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January 24, 2013

How should faculty salaries be compared?

Is it time for new ways to report on faculty salaries at Pitt?

The University Senate budget policies committee continues to debate the best way to meaningfully compare faculty pay with compensation at peer institutions.

In a lengthy Jan. 18 meeting, most of which was off the record, BPC chair John J. Baker reiterated his reasons for favoring Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) over other sources of faculty salary data, which exclude some faculty members from their calculations.

He defended recent letters to the editor in which he decried below-average salaries for many faculty and high salary increases for University officers published (with a response from David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management) in the University Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“I’m not criticizing Pitt because the officers’ salaries are higher than the averages. I think that’s great. The point I’m trying to make is the dichotomy. You have officers’ salaries higher; most of the faculty down below,” Baker said.

He argued that the University’s annual peer group analysis that compares Pitt faculty and librarian pay with pay at Association of American University public peers has become outdated.

Baker said the comparison, which is based on data from the Association of American University Professors (AAUP), fails to include how many faculty are included in each rank and excludes lower faculty ranks as well as part-time faculty.

“Part of my reason for promoting IPEDS data is we’re leaving out well over half of our faculty” in using other data for comparison, Baker said.

He said more than half of Pitt’s faculty are at the lower salary ranks of assistant professor, instructor, lecturer or no-rank faculty.

Data from IPEDS and the AAUP salary survey are posted at

Faculty members and administrators agreed that the issue of comparing salaries across peer institutions is complicated: Market factors, cost of living (see Nov. 8 University Times), the percentage of faculty at each rank and how much time they’ve spent at a particular rank all impact the averages.

Committee member Phil Wion said, “Peer analysis has been limited to tenure-stream ranks because that’s the AAUP data.”

He suggested that upcoming peer salary analyses could be modified to include non-tenure stream categories and “… maybe even modify it to use IPEDS data, at least for those other ranks, because that is a gap. Those ranks have become more numerous at the University, as at other universities. It would be a more useful report and would enable those who are putting the report together to do the analysis to ensure the data are solid, whatever the sources are,” Wion said.

“Or, at least we’d know what caveats there were, and it would be a fuller picture of salaries across the nonmedical part of the institution.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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