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July 22, 2010

Faculty & staff leaders applaud pay hike

Reactions from faculty and staff leaders to the recent news of an employee salary increase for the current fiscal year were complimentary.

Pitt trustees approved a 3 percent salary pool increase on July 16 as part of the operating budget for fiscal year 2011, which began July 1.

Following the trustees’ action, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said information on the breakdown of the salary distribution would be forthcoming in a University Update. The chancellor determines the salary increase distribution as: the percent directed for satisfactory performance; the percent for merit, market and equity adjustments at the unit level, and the percent to be distributed by senior officers to address market imbalances among units in the University.

The chancellor’s update had not been published when the University Times went to press.

(For updated salary distribution information as it becomes available, go to the University Times web site,

In press materials released at the July 16 trustees meeting, Nordenberg stated, “Our annual benchmarking of peer institutions confirms that we have been losing ground on the salary front. To recruit and retain the caliber of employees whose work is essential to our continued success in attracting both the best possible students and the highest possible levels of research support required that we make a commitment to end our salary freeze and provide for at least modest salary increases this year.”

University Senate President Michael Pinsky said, “As I’ve said many times, the most important part of the University is its faculty. Therefore to compensate faculty even modestly, especially under the current economic situation, is favorable, because we need to remain competitive.

“The University also is raising tuition,” Pinsky continued. “The administration didn’t want that, but they knew it was necessary in order to stay competitive and balance the budget. And I think they struck a good balance between the 3 percent salary increase and the 5.5 percent tuition increase.”

He added, “This does not mean that faculty aren’t cognizant that tuition increases are a burden on students and their families, but if you look at the cost to go to the University of Pittsburgh compared to any other university in the Pittsburgh area, we are still a good bargain given the quality of education that occurs here. As the father of three college-aged children, only one of whom attends Pitt, I’m very grateful for the reasonable costs here.”

John Baker, who chairs the University Senate budget policies committee, said, “In view of last year’s salary freeze, one might, at first thought, be disappointed with this year’s 3 percent salary pool increase. However, the increase must be viewed in the proper context: The U.S. has not recovered from its current bad recession; there was no increase in Pitt’s state appropriation for [the 2011 fiscal] year; many families are struggling to make ends meet, and the economic outlook for next year is not looking good.”

Baker continued, “Inflation continues to rise and we are all affected by it.For the year ending Dec. 31, 2009, inflation was 2.7 percent as measured by the government’s CPI-W. The administration had to balance giving a needed pay raise to its faculty and staff with the potentially harmful effect that a tuition increase might have on students and their families. A 3 percent salary pool increase and 5.5 percent tuition increase for in-state students on the Oakland campus is a good balance between these competing concerns.”

Baker added that “the 3 percent pool increase is slightly higher than the [University planning and budgeting committee] recommendation, which was based on a slightly lower tuition increase than 5.5 percent.”

The provost-chaired UPBC includes administrators, faculty, staff and students who annually make recommendations to the chancellor on salary.

“However,” Baker noted, “UPBC and Senate budget policies both recommended a higher salary pool increase if additional revenues could be found, which occurred with the decision to set the tuition increase at 5.5 percent. In discussing these recommendations, we wanted the salary pool increase to be high enough if at all possible to maintain cost-of-living expenses for most faculty and staff.”

Staff Association Council President Gwen Watkins thanked the administration for making salary increases a high priority. She said SAC recommended a 3.5 percent increase in the salary pool to UPBC.

“Given the current economic climate, SAC is appreciative of the 3 percent salary increase, [which] is without a doubt the shot in the arm that staff has needed. [However], we continue to remain concerned with the increase in co-pays and staff insurance premiums.”

Employee salary increases traditionally are retroactive to the July 1 start of the fiscal year and appear in September paychecks. However, the chancellor did not address this point at the trustees meeting. Robert Hill, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, said this question would be addressed when the University Update is distributed.

—Peter Hart

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