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January 9, 2003

Board chair discusses officer, faculty salaries

Thanks to recent salary raises and deferred retention payments, the pay packages of Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and five members of his administrative team are now “in the ballpark” compared with executive compensation at Pitt’s peer universities, said Board of Trustees chairperson William S. Dietrich II.

“We are certainly not a leader and we’re probably still lagging somewhat behind, but nevertheless we are materially closing what was an embarrassing gap,” said Dietrich.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters following the Dec. 20 meeting of the trustees’ compensation committee, Dietrich was asked if he believed that Pitt faculty and staff salaries and benefits are, likewise, in the ballpark compared with those at peer universities.

“Yes, I think they are in the ballpark,” Dietrich replied. But he added that Pitt is “committed as an institution to doing everything we can to get those salaries up and to get the best people we can.

“The faculty are the heart of the University,” he said. “Faculty create the academic community, which, the better it is, draws more outstanding students” — who, in turn, go on to become successful alumni whose financial gifts help Pitt to recruit even better, higher-paid faculty, said Dietrich.

Dietrich said the gap between Pitt officers’ compensation and their peers’ was revealed in a survey by the consulting firm Towers Perrin, which obtained confidential pay data from 15 peer schools, principally public AAU (Association of American Universities) universities from the Middle West and Middle Atlantic regions, Dietrich said.

According to Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors, salaries of Pitt faculty haven’t compared particularly well, either, with those of their peers at other AAU public universities in recent years.

Among the 34 public AAU universities, the Pittsburgh campus ranked 19th last year in the average salary for full professors, 21st for associate professors and 19th for assistant professors, according to Academe. The average salary of a Pittsburgh campus faculty librarian ranked 30th last year among the 32 public AAU schools that also belong to the Association of Research Libraries, the journal reported.

Dietrich said: “We would like to do more [to raise non-administrators’ pay] but there is only so much we can do. And if we don’t have a really first-rate executive team that provides the enabling infrastructure for this academic community, then we won’t achieve what we want to do in terms of academic excellence.”

Dietrich said the recent compensation increases for Pitt senior officers were “minuscule” within the context of the University’s total payroll, which was budgeted at nearly $631.8 million last year.

He acknowledged that the senior officers’ raises — which ranged from 5.4 percent to 13.9 percent — exceeded, in percentage terms, this year’s 3.5 percent increase in the salary pool for staff and faculty.

“It is important to note, however, that these increases [for officers] are compatible with the results of existing institutional practices that produce considerable variations in the increases actually granted throughout the University, variations largely grounded in performance differences and market concerns,” said Dietrich.

“For example, though the salary increase pool for the current fiscal year was 3.5 percent, about 17 percent of University faculty (not including those in the physician practice plan) received salary increases in excess of 7.5 percent, and more than 11 percent of University faculty (again, not including those in the physician practice plan) received salary increases in excess of 10 percent.”

University Senate President James Cassing said of the administrators’ raises: “On the one hand, the University is doing well and the senior administration deserves a lot of credit for that. I’m not in a position to judge what the University’s top officials ought to be paid, but I assume that the Board of Trustees thought carefully about this and acted correctly.

“On the other hand, a major reason that the University has been doing so well is because of the faculty and staff’s work, and it’s reasonable to expect that we also should be compensated appropriately.

“It’s important to remember that universities don’t operate like corporations, where senior management tells employees what to do,” Cassing said.

“To a large extent, faculty work independently, with a lot of support from the staff,” the economics professor noted. “We’re thankful to the administration for creating a good working environment, but it’s not like the administration should get credit for everything good that’s going on around here.”

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 9

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