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December 5, 2002

A sampling of comments on Pitt's planning and budgeting system

Of the 700-plus faculty and staff members who returned questionnaires evaluating the University's planning and budgeting system (UPBS), 67 accepted the questionnaire's invitation to add written comments.

Of the 67 who wrote out remarks, only three made clearly positive comments:

"It is working effectively in my department and school. Bilateral communication occurs through our department representative on the committee. I am satisfied with the PBS."

"Pitt is a much better place in which to work as a result of the P&B System. Keep up the good work!"

"It is important work."

Several comments were neutral ("Budgets are not my cup of tea," one respondent wrote. "For those interested — they are important and do affect all of us").

Among respondents who confessed to knowing little about the PBS, a few were self-flagellating ("I regret that I am remiss on learning about budget and planning systems"). Some were unapologetically apathetic ("I am ignorant about the workings of this system, and haven't made any effort to become more educated or involved in the process").

Still others were disgruntled, such as the professor who wrote: "Probably the strongest reason I am relatively ignorant about the budgeting system is that both salary and raises are so outrageously low in comparison to non-AAU member schools, like Slippery Rock and Mt. Lebanon High School, that my level of interest, as well as my sense that I could have any substantive effect on budget, is somewhere between despair and apathy."

Negative commentators called the system ineffective and complained of a lack of openness, a lack of planning and budgeting committee (PBC) meetings — and, in two units, the lack of PBCs at all.

The following is a sampling of negative comments:

"In my school the process is a farce. No one communicates and the process does not move."

"[My school's] PBC is a total sham. Votes are taken on programs already underway."

"My department PBC seems to exist only so that we have one, as no real fiscal decisions are made by the committee. In terms of [the school-level PBC], seldom have I seen a case of more deliberate intimidation and obfuscation…. Documents were distributed at the last minute and collected shortly thereafter. Oftentimes we were 'told' about communications with the provost, but were never given any documentation.

"Financial details of the [school] budget were often presented as 'projections' (i.e., we never saw any real figures) and it was made clear that the [school] PBC was simply a 'rubber stamp' for whatever direction the University PBC wished for."

"It is a joke."

"Good idea, but in practice this system does not add anything to the University's mission or vision. There must be a better way for faculty to have input."

"Regardless of the system, the medical/health and athletic cohorts in this University seem to have influence in the budgeting process exceeding their educational importance."

"As a department chair, I have been blinded to all school-level planning and budgeting processes, and even as a department chair I have not been informed of my own departmental budget for which I have been held accountable. Budget and planning in [my school] has been closed — even to those with budgetary responsibility."

"It's not working. Lack of interest in shared governance at the University level and disorganization of my unit preclude it from working."

"There is no real department budget planning in [my school], as the dean dictates and micromanages every financial detail. Departments are not allowed to develop goals or missions and priority for use of resources."

"The UPBS is a wonderful concept, but in my experience it has not led to an increase in my knowledge of or meaningful participation in budgetary decisions. I've been involved in several levels of the current process, and in far too many cases there has been a lack of timely, full (or even minimal) disclosure of crucial information by the administration. This means that faculty members serving on committees receive inadequate information in response to their questions, and have no leverage to ensure that additional information will be forthcoming.

"In order to work, the University's shared governance structure requires an open, cooperative, conciliatory posture from all participants even when their goals and interests collide. However, I have not sensed such a posture from the administration in any encounter as a faculty participant in the UPBS. I wish that I could make a suggestion that did not depend completely on the administration's willingness to entertain it, but as the system stands I cannot come up with one."

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 8

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