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May 16, 2002

Some Pitt faculty salaries gain, some drop slightly in AAU poll

Average salaries of Pittsburgh campus librarians ($48,600) and assistant professors ($56,600) during the 2001-2002 academic year gained ground slightly over the year before, compared with salaries at other Association of American Universities (AAU) schools.

Full professors' average pay here ($95,800) ranks about the same as it did the year before, compared with AAU peers.

But the AAU ranking for salaries of Pittsburgh campus associate professors (average: $65,400) fell slightly — not surprisingly, given that the average pay raise among Pittsburgh campus associate professors was 2.8 percent last year, compared with 5.4 percent for full professors, 6.6 percent for assistant professors and 7.5 percent for librarians, according to Pitt's Office of Institutional Research.

Those percentages indicate the University's "real commitment to bringing up our salaries for librarians and entry-level faculty" while retaining outstanding senior professors, Vice Provost Robert F. Pack said during May 3's meeting of the University Senate budget policies committee.

"These numbers probably reflect where our deans are seeing the greatest salary pressures," Pack added.

Faculty members of BPC protested that better-than-inflation raises for librarians, new faculty and star professors should not come at the expense of continuing, associate professors — yet that is exactly what seems to be happening, they said.

q Average salaries of Pittsburgh campus full, associate and assistant professors remain within the bottom third among 61 private and public AAU universities in the United States, and in the middle third among the 34 public institutions.

And, despite moving up in rank by a few spots, librarians' salaries here remain near the bottom among public and private AAU schools that belong to the Association of Research Libraries.

The AAU is a group of prominent North American research universities that includes public schools such as Pitt, Penn State and the state systems of California and New York, as well as Ivy League schools and other private universities including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pennsylvania.

Two Canadian AAU universities were excluded from the annual salary survey compiled by the American Association of University Professors and published recently in the organization's journal, Academe.

According to Academe, the average salary of a Pittsburgh campus full professor during 2001-2002 ($95,800) ranks 42nd among the 61 AAU schools surveyed.

That's up from 43rd place among 59 universities the year before. Two schools — Texas A&M and the State University of New York-Stony Brook — joined the AAU last fall. (The average salary of full professors at SUNY-Stony Brook is higher than at Pitt. Texas A&M's average full professor salary is lower than Pitt's.) The average salary of a Pittsburgh campus associate professor ($65,400) ranks 44th out of 61. That's compared with 42nd out of 59 the year before.

For assistant professors (average salary: $56,600), the Pittsburgh campus ranks 44th out of 61, up from 45th among 59.

Among AAU schools that belong to the Association of Research Libraries, the average salary of a Pitt librarian ($48,600) ranked 49th out of 57. Last year, Pitt and Tulane were tied for 53rd place among 55 schools.

q Pitt administrators and University Senate groups agreed during the 1980s that Pitt should aim to raise faculty salaries here to the AAU median for each faculty rank. But in recent years, the administration has argued that Pitt should benchmark its salaries against those of public AAU schools only.

They maintain — and Senate leaders acknowledge — that the private universities' huge endowments, high tuition, specialized curricula and freedom from state government regulation (and reliance on increasingly shrinking state appropriations) enable them to pay higher salaries than public AAU schools.

And the rich keep getting richer. In recent years, only a handful of public schools have made the AAU's top 20 for salaries in any professorial rank.

For the fourth consecutive year, Harvard is paying the highest average salary for full professors ($144,700), Stanford ranks No. 1 for average salaries of associate professors ($92,700) and the California Institute of Technology is paying the highest average salary to assistant professors ($79,000).

Comparing Pittsburgh cam-pus salaries with those at the 34 public AAU universities only, Pitt ranks 19th in average salary for full professors (last year, Pitt ranked 19th among 32 schools), 21st for associate professors (down from 18th place among 32), 19th for assistant professors (up from 21st place among 32) and 30th for librarians (up from last place among 32).

q No Pitt governance group has ever renounced or replaced the University's old goal of raising faculty pay here to the AAU median for privates as well as public universities, noted English professor Philip K. Wion, chairperson of the Senate budget policies committee.

But even if schools such as Pitt can't hope to match private AAU universities' salaries, that doesn't mean Pitt should settle for paying salaries that rank in the middle of the pack among AAU public schools, said budget policies committee members.

English professor Stephen V. Carr commented: "The provost and chancellor have said that our goal is to be one of the best universities in the world. Saying that our goal for faculty salaries is to be at the median among the public AAU universities is not consistent with that kind of rhetoric."

Maybe Pitt's new goal should be raising its faculty pay to the top one-fifth among AAU publics, Carr suggested.

Pitt's Institutional Research office has cited what it calls a number of problems inherent in the data published in Academe, including:

* Academe reports on faculty salaries for a nine-month academic year. As a result, average salaries of universities with a large proportion of faculty on 12-month contracts can be misrepresented.

* Faculty members' ages and tenure status are not taken into account. Universities with proportionately more senior and tenured faculty tend to pay higher salaries.

* Academe data don't account for academic disciplines. Schools that emphasize technical and high-demand fields such as business and engineering generally pay higher salaries than liberal arts schools.

"You don't hire to a campus, you hire to a department or a school," Wion acknowledged.

Carr agreed that the Academe figures represent "a very blunt instrument of analysis. But they also indicate, over time, issues of real concern."

— Bruce Steele

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