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May 31, 2012

BPC endorses UPBC’s recommendations

Pitt groundskeeper Eric McGuire, left, and summer grounds crew worker Nathan Poloni, a Pitt senior, plant annuals near the fountain outside the Cathedral of Learning.

Pitt groundskeeper Eric McGuire, left, and summer grounds crew worker Nathan Poloni, a Pitt senior, plant annuals near the fountain outside the Cathedral of Learning.

In a May 21 closed session, the University Senate’s budget policies committee (BPC) endorsed the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC) recommendations to the chancellor on the fiscal year 2013 Pitt budget.

BPC chair John J. Baker declined to speak in detail about the committee’s discussion in closed session but told the University Times following the meeting that the UPBC recommendations are general guidelines on next year’s budget priorities. “It is impossible to discuss budget specifics when there are potentially large threatened, but yet to be determined, cuts in the state appropriation which may or may not occur,” he added.

In the closed session, the committee also heard a report analyzing FY11-FY12 salary increases for full-time continuing faculty. Delivery of the annual analysis was interrupted by a bomb threat during BPC’s March meeting. Release of the latest report, which typically is presented during open session at BPC, is being delayed this year until after a state budget is enacted. (See March 22 University Times.)

Baker told the University Times that discussion in the closed session did not address when the report would be released.


The closed session was preceded by a brief public meeting during which Baker reminded members, in the context of the suspension of admissions to three Pitt graduate programs, that BPC has the responsibility of ensuring that the University’s planning and budgeting procedures and guidelines are being followed.

On April 5 the University suspended graduate admissions in classics, religious studies and German. (See April 19 University Times.)

Baker referred to a letter to the editor by officers of the Pitt chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and response by Provost Patricia E. Beeson that appeared in the May 17 University Times.

“The main thing that we’re concerned about is that it did arise very quickly,” said Baker, who also is a past-president and executive committee member of the Pitt AAUP chapter. He said he believes that the University’s planning document guidelines allow the administration to take action in the case of unforeseen circumstances, adding that program suspensions are not the same as termination. However, he expressed concern about the process and the departments’ opportunity for input.

Unfinished business

Baker addressed the status of two Pitt reports: an attribution study that reports revenues and expenses attributable to each of the University’s academic units and other responsibility centers and the comparison of faculty and librarian salaries with an Association of American Universities (AAU) public school peer group.

David DeJong, vice provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management and a chancellor’s liaison to BPC, said he had found anomalies in his review of an early version of the attribution study that needed to be addressed.

The problems have been brought to the attention of staff in the chief financial officer’s office, he said.

“We should have seen that study by now,” DeJong said, noting the spate of bomb threats throughout the spring term also delayed progress. “Probably, at this point, we’ll see it in the fall.”

Baker said the faculty salary peer group analysis report likely will be available in the fall following passage of a state budget.

BPC member Chandralekha Singh of physics said she would like to see faculty salary information broken down by disciplines and by gender. She expressed concern about disparities in pay for female faculty members.

DeJong said the administration has pledged to conduct a study of women’s salaries every five years, adding that a report is due this year. He confirmed that the report would be broken down to the department level, noting that it is important to do so in order to account for variations in the percentage of female faculty and salary markets among disciplines.

Bomb threats’ effects

Singh inquired about the effect of the bomb threats on Pitt’s finances. Several BPC members expressed concerns about how the University would be impacted should threats begin again.

DeJong said the cost of extra security measures remains unknown, adding that administrators have been focusing on whether the threats are having an impact on enrollments.

“We’ve been very focused on making sure enrollments have not been affected,” he said.

He said special efforts, including planned Pitt days at amusement parks in metro areas from which the University draws prospective students, are underway.

DeJong said the University is expecting that its retention efforts will result in higher freshman-sophomore retention than last year, “But we’re not going to take anything for granted.”

He noted that it is routine to reach out in summer to students who have not re-registered for the upcoming academic year. This year, however, the University is reaching out to all returning students as part of its efforts to mitigate any potential decrease in retention due to the bomb threats.

He said he was aware of only a handful of cases in which students who had paid deposits wished to withdraw due to the threats and a few others who had inquired about pushing back the deadline for making deposits, which he attributed to concerns about the threats.

“I really hope that those extra efforts will see us through,” DeJong said.


In other business, Baker said BPC officer nominations for the upcoming academic year and voting for those positions both would be conducted via email.

Singh nominated Baker for co-chair. Baker said that he is willing to chair the committee for another year but added that if he is elected he would like to groom a successor for the position because he is approaching retirement.

Baker also noted that University Senate committee elections have taken place and that he has been re-elected to BPC. Also elected to the committee were Ronald Neufeld of engineering and Linda Rinaman of neuroscience, both of whom had been pro tem BPC members. Standing committee members are elected to three-year terms, which begin July 1. (For a list of newly elected Senate standing committee members, see the May 3 University Times.)


Baker told the University Times that BPC would not meet again until fall unless circumstances arise that would require discussion by the committee.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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