The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

Faculty Assembly discusses testing center issues, university policies

Posvar+Hall.
TPN File Photo
Posvar Hall.

Faculty Assembly President Robin Kear gave an update on the ongoing issue with the Disability and Resource Services’ Testing Center capacity at this week’s meeting. For 18 months, the testing center has frequently reached capacity, especially during midterms and finals weeks. 

DRS reportedly sent an email to teaching faculty this week outlining the testing center’s purpose and suggested methods to fix the issue with capacity. 

“[The email] created a lot more emphasis on the teaching faculty to try to deal with the issue,” Tom Songer, an assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said.

The Faculty Assembly met Wednesday afternoon over Zoom. At the meeting, they discussed the testing center concerns, an upcoming University Senate plenary session, two university policies that are now open for public comment and more. 

Kear explained that she interpreted the email as meant for smaller classes that “have less use of the testing center.” 

“Assist with the alleviation of the testing center in any way that you can. If you can’t, you can still certainly use the testing center,” Kear said. 

Mike-Frank Epitropoulos, a professor in the Department of Sociology, expressed his opinion on the testing center’s capacity issue. 

“The numbers of students who utilize DRS in my large classes are skyrocketing,” Epitropoulos said. “Even with TAs, it’s materially difficult to set up makeup exams and utilize DRS accommodations outside of [the testing center].” 

The Senate Educational Policies Committee will discuss the policy at its meeting on Feb. 23.

“I’ve talked to Interim Provost McCarthy a couple of times about the issue. There are short- and long-term solutions being discussed, including more resources for the testing center in the short term,” Kear said. 

Kear also discussed the University Senate’s upcoming plenary session on March 7. A plenary is a meeting where Faculty Assembly and Senate Council members all attend. 

The plenary, titled “Bringing Disciplines Together to Solve Big Problems,” will focus on the promotion of research and collaboration between schools and majors. 

“Interdisciplinary research and teaching are key to working on society’s most thorny issues and to educating our students for a changing and complex future,” Kear said. “Join us to learn how Pitt does interdisciplinary work well, discuss how we can improve and understand how interdisciplinary work benefits our entire academic ecosystem.”

The event will feature a Q&A with faculty speakers from several disciplines, including the School of Engineering, the honors college and the School of Public Health. 

Kear also promoted a tabling workshop set to follow the plenary session. The Faculty Assembly will host the event, titled “How to Interdisciplinary,” in conjunction with the Year of Discourse and Dialogue Research Committee. 

“Join us for this interactive workshop to discuss how we can co-create programs and infrastructure to support communication across disciplines at Pitt,” Kear said. “The workshop is meant as a kickoff event for a future working group focused on cultivating opportunities to cross disciplinary silos.”

Kear announced two university policies that are open for public comment — “Assistance Animals, Therapy Animals, and Pets” and “FERPA: Access to and Disclosure of Education Records.” The assembly could not discuss “Assistance Animals, Therapy Animals and Pets” because it must be reviewed by the Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy Committee before the Faculty Assembly can review it at large. 

Some members raised concerns about the security and terms of the “FERPA: Access to and Disclosure of Education Records,” which allows the University to disclose students’ education records to third parties when necessary. 

Katherine Wood, a researcher in the Department of Medicine, asked, “I’m wondering if the release of this directory information puts students at risk of being stalked. Is it really necessary for that type of information to be available?” 

“Directory Information” refers to information in an education record that, if disclosed, would not be considered “harmful or an invasion of privacy,” such as name, address, telephone number, major, etc. 

“Students do receive the right, under FERPA, to restrict the release of their directory information,” Jonathan Helm, a representative for the policy, said. “A student who had concern in regard to something like that could easily request from our office that we restrict release of that information.”

The Faculty Assembly passed the policy by a vote of 39 in favor, one opposed and four abstained. Senate Council will review the policy next week. 

Finally, Chancellor Joan Gabel provided an update on the Plan for Pitt. 

Gabel talked about the five values of Plan for Pitt that have been in focus throughout this semester — community, academic excellence, innovation, inclusion and collaboration. 

“It is possible at Pitt. There is no limit to the things you can do in your work, scholarship and learning,” Gabel said. “We have everything you would need to achieve what you hope to achieve by virtue of becoming a member of this community.”