Changing some policies to guidelines raises concerns


The decommissioning of 14 University policies to the status of guidelines under the provost’s office drew some concern from the University Senate’s Education Policies committee at its Feb. 17 meeting.

Committee co-chair John Stoner, faculty member in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences’ history department, found the choice of decommissioned policies — from academic program structure to grading options — “generally sound” but warned half-seriously that “if the movie ever gets produced in which there is a rogue provost, we would have to be worried.”

The policy on programs, for instance, allows the provost to determine academic programs’ future, but the current move to end the English Language Institute in the Dietrich School is the sort of action that causes apprehension, he said, suggesting “there should probably be a big P Policy” that governs such decisions by the provost.

Committee member Dawn McCormick, linguistics faculty member and director of the institute, also wondered how the change from a policy, formulated under Office of Policy Development and Management procedures, to a guideline might affect this committee’s ability to have an impact on such rules.

Senate President Robin Kear said that Senate committees should still act in their current advisory role.

Other committee members suggested that the Council of Deans would want to know if the change from policy to guideline modifies their responsibilities and powers. It also was recommended that the University consider whether there will be only one place housing the official copy of any guidelines since, once different copies land in different offices, they may diverge.

Race-based admissions

Also at the meeting, members heard from Amanda Godley, vice provost for graduate studies, who said her office is considering the possible consequences of a Supreme Court ruling later this year (in cases brought against Harvard and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill) that could strike down race-based admissions policies in higher education.

For one, she said, many universities are already using graduate admissions software that asks applicants about their undergraduate eligibility for Pell grants, which are given to first-time bachelor’s degree applicants with the greatest financial need and could serve as a weightier admissions criterion if race is disallowed.

Joseph McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies, noted that Pitt’s Council of Deans met recently and shared this concern. Pitt is looking at “numerous strategies” to diversify its student body despite any ruling, he said. “We have people brainstorming.”

Godley also said the University is aiming to develop better overall data systems to track applications. At the graduate level, for instance, she said there are 20 different application systems and thus no way to say if grad applications are up across the entire University. She credited overall graduate enrollment upturns over the past two years at least partly to more online programs at Pitt for people who can’t quit jobs or move to Pittsburgh.

The committee plans to discuss at its next meeting whether the faculty union contract now being negotiated with the administration will include rules on recording classes for remote or later viewing.

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


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