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January 7, 2016

Senate Matters: The role of BPC

Robert Miewald was a beloved professor of mine when I was a graduate student. His lectures were exceptionally informative and engaging, delivered with wit and a dry sense of humor. Nonetheless, I hesitated when registering for his course in Public Budgeting and Finance in spring 1994. My trepidation was not due to any reservations about Professor Miewald but rather because my previous courses in finance and accounting had been, well, uninspiring. But with Miewald’s first lecture that semester I knew his course would be different. He presented the budget process as fraught with political conflict but also capable of conciliating differences. A public budget helps to put flesh on ideas, brings them into the realm of possibility. He said a budget is, above all, a policy statement. As a member of the University Senate budget policies committee (BPC) for several years and now chair, I have seen the truth of his statement.

The role of BPC in helping to establish policy for the University is defined in the University’s planning and budgeting system (PBS) ( The intent of this document is to ensure broad participation by faculty, staff and students in the planning and budgeting processes of the various units and at the University level. According to PBS, the Senate and its committees, including BPC, are recognized as providing advice to the chancellor and administrative officers “on all aspects of University planning and budgeting, including long-range planning and budgeting, program plans, operational plans and budgets, gift and endowment spending policies, compensation policies, and design and modification of the PBS” and “may initiate recommendations with respect to broad University policies (such as gift and endowment spending policies, and compensation policies) and with respect to information collection and dissemination, such as the Revenue and Cost Attribution Study.”

In addition, the PBS tasks BPC with “reviewing whether the PBS processes are followed and whether all constituencies involved are provided adequate opportunities to participate in the process and to be informed of its outcomes.”

Accordingly, the document says, BPC may communicate or meet with planning and budgeting committees as necessary.  BPC is directed to regularly inform all unit heads and all members of planning and budgeting committees of its role in reviewing the integrity of the planning and budgeting process.

Thus the PBS, adopted in 1992 and last revised in 2003, has been instrumental in helping to ensure shared governance, especially regarding budgetary matters. The PBS currently is under periodic review by BPC with the expectation that we will be recommending the Senate undertake a full review.

The role of BPC in operational and long-range budgeting and policy and the welfare of the University’s employees and students is reflected in our mission statement to provide oversight on such matters as “the fiscal health of the University, the economic welfare of its faculty and staff, and the appropriateness and sufficiency of funds provided for the academic programs of the University.” The committee also is tasked with making “recommendations on such matters as tuition levels, compensation policies, and issues like the creation, merger and termination of academic programs.” Thus we complete annual reviews of salary reports for faculty, librarians, staff and administration. We also review the University’s attribution study (which breaks down and attributes costs among the various units). Reflecting our concern for the University’s educational mission and student affordability, we also analyze enrollment and tuition data.

While our reviews of faculty salary initially included only full-time ranked faculty, we recently added full-time instructors and lecturers and part-time faculty to our reports. The analysis includes comparisons to previous years. We also examine salaries of full-time continuing faculty over a 15-year period to ensure that long-serving faculty members are making sufficient salary gains. We analyze the effect of cost of living in different regions of the U.S. on faculty salaries so that when we compare salaries with our AAU peer group we can take into account Pittsburgh’s low cost of living. Furthermore, every five years we analyze salaries by gender to ensure the University is progressing toward greater gender equity in salary and hiring. And with the prominent focus on diversity and inclusion in the strategic plan, we intend to discuss the inclusion of data on racial and ethnic salary and hiring differentials as well.

The inclusion of part-time faculty salary in our annual reports has been a goal the committee has worked toward for years. In April 2012 I made my initial request to the committee that we explore the feasibility of including data for part-time faculty salaries in our annual reporting. Accomplishing this has proven to be a greater challenge than I had envisioned, complicated by the variability in contracts across the University and the difficulty in defining part-time labor. BPC finally received and examined a very preliminary report earlier this fall. Readying a report for public disclosure remains a primary goal. To aid in this effort, I became a member of the Senate’s ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream part-time faculty issues, chaired by Irene Frieze. In tandem with Irene’s committee and with Senate President Frank Wilson (the Senate appointee to BPC and to Irene’s committee), we will work with other elements of the University to make Pitt a more inclusive, equitable and rewarding place of employment for all its members.
Beverly Gaddy, a political science faculty member at Pitt-Greensburg, is chair of the University Senate’s budget policies committee.

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