Vacated office space may be used for classes, DeJong says


Some staff spaces will be used for classrooms this fall for “de-densification” of Pitt’s campus, and most staff whose presence is not deemed essential should expect to work remotely until at least January — “and in January, we’ll see,” David DeJong, vice chancellor for Human Resources and acting senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations, told the June 17 Staff Council meeting.

Mark Burdsall, deputy vice chancellor for HR, also offered a few early details about a new staff voluntary early retirement program to be rolled out, which will substantially resemble the 2012 version, he said.

Pitt’s new Resilience Steering Committee is devising a comprehensive fall plan from the work last month of three task forces looking at research, teaching and employees/operations. “When are we going to see that plan? I don’t know,” DeJong said. The one certainty, he said, is that “the foundations of all of our planning is de-densification.”

He expects the campus to be down to 30 percent capacity in existing classrooms, due to the need to spread out student attendees. For instance, he said, internal discussion now suggests that University Honors College courses will be held in the Craig Hall rooms where his own department normally stages staff orientation programs. That’s because distancing in the Cathedral of Learning elevators will make getting all those students to the Honor College’s top-floor space impossible.

There is much that still needs to be determined, he said, including:

  • Changes in staff duties, which will be up to responsibility heads, deans and regional campus presidents

  • Whether those staff on campus will be asked to participate in daily disinfection efforts.

  • Whether staff will work on Labor Day.

  • How Arrival Survival, the annual freshman welcome week, will be handled.

“Arrival Survival is going to look very different this year,” he said. “I’m reluctant to share the details right now because they may change,” adding that the event will certainly be less labor-intensive than in previous years.

Early retirement and other HR issues

Burdsall said the University is “still working through” its early retirement offering for staff and provided no details yet on specific incentives retiring employees might be offered.

Full-time regular staff at least 59 and a half years old, with 10 years of continuous service, may choose to participate in the program, as may part-time staff of the same age and length of service who were hired prior to July 1, 2004. Temporary and executive employees will not be eligible. As in 2012, early retirees will not be eligible for re-employment by the University.

Burdsall also said that all responsibility center heads will be asked by July 31 to confirm that every employee received a performance review this year. “I’m committed … to research those gaps” where employees were left out of the process, he said. “We will track down every single one of those …”

Asked how the reviews would be used, Burdsall acknowledged that determining pay raises was part of their purpose but said the annual process could help determine where employees would benefit from training and career development opportunities as well as assignment to special projects.

He also reported that:

  • HR’s “compensation modernization program” — the effort to standardize Pitt’s many job classifications — was continuing on schedule

  • Pitt Worx, HR’s new software platform, was still set to launch in January 2021, with trainings to begin shortly

  • Supervisor trainings will start in September, virtually, on both the technical skills of supervising employees (such as handling hiring and compensation) and the interpersonal skills of employee supervision (such as training on inclusion, diversity and equity).

Standardizing computer equipment

Mark Henderson, chief information officer, also joined the Staff Council meeting to announce that Pitt IT would be determining standard University-provided computer equipment for several levels of staff, faculty and students: “Many in our community did not have the appropriate technologies to work adequately remotely,” he said.

“There’s a lot of disparity in what folks are using,” added Lou Passarello, Pitt IT’s director of operations. The University will be choosing mobile devices for most uses, he said, such as “a lower-class mainstream laptop,” with remote desktop capabilities, for the average tech user; a tablet and laptop for those needing to be more mobile in their work; and special equipment for those in the power-user category, who might need graphic design or intensive financial software.

While there will be exceptions to these equipment standards, he said, in general the department sees Chromebooks being issued to the lowest-level users, moving up to Dell Latitude laptops, then to MS Surface devices, and finally the more powerful Latitudes.

Students needing Pitt-owned equipment will likely use Dell Inspirons, he said.

“Your department is going to determine whether you need a device, where you need a device, (and) when you get an upgrade” and all equipment will be purchased through PantherExpress, he said.

Standardization will help reduce Pitt’s costs, its efforts at ensuring support and cybersecurity, and create “a consistent user experience,” Passarello added.

Asked whether the University might pursue deals on home internet service from local service providers, for the benefit of staff working remotely, Henderson said, “We’re looking at that.” But he cautioned that the variety of current internet service providers already in use would likely preclude such deals and that the University would be focusing mainly on securing internet for those unable to get it at all.

The next Staff Council meeting is at noon July 15. Check the University Calendar for details on how to attend virtually.

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


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