Libraries ‘still here’ even at Elevated posture, committee told


The University Senate’s Faculty Affairs committee, meeting on Nov. 10, received an update on University Library System (ULS) services in which “the most important message is that we are still here,” said ULS’s Rachel Rubin.

Rubin, associate university librarian for Research and Learning, noted that, “You are unlikely to experience any differences in service, moving into the Elevated posture” again, in response to increased COVID-19 cases.

In mid-August, Hillman Library reopened to students on a limited capacity of 800, as opposed to the usual 4,000. However, “we get 400 to 500 students tops at any given time,” Rubin said, which means the facility has never had to turn students away. Faculty and staff have been able to use it too, she said.

Library locations are currently open for limited hours, with no-contact pickup options for requested materials, and the Ship It option allowing ULS-owned items to be sent to student, faculty and staff homes. The E-ZBorrow interlibrary loan system restarted in August, too, she added, and now the Ask Us chat button and is available from every page of the website.

One-on-one consultations with liaison librarians remain available, Rubin said, as do all the ULS electronic resources and digital collections and reserves. While the third floor of Hillman has reopened after renovations, the Thomas Boulevard archives are open by appointment only.

The University Library System will be closed to in-person patrons from Dec. 12 through Jan. 10. Library staff will be on site until Dec. 20 and starting Jan. 7. Find updated hours for all Pitt libraries on its daily calendar.

Exam integrity

The committee plans to look at academic integrity during the exam process in the coming months, with committee co-chair Lorraine Denman, faculty member in Italian language, seeing “lots of issues” in that area.

Faculty members on the committee volunteered that they have detected students cheating during remote exams: “I do have solid evidence but I cannot give you a percentage” of students seen cheating, said Pat Loughlin of engineering, who said the school’s student code was too lax in the number of such infractions it allows before dismissing students.

Tom Songer of epidemiology said he’s faced this problem in the courses he’s taught last spring and this fall. But instituting electronic proctoring would be “going too far,” he said. While he tried watching students himself, Songer said, “You need two cameras — one on the face and one on the hands, and that’s going too far. There has to be an element of trust.”

COACHE results

The committee also intends to examine the data of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey, done by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in which Pitt has participated for the second time. The data “is not very nuanced” between tenure-stream and appointment-stream faculty, notes Denman, who said an administration representative has offered to speak to the committee about it.

Denman pointed to results posted by the provost’s office showing that Pitt faculty are “more satisfied on a range of benchmarks including nature of work (research and service), health and retirement benefits, collaboration and mentoring, and governance” but “less satisfied than faculty at other institutions (about) clarity of tenure policies, clarity of tenure expectations, and the process of being promoted to full professor.”

Songer added that faculty leadership and departmental leadership also are areas of concern.

Other committee news

  • Committee co-chair Irene Frieze, emeritus psychology faculty member, drew attention to the disappearance of the website for the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns, which was created many years ago and focuses on such items as salaries and promotions. Lu-in Wang, vice provost for Faculty Affairs, assured that its disappearance was due to an ongoing web redesign, and John Wallace, vice provost for Faculty Diversity and Development, said that the University is “absolutely committed to ensuring it will move forward.”

  • Frieze said the Faculty Affairs committee had received a complaint from a part-time faculty member on a one-year contract that, between contract renewals, he loses access to Canvas, email and other University resources — similar to complaints the committee had received in the past. Amy Tuttle, director of Faculty Affairs in the provost’s office, acknowledged that “we do hear some complaints each year, especially at the start of the fall term” and are currently able to solve such problems, but would work on fixing the situation more generally.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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