‘Failure’ of shared governance in fall term emails, faculty leaders say


Zoom screenshot

Faculty government leaders discuss fall plans during Tuesday afternoon’s Faculty Assembly meeting.

By Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief

An “inadvertent” email sent Monday to incoming Pitt first-year students, notifying them about an adjusted academic calendar and in-person classes before faculty, was a breakdown in shared governance, faculty leaders said Tuesday.

“This is not acceptable, and in my opinion, constitutes a failure of shared governance,” Chris Bonneau, the president of the University Senate, said. “Even though this was not supposed to happen, it did.”

Bonneau added that he understood concerns from faculty members about their inclusion in the fall planning process, and about how contracts would be structured, given possible extra time needed to prepare for new teaching methods. He said he did not know that the final decision was made about the academic calendar before the email was sent to incoming first-year students.

He and other faculty government leaders discussed multiple items related to the COVID-19 pandemic at Tuesday afternoon’s Faculty Assembly meeting held via Zoom.

University administrators announced in a series of Monday emails that the fall term will begin on Aug. 19, and classes will occur remotely after Thanksgiving break until Dec. 5. Officials also said they planned to implement a program called Flex@Pitt to allow classes to be experienced “in person, remotely, synchronously or asynchronously.” Information about the program was not immediately available, but will be released in the coming days and weeks.

Multiple Senate committees plan to hold special summer meetings in the next few weeks to discuss how Flex@Pitt would work, as well as the budget. The educational policies committee will meet next Monday at 3 p.m. on Zoom, and the budget policies committee will meet June 24 at 3 p.m. on Zoom. The computing and information technology committee may also hold a special meeting.

Bonneau said he recommended that faculty prepare for classes to take place at least partially online, whether due to students attending remotely, faculty teaching remotely, restricted in-person classroom space or other reasons.

The Faculty Assembly also discussed and passed revised guidelines for annual faculty reviews. The guidelines now head to the Senate Council for approval. Lorraine Denman and Irene Frieze, the co-chairs of the faculty affairs committee, presented the guidance and said it would be more transparent than the current process.

“This is an issue that the faculty affairs committee has been concerned about for a long time,” Frieze said.

Several faculty said they were concerned that the revised guidelines did not include an appeal process for annual reviews. Frieze said she was not aware of a formal appeal process currently in use, and that the committee would investigate this issue during the next academic year.