By DONOVAN HARRELL
With overwhelming support, Senate Council members at the Oct. 15 meeting approved three policy changes and a resolution calling for a new Black Studies course. The meeting also included highlights of some of the University’s ongoing efforts toward improving diversity, equity and inclusion.
These policies provoked plenty of discussion at the most recent Faculty Assembly meeting, where faculty still had questions and concerns. Each proposal received overwhelming support from Faculty Assembly and Senate Council members.
After two years of revisions, the Intellectual Property Policy updates the “course materials” section by clarifying limits to the University’s ownership of faculty-generated course materials.
The updated Procedure on Faculty Grievances now includes part-time faculty, and a revised policy on religious observances suggests professors adjust the language in course syllabi to explicitly state that instructors will take religious calendars into account when scheduling coursework.
The resolution on the Black Studies course calls for the creation of a mandatory, three-credit anti-Black racism course for first-year students. Sidney Massenburg, a Pitt alumna, sparked the process with a petition on June 5 that called for the creation of the course. Massenberg was inspired by the many protests over the summer that followed the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Diversity and inclusion efforts
The anti-Black racism course proposal is one of Pitt’s recent efforts to address equity and inclusion. Among other several other announcements, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher highlighted Pitt’s new social justice website, which aims to make the University more transparent and accountable in its efforts toward equity and inclusion through “Diversity Dashboards” for Pitt faculty, staff and students.
Dashboards also show diversity statistics for student outcomes, vendor contracting and first-year undergraduate admissions. The site also highlights the University’s goals and various initiatives and events dedicated to diversity and inclusion.
“We believe the dashboards are going to lead us in a direction,” Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey said at the Oct. 16 Budget Policies committee meeting. “But what the dashboards are really going to do for us, is to help the entire community to see every day, here's where we are. Now, where do we want to go?
A “Report Incidents of Bias” tool lies right underneath the dashboards, which Humphrey said was a heavily requested feature for the website that provides a clear, simple way for people to report incidents.
Additional initiatives in equity and inclusion are in the works, Humphrey said, including a Human Resources effort to determine the equity of University salaries. Humphrey said the Pitt community is encouraged to provide feedback to help the University develop and achieve its goals.
The standing committees of the University Senate have also released early action plans in response the Senate Directive to the Standing Committees on Systemic Racism, Inequity and Justice.
The reports outline how each committee will begin to address anti-racism, equity and inclusion as it relates to each committee’s specialty. Among other actions, several of the committees said that they will begin by gathering data related to equity and inclusion and re-examine existing efforts towards diversity and inclusion.
A Budget Polices committee member asked Humphrey what it would take for the University to achieve its overall diversity and inclusivity goals. Humphrey said she and her team are “truly wrestling with” this.
“We just have to decide where we are going to claim victory,” Humphrey said.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-383-9905.
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