SENATE MATTERS: Faculty Affairs Committee examining NTS issues


The Faculty Affairs Committee is the 15th and newest committee of the University of Pittsburgh Senate.  The committee’s creation was a key recommendation from the proceedings of the Non-Tenure Stream (NTS) Ad Hoc committee created by the Faculty Assembly in 2013. 

Formal activities in the Faculty Affairs committee, under a full body of elected representatives, began in the fall of 2018.  The mission of the Faculty Affairs committee is to provide insight, review and recommendations for policies and procedures that affect all faculty, with a particular emphasis on non-tenure stream and part-time faculty.

The current agenda of the committee is focused on three areas of emphasis; examining how the recommendations of the NTS Ad Hoc committee in 2015 and 2017 have been addressed by the University leadership, reviewing the transparency and consistency of practices and benefits for part-time faculty, and ascertaining the present issues of interest to non-tenure stream faculty.

With input from the Office of the Provost, progress has been noted with the development of policies to obtain emeritus status for retiring NTS faculty, and transparent guidelines for the promotion of full-time members. In several academic units, the presentation of promotion pathways specific to NTS faculty has become a part of the annual review process. Committee deliberations, though, have identified variation in the communication and implementation of these policies across the academic units. 

Noted changes affecting part-time faculty pertain largely to improvements in orientation practices, quicker access to ID cards and teaching resources, and increased eligibility for teaching grants. One area that the committee has begun to review (and will continue to address in the coming year) regards the consistency in practices and procedures related to hiring and benefits for part-time faculty.  

Academic life now transitions very quickly in its accepted practices and expectations. To understand the current issues affecting NTS faculty, the committee recently held a listening session. In the session, attendees were asked to identify areas where the policies and practices of the university that affect them are working, and, conversely, areas where these standards were not working. 

Responses from 32 faculty members in attendance raised several subjects ranging from ongoing concerns in promotion and evaluation, the availability of time for career enhancement (i.e. sabbaticals or their equivalent), recognition of the value of research, teaching and service contributions from NTS faculty as part of an inclusive academic environment, and several other topics.  

These issues, the local results from the recent COACHE survey (Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education run out of Harvard), and questions that arise from faculty will be incorporated into the work of the committee in the coming year.

Thomas Songer is an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health and co-chair of the Faculty Affairs committee.