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November 8, 2001

Spouses of employees on Pittsburgh campus to get back library, shuttle, other privileges

When Pitt issued new I.D. cards to Pittsburgh campus employees in January, it inadvertently cut off several privileges previously enjoyed by spouses of faculty and staff, including borrowing privileges at Pitt libraries and access to campus shuttle buses and Trees Hall recreation facilities.

Recently, the administration took steps to restore those privileges, said Andrew W. Blair, vice provost for Faculty Affairs.

He advised concerned employees to go to the Pitt I.D. Center, located in the Towers Lobby, for a badge entitling their spouses access to campus buses and Trees Hall facilities. University Library System director Rush Miller has agreed to issue special library cards to spouses who present these badges at Hillman Library, according to Blair.

The vice provost said he contacted Miller after being told of the spousal benefits slip-up by Herbert Chesler, co-chairperson of the University Senate's benefits and welfare committee. Chesler reported on that and other benefits issues at Faculty Assembly on Nov. 6.

After the Assembly meeting, Blair blamed the problem on Pitt's new I.D. cards, issued to Pittsburgh campus employees in January and to students in fall 2000. The new employee I.D. cards ensure that only Pittsburgh campus faculty and staff on Pitt's payroll receive full University benefits and privileges, including free rides on Port Authority buses and trolleys.

"Inadvertently, spousal privileges slipped through the cracks when we issued the new I.D. cards," Blair said.

Chesler, at the Assembly meeting, also reported that Human Resources staff are putting together a group long-term care program for Pitt faculty and staff. The University would not subsidize the optional program, but would administer enrollment and withhold premium payments from employee paychecks.

Last week, in a meeting sponsored by Human Resources, Chesler's committee met with an insurance broker and representatives of a company that Chesler described as "a leader in group long-term care policies."

Chesler said, "It's very likely that, before the end of the spring term, we will see an option presented to us for purchasing long-term care through the University."

Chesler's committee also is speaking with Falk Medical Library personnel about developing a medical information resource center there for Pitt faculty and staff.

The center would be modeled after the one at Shadyside Hospital, which provides on-line resources and a medical reference library for patients and their families. Staff at the Shadyside center help people seeking medical information to narrow and refine their searches, Chesler said. "They also help you to make sense of what you unearth through your research."

Chesler warned Faculty Assembly that Pitt's premiums for medical and pharmacy coverage are likely to increase dramatically after the University's current contract with UPMC Health Plan expires. The three-year contract is in its second year.

He suggested that Senate groups, in comparing Pitt faculty earnings with those at other universities, begin focusing on total compensation (salaries plus fringe benefits) rather than just salaries. It's been at least eight years since the Senate did a study of total compensation at Pitt and its peer universities.

"We have not been gaining ground on salaries, and it might very well be that, relative to the range of universities with which we compare ourselves, we are also not gaining ground — or maybe losing ground — in terms of the fringe benefits component of our compensation," Chesler said. "That would be, I think, something that we ought to know about."

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 6

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