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October 1, 2015

Who are peers when comparing regional faculty pay?

Members of the University Senate budget policies committee (BPC) want to revisit the group of peer schools the University administration uses to benchmark Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown campus faculty salaries.

Senate President Frank Wilson and BPC chair Beverly Gaddy, both Greensburg campus faculty members, expressed their desire for a more appropriate regional peer group at BPC’s Sept. 18 meeting, at which the administration’s annual peer group analysis of average salaries of faculty and librarians was presented. (See related story, this issue.)

Since 2010, the peer group has been made up of fellow Carnegie category IIB schools (four-year institutions characterized by an emphasis on undergraduate baccalaureate-level education, as opposed to graduate degrees) in the three American Association of University Professors (AAUP) regions bordering Pennsylvania. The peer group includes public, private-independent, church-related and proprietary institutions.

That group was born of lengthy wrangling among regional faculty and the administration that left some on the regional campuses feeling marginalized as their alternatives were rejected in favor of a group that was viewed by some as a benchmark tailored to ensure that the University’s regionals would fall at the targeted middle of the salary pack.

Although Faculty Assembly approved the new peer group with no opposition (see March 4, 2010, University Times), some faculty viewed it as the administration’s take-it-or-leave-it choice.

Gaddy, who was president of the UPG faculty when the current benchmarking group was approved, suggested that a BPC subcommittee could produce an alternative for the committee’s use.

This year’s comparison group includes 219 schools in the AAUP Middle Atlantic region (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania); the East North Central region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin); and the South Atlantic region (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Virgin Islands, Virginia and West Virginia) region.

Wilson, who was among the regional faculty involved in developing proposed peer groups, said he had no interest in reigniting the contentious and lengthy debate. (See Feb. 19, 2009, University Times.)

“All I was arguing all along is that we create a reasonable benchmarking group for the regional campuses,” he said, acknowledging that the climate has since changed with regard to interactions with University administration.

While the Pittsburgh campus peer group — other AAU public universities — is logical given that the University recruits and competes nationally with these institutions, the regionals list of 200-plus IIB peers is too broad geographically, Wilson said.

Wilson had no complaint about including nonpublic schools. “If you look at our campus in Greensburg, the two closest schools that are certainly market competitors for us are both Catholic universities just a few miles in either direction. So that should be included in a reasonable benchmarking group,” he said.

“The point of a benchmarking tool is supposed to be so we could see how we actually compare with our competitors in the market we are drawing from,” he said. “When we lose faculty that we’re trying to hire at Greensburg, when they went to St. Vincent because St. Vincent was paying more money, that’s something we should be concerned with. … It’s not to say we should get into bidding wars, but we need to know how we actually compare.”

Among the initial motivations for regional faculty salary benchmarking was the recognition more than a decade ago that faculty on Penn State’s regional campuses were earning $10,000-$12,000 more and had a teaching load of three courses per semester as opposed to four for Pitt regional campus faculty, Wilson said.


In other business:

• Committee members agreed to a 2 p.m. start for BPC’s meetings, which are scheduled for the third Friday of each month in 1817 Cathedral of Learning.

• BPC’s next meeting is set for Oct. 16. The administration’s annual cost-of-living adjusted faculty salary report is scheduled for presentation, as is a new preliminary report on part-time faculty salaries.

Executive Vice Provost David DeJong said BPC will see a pilot version of the report along with an explanation of how the cohort of included faculty was chosen.

He said that developing a methodology for the report proved difficult due to the broad range of part-time faculty who teach at Pitt.

The report comes in response to BPC’s interest in obtaining salary information for this segment of the University faculty (see Feb. 23, 2012, University Times) and in conjunction with a University Senate ad hoc committee’s examination of issues relating to non-tenure-stream faculty.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 3

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