By MARTY LEVINE
The latest ancient Pitt policy to undergo the revision process governs outside work, and Amy Wildermuth, School of Law dean and co-chair of the revision committee, sees their efforts as encouraging University employees to bring their expertise to the outside world — for their own professional development and Pitt’s profit too (figuratively speaking).
“A lot of people are doing their outside activities for the benefit of what they are doing at the University,” Wildermuth said. “It is complementary.
“We believe employees should be able to do some of these activities … even on University time,” she added — within defined limits, of course. She said the committee is really aiming to codify what may be done during a work day, “how do we support you in those activities for professional growth, and where the lines are.
“This isn’t about discipline or other kinds of things that could follow if you violate rules,” she emphasized. “I think of this as helping people fundamentally navigate everything they want to do (as University employees). ‘Thou shalt’ policies aren’t that persuasive to people. That means folks operate in the shadows. We want people to do those things that go beyond their duties,” when they see the extra activities as beneficial.
The charge of the Conflict of Commitment and Outside Activities of Faculty and Staff Policy Committee is to revise the current policy — from 1988 — so that faculty and staff “understand when it is permitted to use University time and/or facilities for external activities,”; to define such terms as conflict of commitment, outside activities, consulting, compensation and University time; and to “identify the types of outside activities that need to be disclosed and what types of outside activities are generally permitted or prohibited or require special approval.”
The policy committee will also aim to “clarify the limits on spending ‘University time’ on external activities and what categories of University personnel are afforded the privilege of engaging in outside activities during ‘University time,’ ”; “identify what outside activities and potential conflicts must be disclosed”; and “identify the consequences of noncompliance as well as an appeal process for University faculty and staff.”
Wildermuth said the committee hopes to present a draft for review — usually first by University Senate committees — by the end of this semester.
The situation is complicated, she said, by the large variety of University jobs, as well as many other factors, including the number of people who work for Pitt and UPMC simultaneously.
“I’ve just learned to never say never” when discussing possible policy provisions with committee members from business, engineering, the fine arts and many other areas of the University, who bring up example after example of worthwhile outside undertakings performed by Pitt personnel.
“We’ve tried to keep in mind … how that language is going to feel or look to the people who are in different disciplines,” she said of their policy draft, “and how we can make this fit for a whole variety of circumstances.”
Many outside activities accrue benefits to the University or offer services to the community, she said. She hopes the need for disclosure and approval of outside activities in certain circumstances will be seen as “a partnership with our faculty and staff” — not just approval but backing. “What we’re really doing is saying, ‘How can we support you?’ ”
Deans, for instance, can then know what faculty members are doing and faculty members can know they have their dean’s support.
In the end, she hopes, all staff and faculty “can feel like it applies to them — that it fits” with everyone’s roles and responsibilities at Pitt.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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