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June 13, 2002

SAC president objects to computer fee hike for staff

The president of the Staff Association Council (SAC) is protesting a proposed steep increase in a fee charged to staff who take classes at Pitt. Currently, all part-time students, including staff, are charged $30 per term for a computer usage fee.

Under a recommendation passed by a Board of Trustees committee last month, the fee would more than double to $65 per term. The full board is expected to vote on the recommendation of its student affairs committee on June 20.

"We're recommending that either this fee be waived for staff or at least it should stay at $30," staff council President Barbara Mowery said at yesterday's SAC meeting. The fee for full-time students would go up less than 20 percent from $110 to $130 per term under the student affairs committee proposal, she noted.

Mowery is SAC's representative on the trustees' student affairs committee.

"We get complaints from staff about the fee to begin with, since many staff already have computer access at their jobs and don't ever use the computer labs," she said.

The SAC president reported that the student affairs committee, in recommending the fee increase, reasoned that the computer usage fee for part-time students had not gone up in several years; that Pitt had spent considerable sums on upgrading its computer facilities, including providing e-mail kiosks and upgrading classroom, computer lab and dormitory wiring, and that staff did not represent a high percentage of the part-time student population.

Mowery said that according to figures provided by the Office of Institutional Research, 1,037 staff members took at least one Pitt class during the 2001 academic year, accounting for 8,673 credit hours.

"That averages about one 3-credit course each over three terms per year," Mowery said, adding that she did not have that data at the time of the student affairs committee meeting. "Now we have data to show there are a lot of staff who take classes and have to pay this fee."

Institutional Research figures also show that nearly one in 10 of Pitt's full-time staff annually earn $17,500 or less, Mowery said.

"For those 9 percent of all [full-time] staff who are making $17,500 or less, they'll be spending more for the computer fee over a year than they are getting in raises after taxes, based on last year's 1.5 percent increase for satisfactory performance."

Mowery said she sent a letter last week to the administration decrying the proposed fee hike for staff.

In other SAC developments:

* Two candidates are running for the vacant vice president of communications post — Angela Peskie, Research Conduct and Compliance Office, and Rachel Roebuck, Public Affairs — but under SAC bylaws both are ineligible to hold office until after June 30, following completion of their first full year on SAC.

Elections chair Elizabeth Homonai reported that ballots will be distributed to SAC members via e-mail and that the winner will take office officially at the July 10 new member orientation meeting.

The winner will serve out the term of Audrey Portis, who left the University. Officer terms run two years.

* Mowery and Richard Colwell, SAC vice president for steering, reported on the annual council of campuses, which was held at the Bradford campus June 5 and 6.

* Gwen Watkins, chair of SAC's program and planning committee, reported that ticket sales have been brisk for the annual Pitt-Kennywood Day on July 27. "We've sold about 1,700 so far," Watkins said.

T-shirts are available at 925 WPU for $6-$9.

Kennywood tickets will be sold to Pitt I.D.-holders at the WPU Ticket Office until July 26. Costs are $12.50 per person (discounted from Kennywood's regular price of $27.95) for all-day ride passes, or $5 for general admission.

Tickets will be honored on weekdays after July 27 at no extra charge, and for a $5 additional fee on weekends during the Kennywood summer season.

–Peter Hart

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