Pitt Senate Council forms Diversity Committee


Chancellor Gallagher and the University Senate met in Posvar Hall Wednesday afternoon. Wenhao Wu | Senior Staff Photographer.

By Leo Dornan / Staff Writer

For Pitt’s Year of Diversity and Inclusion, the University Senate Council has said it will form a new committee to focus on the issues.

The senate said at its first meeting of the semester Wednesday afternoon it plans to create a Senate Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, which Frank Wilson, Senate Council president, said he is in the process of staffing.

The committee will be permanent, and will address issues on diversity, particularly as they come up for students.

“We will work this year on developing an institutional statement of core values,” Wilson said.

At a February 2016 meeting, the council’s Community Relations Committee voted unanimously in support of the theme after Pamela Toto, the committee’s co-chair proposed the idea.

Following the Year of Humanities, Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher confirmed this academic year will be the Year of Diversity at a June 24 Pitt Board of Trustees meeting.

On the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website, there is a form for student groups, faculty and staff to submit proposals for Year of Diversity, which will be reviewed by the Year of Diversity committee. The Office of the Provost also said it will provide up to $5,000 in matching funds to support events related to diversity and inclusion.  

Wilson anticipates lots of debate over the course of the year with many issues dealing with controversial topics, like Pitt’s policy forbidding consensual relationships between students and faculty who are supervising or evaluating the student.

“I expect a lively meeting,” Wilson said. “I’m not sure what I’ll say about it at the next Senate Council.”

Wilson and the other members also mentioned different instances of institutional recognition Pitt has received lately.

In his address, Gallagher spoke again about the Precision Medicine Initiative funding the National Institutes of Health awarded to Pitt. Over five years, Pitt could receive more than $46 million in program funding.

“Pitt has been chosen by the NIH as one of the largest research efforts since the human genome project,” Gallagher said. “Pitt had the top-scoring submission of all the proposals.”

Arthur Levine, dean of the School of Medicine, added that Pitt had already received $25 million from the NIH.

Robin Kear, vice president of the senate, also introduced the topic for the spring plenary meeting, the annual conference and open discussion the senate holds. The senate will focus on determining the best research metrics in faculty evaluation. The senate created a nine person group that will meet to address this topic and also plan for the plenary.

“We want to get ahead of any issues with this topic,” Kear said. “We’ll come up with best case disciplinary specific approaches.”

Student Government Board President Natalie Dall also introduced herself and the other Board members who are representatives to the senate this year. Dall introduced several of the initiatives and events SGB is working on and has already completed this semester.

After listening to all the achievements by Pitt this year already, such as English professor Lynn Emanuel winning the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize or Pitt Greensburg receiving a $2.1 million grant from the Department of Education –– the largest in its history –– Wilson said he is looking forward to serving his second term as president.

“Everyone is stepping up,” Wilson said. “Students, grad students, faculty, everyone’s doing great things.”

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