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July 6, 1995

Trustees uphold severance package for O'Connor

By a 10-7 vote, the Board of Trustees on June 22 rejected a proposal to have the board's executive committee "review and reconsider" Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor's severance package.

Under a deal approved last month by the trustees' compensation committee, O'Connor will get a one-month vacation beginning Aug. 1, followed by four months' leave and then a year's sabbatical, all at his current salary of $221,500.

After that, beginning in January 1997, O'Connor will have the option of returning to Pitt as a full professor of biological sciences. His faculty salary would remain at $177,200 until the average salary of full professors in the department reaches that level. The department refuses to reveal its current salaries, but the average full professor's salary in the natural science division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is $69,247.

O'Connor has not said whether he will accept the professorship.

Alumni trustee Martha Munsch, who introduced the resolution to reconsider the offer to O'Connor, argued that the tenured professorship amounts to an overly generous lifetime contract at a time when Pitt has frozen other employees' salaries and plans to hike tuition and fees for students this fall.

Munsch said she believed most trustees were unaware of the tenured professorship offer prior to the compensation committee's approval of it. She noted that Pitt officials told the news media and the trustees' executive committee that the professorship offer was consistent with what other research universities have done for executives departing under circumstances similar to O'Connor's. "Since then, data we [trustees] have received shows that's not what's done in the industry, but quite the contrary," Munsch said.

Compensation committee chairperson Farrell Rubenstein said he and his fellow committee members approved O'Connor's severance deal with the understanding that it was consistent with Pitt policies, not necessary with those of other universities.

Rubenstein, who chaired the search committee that recruited O'Connor to Pitt in 1991, defended the severance package and said he was "somewhat flabbergasted, and I must say, appalled" by Munsch's resolution.

He reminded the board that O'Connor was the unanimous choice of the search committee as well as "98 percent, I would say, of the other people on campus who interviewed him." When O'Connor became Pitt's 16th chancellor, Rubenstein said, "he left a substantial position at the University of North Carolina, one where he was paid substantially in excess of a faculty salary at the levels of the University of North Carolina or at the levels of the University of Pittsburgh. He came to the University of Pittsburgh in good faith with a letter of employment which guaranteed nothing. He served at the whim of the board, as has become rather obvious.

"To now try to undo what the compensation committee has done and possibly reset his compensation at some number that could be substantially less than what he was earning before he came to this University is somewhat ludicrous, in my judgment," Rubenstein said. "What does it tell any prospective chancellor or other senior executive who may consider coming to this University? It tells them to get a long-term contract or don't show up." Rubenstein said Pitt should treat O'Connor ("a nationally known scholar," he said) at least as well as it has treated its football and basketball coaches who have been fired or forced to resign. "In my opinion," Rubenstein said, "if this board has any conscience relative to the circumstances surrounding Dr. O'Connor's hiring and resignation, it will vote against this resolution and affirm the action already taken by the compensation committee." A majority of voting members of the board agreed.

In other business, the trustees: * Unanimously elected Mark Nordenberg as interim chancellor, effective Aug. 1.

* Approved a 4.5 percent tuition increase for the 1995-96 academic year. The new tuition rate for most Pitt full-time undergraduates who are Pennsylvania residents will be $5,184 for two semesters, an increase of $222. Tuition for out-of-state undergrads will increase by $484 to $11,270. Graduate tuition rates also increased by 4.5 percent, except at the medical school, where tuition increased 3.5 percent.

* Voted to increase student fees at the Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown campuses. The board voted to rename UPB's athletic fee the recreation fee because the fee primarily supports intramural and recreation programs; the trustees also approved increasing the fee from $20 to $30 per term for each full-time student during the fall and spring terms. In addition, the trustees approved increasing the Bradford campus student health fee from $12 to $15 per term for each full-time student during the fall and spring terms. To help initiate intercollegiate athletics at the Greensburg campus, the board approved the creation of a student athletics fee of $25 per term for each UPG full-time student and $5 for each part-time student, beginning in fall 1995. The board also approved increasing the Johnstown campus student activity fee from $42 to $43 per term, beginning in fall 1995.

* Elected seven new trustees and returned seven others to additional terms. The board also re-elected members of the board's executive committee.

Elected to Pitt's board for the first time were Robert W. Murphy Jr., president and owner of Quicksilver Golf Club; John J. Horgan, senior vice president, fiber glass, PPG Industries; Richard L. Fischer, executive vice president, ALCOA; Suzanne W. Broadhurst, director of corporate giving, Eat'n Park Restaurants; John A. Robertshaw Jr., chairman, Laurel Vending Company; and Richard W. Roeder, senior partner, Roeder & Rothschild. All were elected as special trustees.

A seventh new trustee, H. Woodruff Turner, a partner in Kirkpatrick and Lockhart, was elected an alumni trustee.

J.W. Connolly, who formally became chairperson of Pitt's Board of Trustees at the June 22 meeting, also was elected a charter trustee. Connolly, retired senior vice president of the H.J. Heinz Co., previously was a term trustee.

Returning Pitt board members included Susan Wood, director, Savannah River Technology, Westinghouse Corp.; James C. Roddey, managing general partner, Allegheny Media; J. David Barnes, chairman emeritus, Mellon Bank; and Frank V. Cahouet, chairman, president and chief executive, Mellon Bank. All were elected term trustees.

Also, former Commonwealth trustee Marvin S. Lieber, partner, Lieber and Weis, was elected a special trustee. Ralph J. Cappy, associate justice, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, was re-elected as special trustee.

John C. Marous, retired chairman and chief executive of Westinghouse Electric Corp., retired from the board and was elected an emeritus trustee.

In addition to the seven newly elected trustees, Gov. Tom Ridge has appointed Jeffrey S. Blum to a four-year term as a Commonwealth trustee. Blum is chairman of the tax department, Klett, Lieber, Rooney, and Schorling.

Re-elected to the Pitt trustees' executive committee for one-year terms ending June 1996 were Yolanda G. Barco, partner, Barco and Barco; J. David Barnes, chairman emeritus, Mellon Bank; William S. Dietrich II, president, Dietrich Industries, Inc. and chairperson of the Pitt Board of Trustees' audit committee; D. Michael Fisher, state senator; Frederick S. Humphries, president, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University; A. Alice Kindling, public health administrator, Allegheny County Health Department and chairperson of the Pitt trustees' student affairs committee; and Paul E. Lego, retired chairman and chief executive officer, Westinghouse Electric Corp. and chairperson of the trustees' property and facilities committee.

— Bruce Steele

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