By SHANNON O. WELLS
Senate Council approved a policy establishing requirements for faculty working on temporary assignments with government or other academic institutions. Because of a recent rift between the fledgling faculty union and shared governance, however, it was discussed without input from Pitt administration.
During his remarks at the Nov. 10 Senate Council meeting, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher explained the situation as it involves the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) discussion.
“The faculty union has objected to the administration discussing matters that are subjects of mandatory bargaining with members of the bargaining unit via our shared governance structures and that includes Senate Council,” he said. “In particular, they have objected to the administration engaging with bargaining unit faculty via these structures regarding the proposed IPA policy before us today.
“This is not our preference,” Gallagher added, “but rather than risk an unfair labor practice regarding this policy, today no members of the administration will participate in the discussion of this proposed policy.”
The IPA provides requirements for faculty and staff, as well as their supervisors, to follow during participation in the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program. The program provides for the temporary assignment of personnel between the federal government and state and local governments, colleges and universities, and other eligible organizations.
Controversy based on “direct dealing”
Pitt’s Faculty Assembly approved the IPA policy at its Nov. 2 meeting, when Senate Council President Robin Kear shared concerns after the provost’s office told her: a) the union wanted the IPA agenda item removed from the agenda, and b) administration officials would not be able to attend the meeting.
The University Times covered the controversy in a Nov. 3 story in which Kear said the IPA policy and other issues, such as including diversity and community-engaged scholarship work in tenure and promotion decisions, had worked their way through the shared governance process and now — because of the union’s demands — were stuck.
Geovette Washington, Pitt’s chief legal officer, said the union objected to the policy being presented by University management.
“They are now taking the position that it is ‘direct dealing’ — you need to cease and desist from dealing directly with the faculty that are in the bargaining unit in shared governance,” she noted. “… They kind of said to us if there are faculty members who are in the bargaining unit on a shared governance committee, then the administration can’t interact with them.”
Kear previously said that if the administration and the union want to alter a policy for the bargaining unit, it should be done after it’s approved through shared governance. She said she believes the union “wants to move far outside of mandatory subjects of bargaining and into broader areas that are in our shared governance purview.”
At the Nov. 10 Senate Council meeting, Kear said based on her earlier remarks about “the effect of partial faculty unionization on shared governance,” that Senate officers and an expanded executive committee of Senate committee chairs are creating a position statement for discussion and consideration at the next Faculty Assembly meeting on Nov. 30.
Kear went on to summarize the Faculty Assembly’s earlier passage of a resolution related to academic freedom at Pitt. Brought forward by the Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee, the resolution passed unanimously and Kear forwarded it to the provost’s office.
“The Faculty Assembly recommends University administration and the Board of Trustees better articulate academic freedom as a core value of the University,” she read from the resolution statement. “The Faculty Assembly recommends (the administration) develop specific policies and procedures on academic freedom as it applies to all University scholars and actions necessary to maintain it. And the Faculty Assembly recommends the University administration continue to protect academic freedom against all threats, whether arising internally or externally.”
Kear stressed this did not result from a specific University threat to academic freedom. “I think it really deals with greater visibility of academic freedom as a value and a way to accomplish our work here at the University,” she said, “And so I look forward to figuring out how to move the goals of that resolution forward.”
Chancellor Gallagher addressed other items during his Senate Council meeting announcements, including:
Mid-term elections: “I think everyone would agree this was a highly consequential midterm election with control of both houses of Congress and the governorship of Pennsylvania and possibly the General Assembly in Harrisburg,” he said. “And I just want to acknowledge and appreciate the impressive and wide-ranging efforts across our campus in supporting civic engagement.
“Starting with our students. We saw them lined up to vote, some voting for the very first time, but everyone who did their civic duty and voted and the Pitt Votes team who worked to ensure voter accessibility for everyone. I just want to acknowledge them and their efforts …
“We saw it on Tuesday, but these Get Out the Vote voter registration efforts have been going on for months, or a year,” Gallagher said. “And I know that many members of those hard-working teams probably collapsed and exhausted sometime after 8 o'clock Tuesday. So I just wanted to thank everyone who participated. … I'm very proud of the people at Pitt and the fact that we take our civic responsibilities very seriously.”
Veteran’s Day: “Friday, tomorrow is Veterans Day, where we recognize all members of the PItt community who have served (and) who are now serving: students, staff, faculty, alumni. Special events (are) being held all week on campuses,” Gallagher said. “I want to extend a special thanks to Pitt’s Office of Veterans Services for their work every day in support of our veterans and their family members here the Pitt community. OVS is one of the main reasons Pitt is almost always ranked among the most military-friendly universities in the country. We're very proud of that.”
Student Success Hub grand opening: “The hub is a new place in Langley Hall for undergraduate students to access mentoring, academic advising and other support resources. All undergraduates are welcome,” Gallagher said. “The focus there is to eliminate gaps among our students. So really reaching out to our first-generation college students … or underrepresented minority students looking for the services to perform their very best here at the University. I want to thank Provost (Ann Cudd) and her office for leading this initiative, with participation from the students and from many others across the University.”
Pitt Women’s Soccer: The team “made history this week (with its) first-ever NCAA Tournament bid in the history of the Pitt Women’s Soccer program. By the way, they didn't just squeak in. They're seeded No. 4 in their bracket of 16. Players and Coach (Randy) Waldrum have worked really hard,” Gallagher said. “It's really an incredible story there. The players, many committed from high school to come here and chose to come to Pitt … So congratulations and best wishes to our soccer team.”
Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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