Faculty Assembly, Senate Pass New, ‘Friendlier’ Conflict of Interest Policy

A new conflict of interest policy characterized as less restrictive was approved by members of Faculty Assembly and Senate Council at their April 10 and 18 meetings, respectively.

The policy was introduced to both governing bodies by the Senate research committee, which is co-chaired by Penelope Morel, a faculty member in the School of Medicine, and Patrick Smolinski, a faculty member in the Swanson School of Engineering.

According to Morel, the policy is now friendlier, both in ease of reading and with regard to restrictions.

“Many of the restrictions that were put on faculty or inventions are relaxed so that faculty can now have manager positions in startup companies, and also there’s no limit on the equity ownership that they may have and so forth,” she said.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher expressed his appreciation for the research committee and Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research, for their work on the policy, which, Gallagher said, enables the University to adopt an approach that is not solely focused on risk avoidance but allows for conflict management.

Carey Balaban, a faculty member in the School of Medicine and a member of the Conflict of Interest Committee, described the new policy as “a very sensible thing.”

“There’s no problem with conflict unless it’s not managed,” he said.

For more details about the revisions to the policy, visit the Senate’s website.

Faculty Assembly Creates Ad Hoc Communications Committee

At its April 10 meeting, Faculty Assembly approved the creation of an ad hoc committee for communications issues that relate to shared governance. Senate President Frank Wilson shared that a discussion had taken place on April 9 between him and Robin Kear, Senate vice president, and James Becker and Douglas Landsittel, faculty members in the School of Medicine.

“These were the folks that were interested in the beginning, were willing to commit, will be the nucleus to begin with, but it’s open,” said Wilson. “We’ll try to encourage other people to be a part of it. If it’s a small committee, we’ll work faster is my bet.”

The committee will review internal communications at Pitt and communications about shared governance at other universities. Among the committee’s potential considerations are a standing communications committee and a newsletter.


Katie Fike, kfike@pitt.edu, 412-624-1085