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April 30, 2015



Wrong comparison group = misleading faculty salary numbers

To the editor:

The April 16 University Times article on the 2015 AAUP faculty salary survey unfortunately gives a false impression that Pittsburgh campus faculty salaries are well above those of peers. The article is misleading because it used the wrong comparison group. Pitt’s peer group is the Association of American Universities (AAU), not all public doctoral schools.

When one compares Pitt faculty salaries to AAU peer salaries, a completely different picture emerges. Pitt seriously lags its peers for all faculty ranks except full professors and associate professors (nominally the tenured group).

The AAUP salary survey is not the best survey for comparing salaries. It does not show lecturer and no-rank salaries, or their number, nor total number of faculty or total salary dollars. The federal government’s IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data Systems) survey is better ( It shows information left out by the AAUP, and does not use an arbitrary conversion factor for 12-month salaries.

The results of the most recent IPEDS faculty salary survey (FY 2014) are:

  • Pitt professor $134,600; public AAU median $128,900.
  • Pitt associate professor $89,600; public AAU median $90,000.
  • Pitt assistant professor $71,200; public AAU median $78,200.
  • Pitt instructor $43,300; public AAU median $49,900.
  • Pitt lecturer $45,200; public AAU median $58,500.
  • Pitt no rank $41,000; public AAU median $50,000.
  • Pitt all ranks $85,800; public AAU median $96,800.

The above numbers were taken from the Data Feedback Report that IPEDS sends to Pitt’s chancellor every year, so the administration is well aware that its salaries for low-ranking faculty are grossly sub-par.  Moreover, this has been true for over nine years, and these faculty constitute over half of the full-time instructional faculty.

Even more disturbing is the pattern of Pitt salary increases versus those of public AAU peers from FY 2006 to 2014, as shown below and in the graph.

Microsoft PowerPoint - 15_select sal-rev-exp slides_april17

  • Pitt professor 22.1 percent; public AAU median 17.1  percent.
  • Pitt associate professor 19.1 percent; public AAU median 22.8 percent.
  • Pitt assistant professor 12.8 percent; public AAU median 20.5 percent.
  • Pitt instructor 4.6 percent; public AAU median 19.4 percent.
  • Pitt lecturer 12.7 percent; public AAU median 16.5 percent.
  • Pitt no-rank 7.2 percent; public AAU median 12.9 percent.
  • Pitt all ranks 16.3 percent; public AAU median 16.1 percent.
  • Inflation for the nine-year period 20.7 percent.

Pitt’s professors were the only faculty whose pay increases exceeded inflation, and their increase was significantly higher than the public AAU median. In contrast, increases for all other Pitt faculty were well below the inflation increase and public AAU medians, except for no-rank faculty.

IPEDS also reveals the total salary increase for Pitt’s instructional faculty from FY 2005-2013 was $37.8 million. Tuition and fee revenue increased $259.6 million; the state appropriation decreased $24.5 million.

One might think a little more of the $259.6 million tuition-fee increase could have gone toward meeting the Salary Increase Policy (07-09-01) goal “that average faculty salaries at the Pittsburgh campus are at or above the median (for each rank) of AAU universities,” but clearly this was not a priority for Pitt’s administration.

Isn’t it obvious correcting sub-par salaries for low ranking instructional faculty will never be a priority for Pitt’s administration unless instructional faculty band together and demand change?

John J. Baker

Emeritus Associate Professor

School of Dental Medicine

Note: The views expressed in this letter are the author’s own.


David N. DeJong, professor, Department of Economics, and vice provost, Academic Planning and Resources Management, replies:

I am pleased to affirm Pitt’s commitment to the goal of maintaining average faculty salaries at the Pittsburgh campus at or above the median for each rank of public AAU universities, and to report that the status of salaries at the assistant professor, instructor, and lecturer ranks is far more positive than a cursory view of IPEDS data indicates.

Regarding IPEDS data, these can be problematic for the purpose of benchmarking comparisons, foremost because reporting conventions are not uniform across institutions. For example, while many institutions (Pitt included) combine the salaries of instructional, research and public service faculty in their reports to IPEDS, other institutions report on these categories separately, making apples-to-apples comparisons of the salaries of instructional faculty impossible.

The gold standard for salary comparisons is the AAUP’s faculty compensation survey, the Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, which is published annually in the AAUP magazine Academe. This survey focuses exclusively on salary data for instructional faculty, and employs strict standards of uniformity to ensure its value as a benchmarking tool. That this survey reports on salaries for institutions outside of our public AAU comparison group is of no consequence: The benchmarking we conduct is based only on this select group of institutions.

Regarding that benchmarking, and beginning with the assistant professor rank, it is the case that when viewed in aggregate, the salaries of assistant professors at Pitt lie below the median of AAU public universities. However, sorting the aggregated data into the 15 disciplines we track within the AAUP survey, average salaries at Pitt lie at or above the AAU median in 11 cases; thus the impression conveyed by the aggregated data is misleading.

Average aggregate salaries among instructors and lecturers, however, do lag broadly across disciplines. This situation is being addressed by an ongoing two-pronged academic initiative of the provost’s aimed at moving average salaries in these ranks toward our policy targets, and converting long-term visiting positions into permanent instructor and lecturer positions. This is yielding substantial progress on both fronts.

Regarding the salary front, and focusing on the growth of salaries for continuing faculty over the past five years, growth in the instructor/lecturer ranks averaged 5 percent on an annual average basis at Pitt between AY10 – AY15, compared to the growth of the median salary among AAU publics of 2.9 percent. In fact, average salaries for continuing faculty at Pitt outstripped AAU median salaries across all ranks, as the following table illustrates:

letter reply

Incidentally, the ability to compare salary growth for continuing faculty represents another advantage of the Academe survey over IPEDS data, wherein the salaries of continuing faculty and new appointments are intermingled. The relatively active recruiting of assistant professors, instructors and lecturers Pitt has engaged in over the past several years drives a relatively large wedge between the salary outcomes of continuing faculty versus aggregate salary averages, further muddling the message conveyed by IPEDS data.

In sum, the quest to maintain faculty salaries at policy targets remains a top priority, as the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty holds the key to the advancement of our mission.


Group asks that Pitt reconsider its affiliation with JanSport

To the editor:

On March 26, 2015, Penn State decided to end their licensing relationship with JanSport Apparel Corp. due to the company’s refusal to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Building and Fire Safety. While JanSport claimed that they should not be required to sign the accord because its apparel is not produced in Bangladesh, Penn State begs to differ. The university’s vice president for student affairs, Damon Sims, declared that JanSport is still obligated to follow the university’s mandate that all of its licensees sign onto the accord because it is a subsidiary of VF Corp., a company that has had a “significant presence” in Bangladesh, according to Sims.

However, JanSport remains a licensee of the University of Pittsburgh. Since our University also requires that its licensees sign the Bangladesh safety accord, we implore Pitt to follow the lead of Penn State, another Pennsylvania state-related institution that is comparable to our own, and cut JanSport as one of our licensees. VF Corp. is one of the most notorious violators of workers’ rights in Bangladesh, and as such should have no relationship with the University of Pittsburgh. Though we have mentioned the same concerns that Penn State holds to the Pitt administration, Vice Chancellor Renny Clark declared that cutting JanSport was “not on the horizon” for our University, exempting JanSport, and transitively VF, from the accord.

Over the past few years student pressure has prompted the University of Pittsburgh to make strides toward sourcing our apparel from factories that treat their workers with fairness and dignity. In 2013, the University of Pittsburgh affiliated with the Workers’ Rights Consortium, a third-party labor monitoring organization, in an effort to do its part to hold corporations accountable for the well-being of their workers. However, Pitt does not appear to be taking this matter seriously, as it continues to allow the largest producer of branded apparel in the world, VF Corp., to get away with countless workers’ rights abuses. By agreeing to require licensees to affiliate with the accord, the University was making a promise to help do its part in preventing events like the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,129 workers, by holding brands accountable. However, that promise is half-hearted and dishonest if Pitt continues to allow one of the most notorious corporations off the hook for these abuses.

We urge the University of Pittsburgh to reconsider its stance on its affiliation with JanSport apparel company. We do not want the University’s alignment with the Bangladesh Accord on Building and Fire Safety to be nothing more than an empty gesture. We hope that you will discontinue your support of exploitative corporations and help make Pitt apparel sweatshop-free.

Dolly Prahbu

President, Americans for Informed Democracy


Alyssa Lieberman

Incoming President


G. Reynolds Clark, vice chancellor and special assistant to the chancellor, replies:

This letter is in response to the letter sent by your committee to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and your open letter to the editor of the University Times, regarding the fact that the University of Pittsburgh has not terminated JanSport as a licensee because JanSport has not signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Over the past several years, the University’s administration has been working openly and diligently with your committee to require all licensees that manufacture Pitt-related products in Bangladesh to sign the accord. That objective has been achieved. We find it concerning that your committee views our efforts as an empty gesture. As we intended in our collaborative plan, our information is that all of our current licensees that are sourcing, producing or purchasing apparel in Bangladesh have signed the accord.

In August 2014, the University notified its licensees that engage in the manufacture, marketing, sale and/or distribution of apparel and other items that display University names and marks pursuant to licenses granted by Collegiate Licensing Co. that any such licensee that sources, produces or purchases apparel in Bangladesh under a University of Pittsburgh license as of July 1, 2014, or at any time thereafter, is expected to sign the accord. As far as the University is informed, JanSport does not source, produce or purchase Pitt-related apparel in Bangladesh.

Your letters assert that VF Corp. is a violator of workers’ rights in Bangladesh and that, because JanSport is a subsidiary of VF Corp., the University should terminate JanSport as a licensee.

However, VF Corp. is not a University licensee and, in the absence of knowledge that JanSport sources, produces or purchases Pitt-related apparel in Bangladesh, the University will not terminate JanSport as a licensee.


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