Senate Council talks shared governance issues, renegotiations of ELI closure


Zoom Screenshot

Thursday’s Senate Council meeting.

By Khushi Rai, Staff Writer

Senate Council President Robin Kear said the Faculty Assembly voted unanimously last week to support the English Language Institute faculty’s request to reconsider closing the institute.

“We expressed concern over various aspects,” Kear said. “The loss of faculty and staff and the elimination of an institute that has wide impact through its testing and certification programs. The provost met with the department chair of linguistics to further discuss the situation, as the ELI closure impacts at least eight faculty bargaining unit members.”

Senate Council held its monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon in room 2700 of Posvar Hall and over Zoom. The council discussed renegotiations of the ELI closure, shared governance issues between the faculty union and administration and reproductive health resources. 

Kear said she “understands that a proposal was sent to the faculty union” which neither the provost nor the chair of linguistics can share with her at this time. She said regardless of the proposal’s future, testing requirements and certification of instructors’ English language fluency will continue.

According to Kear, threats of unfair labor practice charges from the faculty union against administration have induced a “cascade” of changes for shared governance.

“There have been changes to the ways that some Senate committees are conducting business,” Kear said. “In fact, the Budget Policies Committee, Faculty Affairs Committee and Benefits and Welfare Committee have wondered out loud to me and to themselves if they can continue meeting in this current environment without participation from all groups. Shared governance includes all, and right now they are finding that their administrative liaisons cannot meet with them or share information and discuss.”

Kear also said the letter affected another activity of the Budget Policies Committee — salary budgeting. 

“There was a memo sent to the deans from the provost office regarding the discussion of the budget that impacts salary with unit-level planning and budget committees and that bargaining unit members should be removed from those discussions,” Kear said. “I’m concerned about what that means practically, because the unit-level planning and budget committees have a majority of elected faculty who would be members of the bargaining unit.”

Kear emphasized that she hopes the faculty union and administration can reach a “clear agreement.”

“Shared governance is an expressed priority on both sides of these negotiations, but you can see the outcome of this uncertainty,” Kear said. “Perhaps as expressed last week in our assembly discussion, these are unintended consequences, but they are consequences just the same. Until that happens, the impact continues to reverberate through our work here.”

During the monthly Student Government Board report, Danielle Floyd, SGB president, shared updates on the Wellness Committee’s work with a Pitt sustainability class to implement contraceptive and menstrual product vending machines across campus. 

“The intention is to have free contraceptive products available through Student Health,” Floyd said. “We’ve reduced the cost of sustainable menstrual products such as cloth pads and menstrual cups. We’re also aiming to get other products in these machines, such as pregnancy tests.”

Following the release of preliminary funding data from the National Institute of Health, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher acknowledged Pitt’s “extraordinary” ranking. The data has Pitt at third in the nation among domestic higher education institutions in fiscal year 2022. 

“That means we’re only behind Johns Hopkins and the University of California San Francisco and ahead of Duke, Penn, Stanford and Michigan,” Gallagher said. “In dollar amount, we increased our NIH funding by more than 77 million. That appears to be an all-time high for a single-year increase in NIH funding.”