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May 1, 2014

BPC wants more salary information

The University Senate budget policies committee used the release of the annual “Mean and Median Salaries of Full-Time Employees” report (see “What We Earn,” this issue) to press University administrators for more information and the quicker release of other reports.

The salary report, from the University’s Office of Management Information and Analysis, also prompted some faculty discussion of staff salaries. Greensburg political science faculty member Beverly Gaddy remarked: “I’m appalled at how little we pay our clerical and secretarial staff.” She cited averages in the low $20,000s paid by undergraduate studies in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, although other committee members pointed to clerical salaries in the mid- to upper $20,000s for many other areas, ranging into the mid-$30,000s in several responsibility centers.

Committee member and Senate President Michael Spring also noted that some clerical staff perform only data entry, which skews their compensation lower than that for executive secretaries and may affect averages and medians listed in the report.

According to the Living Wage Calculator (, part of the Poverty in America project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a living wage for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County is $17,243 annually for a single adult, $35,381 for a single parent of one child and $35,318 for a parent of two children sharing the household with another adult.

Committee member Michael Pinsky, a medicine faculty member, asked whether the University was tracking salaries in Oakland to see what pay rates the University was competing with locally.

“Not that I know of,” said Robert Goga of the Office of Institutional Research, who had presented the report.

Pinsky said, “I don’t care how good the faculty are, if we don’t have support people, we’re going to be inefficient.” He hears clerical staff “grumbling all the time” about salaries, he added.

“One factor in this is benefits,” remarked committee chair John Baker. “We have good benefits and their kids can go to Pitt. That’s a major factor in retaining lots of staff.”

Spring said even attempting to bring parity to new hires doing the same work as long-term staff has its perils, with veteran employees feeling slighted in the process.

Adriana Maguiña-Ugarte of the Center for Comparative Archaeology/Anthropology, the Staff Association Council representative to BPC, distributed a list of minimum and maximum salaries for specific job classifications (such as administrator I, electronics III and system/programmer II) from Pitt’s Human Resources website. She and other BC members suggested that the annual salary report divide staff jobs into more specific job classifications next year.

“People feel they are never at the median,” Maguiña-Ugarte added, even when they have risen above the minimum salary level. She also pointed out that the mean salary listed on the Human Resources website is not an average of the salaries employees currently receive, but only an average of the minimum and maximum figures. Median values for such specific job classifications also would be helpful on the Human Resources website, BPC committee members suggested.

“Our office is working on that sort of staff cohort analysis,” reported Amanda Brodish, data analyst in academic planning and resources management in the Provost’s office, “so this group can expect to see this. I don’t want to make promises, because I don’t know when.”

Spring also suggested the University attempt to find out how many two-paycheck families, with one member employed by Pitt, work here for one benefit in particular, such as the tuition break for staffers’ children, as well as what attracts employees who are not taking advantage of either the medical benefits or the retirement savings plans.

Maguiña-Ugarte also suggested that the University study salaries further to determine whether there was a gender gap in salaries from particular schools or other areas.

The recently released national academic salaries survey from the American Association of University Professors shows a $1,000-$20,000 annual salary gap between men and women across all campuses and academic ranks at Pitt, with only one place where women lead men — as associate professors on the Johnstown campus.

Baker said BPC continues to work on new recommendations for part-time faculty salaries and the University’s overall salary policy, in light of an ongoing salary issue involving School of Medicine policies.

In June, he and Gaddy criticized a May 2013 address by medical school Dean Arthur S. Levine, vice chancellor for the Health Sciences, which outlined a school policy that allows 20-percent pay reductions for tenured faculty who don’t meet performance standards (see University Times, June 13, 2013).

“This is not a new issue,” concluded Baker, recalling a Senate debate in 2006. “It is a very complex issue, and you will find difficulty” in ferreting out all the data, he added. “There’s a certain percentage of faculty who do well, and we had that analysis, but the number who do very well was low, and that’s a chronic problem.”


In other news:

• The committee will receive a report from Chief Enrollment Officer Marc Harding at its May meeting, and Spring expressed hope that Harding would address how his office influences the mix of students who are accepted to Pitt and attend, and how it affects the cost of tuition, both in and out of state.

Referring to Pitt’s entry last fall into the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference for sports, Spring asked: “Is the ACC about making more money or about going after a new student population?”

He also wondered whether Pitt’s increased application pool was evidence of Pitt’s success or part of the national trend of students applying to more colleges.

• Spring also suggested that it was time for the committee to review the University’s annual faculty evaluation procedure and other procedures governed by policies that have not been reviewed in more than a decade.

“We have some policies that are University-codified …” — voted on by one of the University’s governing bodies, for instance — “and some policies that are memo-codified. I think we have to periodically go back and look at things,” he said. “It’s reasonable to think that from time to time — 10 years, 20 years — we take a look at policies and see if they are still sound.”

The 15-year-old faculty review policy, as reflected in a memo by then-Provost James Maher, “has been maturing and evolving,” Spring noted, adding that he understands there never has been a formal effort among deans to compare their faculty evaluation methods.

“At some level it would be good to do a dispassionate view of best practices,” he said. “I’m not questioning the validity or usefulness of any of these policies. In some cases, the climate in which the policy governs has changed.”

• Members asked Brodish when the attribution study for fiscal year 2013 would be ready for review; she said it would be available for an upcoming committee meeting. The report outlines expenses and revenues for University academic units and other responsibility centers, and is awaiting approval first by the University planning and budgeting committee.

—Marty Levine