By SHANNON O.WELLS
At its November 2 meeting, the Faculty Assembly approved a policy establishing requirements for faculty working on temporary assignments with government or other academic institutions and a resolution on advocacy and the importance of academic freedom in Pitt.
The Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) provides requirements that faculty and staff, as well as their supervisors, must follow when participating in the Intergovernmental Personnel Mobility Scheme. The program provides for the temporary assignment of personnel between federal, state and local governments, colleges and universities, and other eligible organizations.
Approved by the Senate Research Committee in October, the policy is intended to accommodate faculty members working with or recruited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or other government entities and universities for periods typically between two and four years.
“The idea is that they can share their knowledge with the NIH as part of their position, and they can also learn and then bring information and their new understanding back to the university,” said Melanie Scott, co-chair. of the research committee. “It was considered beneficial to both the government institution and the academic institution, and that is why this policy was put in place.”
The policy clarifies things like qualifications, cost sharing, responsibilities to Pitt departments and supervisors, and making arrangements and assignments for students. It allows the University to keep the faculty member’s employment open so that they can return to the position – or the most similar position still available – once their external assignment is over.
“And it happens quite frequently,” noted Scott, who said the administration typically tracks 10 to 15 such assignments across the University each academic year. “And more if you consider (Veterans Administration), that this policy doesn’t really take into account” due to complex eligibility requirements and coverage by other policies, she noted. “So this policy basically outlines the requirements that must be met for an individual to be eligible for how a faculty (or staff) member…can set up their information to present to a supervisor.”
This then helps the supervisor understand what their position is and how they can handle leaving the position vacant and making plans for the faculty member to return at a specific time.
Pitt’s policy is based on intergovernmental personnel laws passed by other academic institutions “and has been somewhat modified for specific things that happen at Pitt or the way things work here,” Scott noted. .
Calling the adoption of the policy “a measure of University maturation,” Carey Balaban, a professor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, recalled when such inter-agency working agreements were put in place on a case-by-case basis. per case.
“Having been familiar with (that experience), I think it’s pretty well handled by politics,” he said, praising the thoroughness of the Frequently Asked Questions section. “It will further facilitate this type of activity, and the fact that the faculty are asking about these opportunities is really something that we should be proud of, is really a measure of our maturation as a research institution.”
Responding to a question, Scott asserted that there would be a conflict of interest if someone on a temporary assignment with the NIH or a similar agency received or applied for a grant related to their permanent position at Pitt.
The policy asks staff or faculty member working with another entity to submit a plan outlining what will happen with their grants, “who will support these grants, who will support their teaching responsibilities and work with the supervisor and department chair to try to come up with a plan to make it work.
The policy, she added, “essentially asks a set of questions (and) sets up the idea that people should consider these points in their planning so that things go more smoothly than in the past. “.
Voted on by the Faculty Assembly, the policy passed with 40 votes in favor, zero “no” votes and five abstentions.
Academic Freedom Policy
The Faculty Assembly also passed a resolution to increase the visibility and inclusiveness of Pitt’s academic freedom policy and related statements. Described as a “call to action,” the document forwarded by the Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee, which approved the resolution on June 1, asks the Faculty Assembly to recommend that the administration and University Board of Directors:
1. Better articulate academic freedom as a fundamental value of the University.
2. Develop specific policies and procedures on academic freedom as it applies to all scholars and the actions necessary to maintain it.
3. Continue to protect academic freedom against all threats, whether internal or external.
The first item initially stated that academic freedom should be included in Pitt’s mission statement, but after some discussion it was changed to “better articulate academic freedom.” The third bullet point has also been amended to state that the University will “continue to” protect academic freedom against all threats, internal and external, which it has already been obligated to do.
The initial resolution emerged out of concerns about the visibility of Pitt’s 2003 Statement on Academic Freedom, which Provost Ann Cudd reaffirmed and the Faculty Assembly endorsed in April.
Abbot de Vallejo, a faculty member at the School of Medicine, defended the new resolution after studying the visibility of academic freedom policies at other universities. Rejecting a call to table the resolution to dig deeper into the placement of the mission statement, De Vallejo agreed to tweak some of the language.
“No one is against academic freedom,” he said. “What we’re saying is we want it to be a lot more visible. In fact, I did a Google search myself, and the only thing you can find about academic freedom mentioned is in the front page of the board and the 2003 provost statement.
The resolution borrows language and ideas from other institutions, including Johns Hopkins University and Carnegie Mellon University.
Kris Kanthak, vice president of the Faculty Assembly, commented on a recent statement from CMU regarding its report and the visibility of its academic freedom policy.
“And they have six recommendations they’re making that I think make a lot of sense,” she said. “They articulate academic freedom and freedom of expression as core university values, which I think we can all agree on. Even if we can’t agree on the mission statement.
“The tactic we took,” Carey Balaban said, “was important to move the issue forward, less important for us to discuss where it should be.”
The resolution was adopted with 32 votes in favour, zero votes against and two abstentions.
Shannon O. Wells is a staff writer for the University Times. Join it at [email protected].
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