
students, which runs against the desire to become a world-class research
entity. This problem was brought before the Provost by IS on several occasions
but without resolving it. IS would like to pay the in-state tuition; some
of the graduate assistants are residents of PA for six years. Grant money
gets swallowed up very quickly when out-of-state tuition has to be paid.
Professor Cain noted that the issue is net graduate tuition.
Professor Salama said there was a problem in the Medical School as well.
A few years ago, Dean Levine installed an umbrella graduate program where
students apply to a general program and under this umbrella they can enter
any department and any research lab to do their thesis work. Students
selected are given a dean’s stipend for the first year and tuition
remission. After the first year they go on a research grant which requires
100 percent cost recovery of tuition remission. It costs about $40,000
to get a graduate student who is still attending classes for another year
before he can start doing research in the lab. There are also not enough
first year stipends; they are limited to 27. There is a lot of research
money; 27 students do not begin to cut it. They cannot get satisfactory
answers from the dean on these issues.
Professor Close noted that the School of Dental Medicine loses some excellent
students because of the high out-of-state tuition, but they are not lost
to out of state schools but to Temple, which has somehow resolved the
problem. He said he thought that Professor Smolinski, Chair of the Senate
Admissions and Student Aid Committee, was looking into these problems.
Professor Costantino said that in Public Health there are plenty of grants
but there is a fixed number of GSRs that are distributed throughout the
School regardless of where the grant money is to fund them. Some areas
have money but cannot have a GSR because their allotment of slots has
been used. This has been a problem for many years. They have the funds
but cannot hire the students. Professor Balaban asked whether the Educational
Policies Committee was the right committee to look at this issue. Professor
Close replied that the issue is being considered by the Admissions and
Financial Aid Committee. Professor Wion added that the Budget Policies
Committee would be glad to work with Admissions and Financial Aid. Professor
Salama observed that the issue is very complex and every school has different
rules. Professor Bircher said that more exploration of this issue would
5. Reports by and Announcements of Special and Standing Committees of
Anti-discriminatory Policies Committee
Richard Tobias, Chair of ADPC, reported that his committee had met on
Friday morning to discuss whether the University meets the ADA requirements.
There appears to be some problems. For example, there is a student in
a wheelchair on the 23rd floor of the Cathedral of Learning and there
is no plan on how to get him out in case of an emergency. The inside doors
in the Cathedral of Learning are also not wheelchair accessible. These
violations could put the University in legal trouble. He then presented
the following resolution:
Resolved: The Office of the General Counsel should examine
and report known incidences of failures of University facilities to meet
ADA standards and common safety standards. We should be assured that the
University is meeting not only the letter of the law but the principle
of the law.
Questions and Comments.
· Professor Balaban asked how something could meet the letter of
the law and not meet it. Professor Tobias and Bircher said there might
be a disparity between claims and reality. Professor Soska noted that
the inner door on the Ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning cannot
be opened by a person in a wheelchair. The façade door, on the
other hand, meets the ADA requirements. Professor Balaban suggested that
the issue be referred to the Plant Utilization and Planning Committee
for their investigation. Professor Jacobson argued that a request from
the General Counsel would be more likely to get action. Professor Wion
said the first sentence of the resolution is not clear. Problems have
been reported but there has been no action. The resolution only asks to
examine and report, but it does not say to whom and to what end. He suggested
it might be better to go through committees to elicit more information
before the Faculty Assembly acts on this. Professor Pinsky said he supported
Wion’s view. Examples are needed before going to the General Counsel.
He suggested that people be canvassed to find the problems. Then the PUPC
could go to Plant Management to ask them to fix the problems and report
back. If the problems are not solved, then Faculty Assembly could go to
the General Counsel. Professor Ansell raised another issue. Whose responsibility
is it to inform the administration that there is a person with a handicap
in a classroom, the student or the faculty member? She noted that he is
teaching in a newly renovated classroom, but there are stairs to the entrance.
She wondered about the planning process and how decisions are made, since
this renovated classroom is not compliant. There was general agreement
that the issue should be referred to the PUPC and Professor Tobias withdrew
6. New Business
There was no new business.
Professor Soska, Co-Director of the Community Outreach Partnership Center
and Chair of the Community Relations Committee invited everyone to attend
a teleconference on “University Community Impact” on September
4th from 3 to 4:30 in David Lawrence Hall.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:55 PM.
Josephine E. Olson, Secretary