By SHANNON O. WELLS
Adjunct instructors at Pitt who have had problems using their identification cards for things like bus and library access when summer rolls around may have good news coming, as Senate Council President Robin Kear reported at the May 10 Faculty Assembly meeting.
The way Human Resources codes individual cards for adjuncts has unintentionally led to access problems for adjunct instructors spending time on campus during the summer.
“It's those that usually return year to year and sometimes even term to term,” Kear said of those affected, crediting Dwight Helfrich in Pitt IT with addressing the card problems. “He brought together a larger group from Panther Central and Human Resources to examine issues for adjuncts in the Pitt systems. He's reported back that we are in a much better place. There's better synchronization between the computing account and the Pitt ID card.”
Kear relayed adjuncts’ questions and concerns to Helfrich and the IT team so they could examine processes among the computing account, ID center, library system and payroll. “So they worked to fix the majority of the issues for adjuncts. Adjuncts who teach in the fall and the spring will continue to maintain those computing account ID cards, as long as their contract dates are updated in the payroll system before the next contract term starts.”
Helfrich indicated around 50 current adjuncts’ ID cards would have expired May 31. “So Dwight was trying to catch all these different kinds of issues,” Kear said. “These are manually being extended. … If you do hear from anyone about this, please let me know because it's very helpful for Pitt IT to actually have the person's name … to see why something isn't working.”
The May 31, 2023, expiration date printed on cards will not limit services, Kear explained. The plan is to remove the printed date from new cards so there's less confusion.
“As soon as they're in the payroll system, if they're a new person, they can get an ID card,” she said. “So that should help as well. Pitt IT also fixed several flaws in the coding, including (those) related to returning faculty, and fixed some things (related to library data), which I'm very happy about.”
Adjunct instructors having problems can contact Helfrich in Pitt IT
“Thank you to Pitt IT, Panther Central, Human Resources and anyone else who worked on these improvements,” Kear said.
Faculty Assembly 2022-23 recap
Kear went on to share other Faculty Assembly news as well as recap highlights of the concluding academic year.
Senate Council elections: She congratulated Kris Kanthak on her re-election to Senate Council Vice President Kris Kanthak for another two-year term. Kear, who also was re-elected to Senate Council president, thanked her colleagues “for your confidence in me for another two years.”
“Congratulations to those who were elected representatives to Faculty Assembly,” Kear added. “Some are new, and some are returning. Some have been involved in committees and are coming into a different role on Assembly.”
Elections for Senate committee spots concluded on May 9. “But, as we got some out-of-office and other notifications that people hadn't quite received all the information, we're going to wait until next week to give you a list of the committee members elected, but thank you to all who ran.“
Campus safety: Kear noted that the Campus Utilization, Planning and Safety Committee and Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy Committee heard updates on campus safety in the past month, and added that campus safety “will continue to be a priority over the summer.
“There have been building exercises … I think (Pitt safety management) teams are moving through buildings doing testing. It's a priority for everyone this summer. So please don't think that has dropped off the radar.”
Policies: Faculty Assembly passed seven policies this year — tuition exchange, intergovernmental personnel act, management of University facilities and grounds, relocation, drones, university network and travel advance.
“Four of these do not cover bargaining unit members because they're related to mandatory subjects,” Kear said. “I tried to get clarity on when they might apply to bargaining unit members. … That's also unresolved.”
Resolutions: Assembly passed three resolutions this year — defense of academic freedom, affirmation of the principles of shared governance, and a statement of support for the English Language Institute’s Intensive English Program, which had been set for closure earlier this year.
“So we did make some progress on issues. For me, the Decommissioning University Policy was important to have a process. There's now a 28-day comment period,” Kear said “And 14 policies were decommissioned this year that Senate committees gave feedback on.
Union and shared governance update
Shared governance representatives met with the union bargaining unit on May 8, discussing the three official agreements the union has reached, including one related to COVID. “That was about if you have a family member to protect, I believe, and you can't get an ADA accommodation for yourself, but you have someone in your family,” Kear said. “And we talked about the nursing tenure clock being extended (and on) last year's compensation agreement.
“That came out for the Board of Trustees and (was agreed) with the union in early September,” she said of a formal agreement between the union and administration on this year's salary, including a raise for those in the bargaining unit.
“So that's only applicable … this year through June,” Kear said. “We did also discuss benefits, open enrollment and the impact that delay in (bargaining unit) agreement was having on staff and medical school faculty and their knowledge of open enrollment.”
Kear read a shared Mission Statement that Senate Council/shared governance and the union developed:
“The Senate-Union Communication Exploratory Group establishes a regular channel of communication between the University Senate and the … United Steelworkers Council of Representatives,” she said. “The group provides an opportunity to keep communication open and share pertinent information when appropriate. The group will coordinate on issues of mutual concern.”
Kear went on to recap accomplishments and setbacks in the past academic year regarding shared governance and union bargaining unit relations. “Late October for us brought a letter from the union to administration and an intensification of that interpretation of roles for the union, administration, shared governance and mandatory subjects of bargaining that continues to impact our work,” she said. “Some overcorrection occurred by our administration that limited discussions on some Senate committees.”
Here are some union-related highlights Kear shared:
Faculty Affairs committee has only met once or twice this year.
Budget Policies committee continues to “work through what they can.”
Benefits and Welfare committee’s working relationship with HR “has changed.”
Discussions between Kear and the vice provost for faculty affairs have been mostly paused. “I think, for us, open discussions and advisement can still continue,” she said, “but what has changed is how administration can participate and implement in certain areas.”
The Senate-Union Communication Exploratory Group was formed and continues to meet. “There really is no blueprint to follow here, because not everyone is unionized,” Kear noted. “We have our own strong history of shared governance. So it's really, really hard to compare, I have found.
“It’s always useful to talk to other Senate leaders about this interplay, but there's no blueprint,” she said. “So I appreciate all your suggestions, including in our informal forum in March, for how to improve the situation in this interim period before a contract is finalized.”
Some initiatives are stalled or unresolved because of issues surrounding the union, including:
A dependent care ad hoc group formed in 2021 has stalled.
An ombuds office covering the provost’s area did not get formed. “That was disappointing,” she said.
Permanent vaccination and immunization requirements policies are on hold.
Diversity, equity and inclusion, and community engaged scholarship-based guidelines for promotion and tenure were not implemented. “We passed those one year ago,” Kear said. “They have changed processes for us that are unresolved or are still evolving.”
Senate appointments to some policy committees were limited. “If a policy is related to mandatory bargaining, bargaining unit members cannot be appointed, (which is) sort of antithetical to shared governance, in my view,” Kear said. “The yearly Medical Advisory Committee Senate appointment can't be the president as it normally is if they're a bargaining unit member. Hopefully we can resolve that.”
The University Planning and Budget Committee, which has Senate representation and faculty appointments made by the Senate, can discuss the raise pool as a whole for management purposes, but cannot differentiate specifics on market equity, differences in application and salary pool from low to high salaries, Kear said. “It's really even more advisory than it was before.”
Participation by bargaining unit members in planning and budgeting at the school level has been affected. “There's all these questions around budgeting and who can talk about it (and) who has been formally allowed to talk about it,” Kear said. “These are just unresolved and evolving.”
Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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