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February 4, 2010

Regional salary benchmarking: Provost, UPB’s Alexander respond

Statement from Provost James V. Maher regarding benchmarking salaries for faculty at the three regional campuses that have four-year undergraduate programs.

For a number of years, there has been an ongoing discussion with our regional campuses about the appropriate group of institutions of higher education against which to benchmark the salaries of our regional campus faculty. When the Senate was working with the Posvar administration to develop a salary policy (a process that took several years and was only completed well into the O’Connor administration), one of the first items of agreement involved comparing Pittsburgh Campus salaries to salaries at the flagship campuses of AAU universities and comparing regional campus faculty salaries to salaries of faculty at “regional campuses of AAU universities or some other mutually agreeable group.”

The regional campuses of other AAU universities are very varied and generally quite different from ours in enough ways that I have not found that group to be a useful benchmark when I must decide how to apportion “market/equity” salary pool funds amongst the various schools of the Provost’s area, and I have been very forthright in telling this to the regional campus representatives at UPBC meetings (I have always been able to reassure them that the share of such funds that I have been allotting them is if anything higher than available evidence might suggest, so agreement on a benchmark group will not necessarily increase their share of the salary increase pool. In all my discussions with them, the regional faculty have always been the ones who have driven the discussions toward adoption of some new benchmarking group, with my participation better described as acquiescence.).

After quite a few years of unproductive discussion, I suggested that, lacking any ideal group of peer institutions for our regional campuses, we adopt the large group of Carnegie II-B institutions from the three geographic districts that come together near Western Pennsylvania (Middle Atlantic, East North Central, and South Atlantic). While this group is far from perfect, it has many attractive features including diversity of mission and geographic location while retaining similarity to our regional campuses in enrollment and general instructional emphasis. This group includes both private and public universities and so, for purposes of assessing relative market problems between the University of Pittsburgh Schools that are our Regional Campuses and the Schools that reside on the Pittsburgh Campus, I would probably have to return to using the full AAU flagship campus group (whereas I have been using the public AAU group for the Pittsburgh campus for some time).

As of this Fall Term I had received letters from the presidents of our Bradford, Greensburg, and Johnstown campuses recommending that we adopt the new benchmarking group for the salaries of their faculty and affirming that for each campus their faculty governance group had agreed to this recommendation. I then sent this recommendation on to the Senate with my agreement that, if the Senate is agreeable to making the Carnegie II-B Schools in the Middle Atlantic, East North Central, and South Atlantic districts the salary benchmarking group for our regional campus faculty salaries, I would accept this as defining a “mutually acceptable group” in the sense of the Senate document of April 1986.

It is my understanding that, during the recent Senate discussions, one of the regional campus representatives to the Faculty Assembly challenged the accuracy of my statement that I had a statement from the president of the Bradford Campus affirming the agreement, under their governance rules, of that Campus to adopting the proposed benchmark. In response to my request for clarification of what has transpired at Bradford, Dr. Livingston Alexander, President of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, has provided me with a statement which I reproduce below.

President Alexander’s statement follows:

I’d like to re-iterate that my recommendation is to adopt the comprehensive list of II-B institutions (249 institutions in the mid-Atlantic, south-Atlantic, and north central regions) as the benchmark group for the University of Pittsburgh regional campuses. In advance of adopting this position, I discussed this matter at length with the last three presidents of the Faculty Senate at Pitt-Bradford and several of the members. During the previous five-year strategic plan (2004-2009), the Faculty Senate actually approved a resolution for inclusion as a strategic initiative in our strategic plan that committed our institution to seeking to bring the averages of our faculty salaries to the averages of the comprehensive list of II-B institutions. That strategic initiative reads as follows:

Implement Faculty Senate resolution to bring average salaries of faculty across all ranks to at least the averages of institutions classified as AAUP II-B within the Middle Atlantic, East North Central, and South Atlantic geographic groupings.

In the current strategic plan, the faculty asked that this strategic initiative be modified to reflect more general wording to possibly accommodate a new list of benchmarking institutions that might emerge from deliberations with other regionals. We modified the language with the understanding that the relevant strategic initiative would apply to the larger list of II-B institutions if no alternative benchmarking list were endorsed by the regional presidents and approved by the Provost. The regional presidents endorsed the II-B list; and the Provost has not approved an alternative list. The relevant strategic initiative that is in our current strategic plan (2009-2-14) reads as follows:

Bring average salaries of faculty across all ranks to the averages of appropriate benchmark groups.

As I stated yesterday, it was my understanding that regional presidents were expected to consult and receive feedback from the faculty and then issue a recommendation to the Office of the Provost on a list of Benchmarking institutions. It was not my understanding that our recommendation was to be preceded by a vote of the faculty on that II-B benchmarking list.

Livingston Alexander


University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

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