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May 17, 2012

In Pitt’s future: Restructuring

Staff reductions and restructuring are in the University’s future in response to cuts in state support, Provost Patricia E. Beeson told the University Times last week.

“I think that, looking forward with the voluntary early retirement program, that’s going to reduce the staffing across the University and that’s going to lead to another wave of restructuring as different units find other ways to organize their work,” Beeson said.

In comments to Senate Council May 9, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said, “We are in the midst of what may well be a long process of making budget adjustments, a process that not only presents its challenges to us at the University of Pittsburgh but, to one degree or another, is facing many other universities around the country.”

He cited a halt to graduate admissions in classics, German and religious studies (see April 19 University Times), a voluntary early retirement program (VERP) for staff (see May 3 University Times) and the May 7 administrative realignment at Pitt-Titusville and Pitt-Bradford (see related story, this issue) as recent examples.

Nordenberg recapped the state funding situation: “We suffered $67 million in cuts to our state support this year — that was $40 million in the form of a reduction to our initial appropriation; a $7 million mid-year reduction to the appropriation in January, and a 50 percent reduction for another $20 million to our capital projects support. In looking at the next fiscal year, we have been facing a proposed cut of another $40 million to our appropriation as well as the complete elimination of the tobacco settlement-funded health-related research program … that has brought the University about $13 million a year over the decade it has been in place.”

Nordenberg said the University is moving forward on two fronts: both by making budget cuts and by continuing to advocate in Harrisburg for increased funding.

Legislators in the Senate have introduced a bill that would eliminate the proposed fiscal year 2013 cuts to Pitt’s appropriation (see related story, this issue) but Pitt’s state support for the coming year won’t be known until a state budget  — due by the June 30 fiscal year-end — is passed in Harrisburg.

Beeson told the University Times the cuts and realignments “are not easy decisions to make. And they’re not all ‘We’ll just tighten our belts and do better and be a little bit more efficient and that’s all we need to do.’ We’ve been doing that for a decade or more,” she said, enumerating salary freezes/delays and changes to Pitt retirement plans, health benefits and channeled spending in recent years. A compilation of recent cost-cutting initiatives is posted online at

Beeson said Pitt is a very lean operation. “When we’re asked — or forced — to take a $67 million budget cut, the things that we are doing are not without cost. We’re choosing between things we do that are valued, by us and by the communities that we operate in.”

Less-valuable operations are long gone, she said. “Now we’re really making choices between good and very good. And those are hard choices and they do hurt.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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