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May 2, 2013

TAFC breaks down faculty status trends

A University Senate tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC) report expresses concern for whether Pitt’s School of Medicine (SOM) can support its rising numbers of tenured faculty in light of projected negative trends in federal funding.

The report was based on University fact book data.

The academic year 2011-12 report on tenured, tenure-stream and non-tenured faculty, presented to Faculty Assembly April 30, found that while the total number of tenured faculty at Pitt has remained stable over the past 15 years in most schools, their numbers continue to rise in the School of Medicine.

The report also found a decline in tenured faculty in the arts and sciences while the number of part-time faculty and faculty outside the tenure stream has risen in conjunction with increases in arts and sciences student enrollment.

Tenured faculty

The number of tenured medical school faculty rose to 433 in 2011, up from 331 in 2006 and from 274 tenured faculty in the medical school in 2000.

TAFC co-chair Rose Constantino said the growth corresponds to Pitt’s increasing grant funding and its national ranking in extramural research income.

Grants in the School of Medicine rose to nearly $321.53 million in 2011, up from $281.45 million in 2010 and $195.28 million in 2006. Pitt broke into the top 10 recipients of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in 1997, with the School of Medicine ranking No. 7 in 2009 and rising to No. 5 in 2011.

TAFC reported, however, “We may need to ascertain that projected SOM financial reserves are sufficient to sustain estimates of the long term salary support commitments to the current SOM tenured faculty base.”

Tenure-stream faculty

Tenure-stream faculty numbers have remained stable in the past five years in most of the University, but in the medical school have fallen to 202, down from 203 in 2010 and from a peak of 241 in 2007, the committee reported.

Declines also have been seen in other health sciences schools, where tenure-stream faculty numbers have decreased from 65 in 2008 to 43 in 2011.

The proportion of full-time tenure-stream faculty at Pitt has remained steady in the School of Medicine, other health sciences and on Pitt’s regional campuses over the past 15 years and has dropped slightly in the arts and sciences and professions.

Two patterns of faculty utilization levels remain, said TAFC co-chair Lisa Borghesi: 67 percent tenure and tenure-stream faculty in the arts and sciences, professions and on the regional campuses and 30 percent in the School of Medicine and other health sciences.

She noted that full time faculty percentages remained stable on the regionals, with a slight decrease over time in the arts and sciences and other professional schools.

Non-tenure stream faculty

The report found slight, steady increases in full-time non-tenure stream faculty in the arts and sciences, professions and other health sciences schools, and stable numbers at Pitt’s regionals, Constantino said.

However, at the medical school, the number of full-time faculty outside the tenure stream has continued to rise from 1,531 in 2010 to 1,624 in 2011.

“This reflects the diverse specialized roles faculty perform outside the tenure stream and in different academic units,” Constantino said.

Part-time faculty

The numbers of part-time faculty have remained mostly stable in the School of Medicine and other health sciences as well as on Pitt’s regional campuses.

However, the School of Medicine, Borghesi said, experienced dramatic growth in part-time faculty at the onset of the doubling of the NIH budget [in 2002], while at Pitt’s regional campuses, part-time faculty numbers were on a stable, upward trend until 2006, when a number of part-time positions were merged into full-time positions.

More variation has been seen in the arts and sciences where part-time faculty rose from 310 in 2007 to 421 in 2010, falling to 410 in 2011. Part-time faculty in the professions increased to 149 in 2011, up from 133 in 2007 and a small change from the 144 part-time faculty in the professions in 1996.

The rise in part-time faculty in arts and sciences areas correlates with rising enrollment, said Borghesi, adding that full-time equivalent student enrollment in the arts and sciences has risen about 20 percent in the past 15-20 years.

According to the report, FTE enrollments in arts and sciences rose to 12,384 in 2011, up from 11,440 in 2007.


John J. Baker, chair of the University Senate budget policies committee, commented that proposed pay cuts for some medical school faculty could render tenure meaningless, noting that proposed cuts for some medical school faculty coupled with the rising number of tenured faculty there show that the situation is not sustainable. (See April 4, 2013, University Times.) “One way to get rid of faculty is to cut their salary 20 percent every year … Eventually their salary will get so low, they’re going to leave,” Baker said. “You’ve got to wonder, why are they tenuring all these faculty in the first place if they can’t support them?”

Borghesi said she, as a medical school faculty member, is “greatly concerned about the potential reduction of faculty salaries.” She expressed concern that faculty there are encouraged to meet a metric of 75 percent of their salary from grant-funded resources.

“That’s simply not realistic in an age in which NIH funding levels are currently at the 6th percentile,” she said, reiterating that the issue will be the topic of the senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences’ annual state of the medical school address on May 22.


Alexandros Labrinidis, co-chair of the computer usage committee, also outlined some of the issues and innovations CUC recently has been involved in.


The committees’ reports will be posted on the committee pages at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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