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February 1, 1996


Questions about Pitt's spending practices

To the editor:

I have often wanted to write and express my views concerning the lack of fiscal responsibility and the misguided hypocrisy this University is often guilty of and now after seeing what was spent by the Chancellor's office (Jan. 18, 1996 University Times) I have reached the end of my rope. It is disheartening to see that our ex-chancellor and his office spent large sums of money on limousine services and the LeMont Restaurant. For how long have we heard about everyone in this University doing more with less? Well, I guess the policy is, do as I say not as I do.

I guess Farrell Rubenstein deserved the inscribed glassware pillar for his willingness to give both Dr. Wesley Posvar and Dr. J. Dennis O'Connor everything they could possibly want in the way of monetary compensation; $1,782.50 is a small price to pay for financial security and it wasn't even his own money either. Could those funds have been used for raises? I guess that would be asking a bit too much from an institution that has no money???? I am sure that there will be some mouthpiece for the University who will come along and say that this money is not earmarked for raises and that it was raised by the chancellor and that it was his discretionary money, blah, blah, blah…

In a time when the scrutiny of academic institutions is top on the agenda of politicians, here PITT is spending money on some questionable items. However, it seems that our higher ranking officials feel it necessary to show visitors from other institutions that we are a first-class organization. By all means we may appear to be a first-class organization to the eyes of the outsider but the staff, faculty and local public perception is that of a poorly managed, unsafe and greedy institution.

I will say that (Interim Chancellor) Mark Nordenberg has done a commendable job and deserves credit for his attempts to improve the image of this University. However, until major changes within the prior administration are made his efforts will be wasted. The new policies were implemented by current and still present administrators, whose lack of management and communication skills didn't foresee what implications would occur as we are seeing now with various lawsuits against the University.

As a bright note to this somewhat gloomy complaint, it looks as if we have a chairperson of the Board of Trustees who wants to really get down to business and do some dirty work along with Interim Chancellor Nordenberg, who seems to have the same agenda. However, buyer beware: We have heard this rhetoric before and it seems to be commonplace for individuals in high ranking positions to mislead people with words. So I guess we will just have to see how this plays out and hope for the best. And one other note: If this University wants to become financially sound it needs to put winning football and basketball teams on the field and courts. This University is losing so much money by having losing teams; think about all the salaries of coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, travel, etc. all that money spent and no TV revenue, no bowls and no attendance. How do you expect to be able to provide athletics when you can't make any money? It may even produce a common bond among staff, faculty and administration. Look at how a winning team (the Steelers) has brought this town together.

Dave Silk

Administrator Health Services Administration


Some of Pitt's expenses should be questioned

To the editor:

This is in response to the Jan. 18 (University Times) articles entitled "State disclosure form requires more financial info from Pitt, others," and "Examples from the Office of the Chancellor section." In light of the time period covered (when the world was told that Pitt was having financial woes), a caring person with common sense might rightfully question the expenses in some of the examples that the University Times quoted. As a result, it is no wonder that the state and/or Pitt's contributors want more and more disclosure. For example: The chancellor makes $200,000+ a year. While Farrell [Rubenstein, former chairperson of Pitt's Board of Trustees] is a nice guy who probably deserved a gift of some sort, why did O'Connor use his "discretionary account" to spend $1,782.50 on a pillar of inscribed glassware? If he had to use his salary to buy personal gifts, one wonders whether he would buy the same gift. And if the Board of trustees ordered O'Connor to buy the trinket, why didn't they personally cough up the cash, one and all? I hang my head in shame to admit it but all of us out here in the under-$35,000-a-year real world would lust for an $1,800 glass pillar for our homes.

First class limo service: Gee whiz, doesn't Pitt have its own buses and/or car pool? Maybe we need to impress people during hard financial times by acting like the government.

Three searches are a very expensive JOKE: $4,213.08 + $22,200 + $2,855 = $27,268 that is listed in your article for failed searches. As they say about addictive drugs: LET'S STOP THE MADNESS! LeMont Restaurant: Gee whiz again, Pitt doesn't have any cafeterias and neither the William Pitt Union's facilities nor the Pitt Club's facilities are good enough to impress those participants during "hard times"??? Hmmmm, sounds more and more like the government.

It is no wonder that people want your "books" open to public scrutiny…you gave them the ammunition and the gun by your own actions.

Bob Arlia Staff member and Alumnus


Temple, faculty union reach tentative pact

To the editor:

Readers who have followed Pitt's ongoing debate on the merits of collective bargaining in higher education will recall that much of the discussion has focused on events at Temple University.

I'm happy to report that Temple's faculty union and administration recently reached tentative agreement on an "early bird" contract covering the next four academic years, from October 1996 to October 2000. Results of the faculty's vote on ratification will be announced Feb. 9.

Arthur Hochner, the president of TAUP (the faculty union), said the agreement "bodes well for the development of trust and cooperation between Temple, the TAUP, and the faculty and staff." Temple president Peter Liacouras praised the union's leadership for "this extraordinary example of successful collective bargaining in higher education." As always, the agreement involved compromises by both sides; but it also shows creative responses to real problems, so that on many issues it contains "win-win" outcomes.

The University insisted on a salary freeze for the first year. The union ultimately agreed, but with a "signing bonus" of $675 for each continuing faculty member; in addition, the regular process of identifying faculty to receive merit raises will be followed, though payment will be deferred to the next year.

In the second year, faculty will receive an across-the-board raise of 3%, plus merit pay. And in the third and fourth years across-the-board raises of 3% will be accompanied by both merit raises and adjustments for salary compression (for all those below a certain salary level for each rank–in the final year, $82,000 for full professors, $66,500 for associates, and $51,100 for assistants).

In his explanatory letter to colleagues, Professor Hochner said that "the agreement strengthens Temple's commitment to maintaining us as a research university." He emphasized a provision adding PAID leaves for junior faculty in their 3rd to 6th years.

The agreement includes an early retirement plan, rejected by the union last year but welcomed now because of explicit safeguards minimizing any negative impact on departments and programs.

A significant concession by the faculty was the ending of the tuition benefit for dependent children attending other institutions. It should be noted, however, that at Temple this benefit had been frozen for years at a mere $870 (taxed). In exchange, the University agreed to a new provision offering interest-free and tax-free loans to faculty for purchasing computers and related equipment (above and beyond computers provided by the University).

Under the agreement clinical faculty in the health science schools "get protection from arbitrary treatment and new benefits," and "the Faculty Senate's role in setting standards for clinician educators is guaranteed." "All in all," Professor Hochner concluded, "this is an outstanding agreement. [It] comes early with genuine good faith on both sides and should significantly improve the climate at Temple. Now we can deal with the problems of student enrollment, government appropriations and regulations, and the relationship between the faculty and the administration in an atmosphere of calm and long-term security." Collective bargaining isn't a panacea. But its purpose is precisely to provide mechanisms for achieving the kind of resolution of differences, cooperative problem-solving, and institutional stability described by Professor Hochner. That is the fundamental reason why members and supporters of the United Faculty believe that collective bargaining would be desirable here at Pitt.

Philip K. Wion

Associate Professor English and Treasurer United Faculty

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