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January 21, 2016

Senate to begin review of PBS

The University Senate budget policies committee (BPC) has taken the first formal steps toward review of the University’s planning and budgeting system (PBS).

In a unanimous vote, BPC on Jan. 15 approved formation of an ad hoc committee to begin a preliminary review of the PBS document (

University Senate President Frank Wilson said he envisions that the ad hoc committee would perform preliminary work and set an agenda for broader review by the University community, with an aim to complete the review by the end of the academic year.

BPC chair Beverly Gaddy noted that such a goal is an aggressive one, considering that the PBS document calls for the review to include a survey of faculty, staff, students and administrators.

The document calls for review “approximately every five years” by surveying the constituent groups to determine whether and how the PBS document should be amended, and whether and how the PBS process can be improved.

Under the system, BPC is responsible for reviewing whether the PBS processes are followed and whether all constituencies involved are provided adequate opportunities to participate in the process and to be informed of its outcomes.

The most recent revision was completed in 2003.


Next steps will include discussions with the administration to determine the size and membership of the ad hoc committee.

Wilson said he would bring the issue to the Senate in February.

The usefulness of the PBS isn’t being called into question, but it’s agreed that the document needs some streamlining.

Steve Wisniewski, associate vice provost for planning, said redundancies in the document make it difficult to read. In addition, the document is “too specific” in some areas — for instance specifying certain duties of the chancellor that in actuality are carried out by other senior administrators.

“We need to make it a more functional document,” Wilson agreed, admitting that the document can be a difficult read.

John J. Baker, a Senate past president and former BPC chair, pointed out other issues: “This administration is very secretive about its budget. The document calls for openness and it’s just not there,” he said. “Another problem is in a lot of the units, the PBS committees don’t meet.”

Baker said, “I understand some of the reasons why the administration is secretive about it, but it is very frustrating from the faculty point of view.”

He likewise pointed a finger at faculty, noting that it can be difficult to find faculty interested in participating on their units’ planning and budgeting committees. “There’s a lot of apathy in the units,” he said.

“I think (the PBS) works fine at the higher levels … but at the lower levels I think there are problems. It’s just basically that communication and openness is just not there.”

Wilson agreed. “In a certain sense faculty have not stepped up to our responsibilities as (they) have been set down in (the PBS) in our units.”

Gaddy noted that part of the argument for periodic review of the PBS document is to continue creating awareness of it in the University community. “Every unit has responsibilities here in this document,” she said. “They may or may not be aware.”

In effect since 1992, the University’s PBS was intended to provide broader participation by faculty, staff and students in operational and long-range planning through participation on planning and budgeting committees.

The document’s stated goals are for the system to:

— Increase openness and sharing of information, participation in the decision-making process, and accountability.

— Improve the ability of administrators, faculty, staff and students to make sound decisions.

— Help department, responsibility center and senior vice chancellor area heads function effectively.

— Ensure maintenance and achievement of performance standards.

— Enhance the University.


In other business:

• By request of the committee, Amanda Brodish presented the most recent report on faculty salaries by gender, for the benefit of BPC members who were not on the committee when the most recent report was presented.

Brodish reiterated data from the FY11 report, which initially was presented to BPC in April 2013. (See May 2, 2013, University Times.)

The report compares how the Pittsburgh campus fares in comparison with public AAU peers in terms of the percentage of women faculty by rank and the ratio of the average of women’s salaries to men’s salaries by rank.

It also looks more closely at faculty salaries on all Pitt campuses, controlling for factors such as rank, tenure status, school and department. The administration produces the report every five years, with the next due in the 2016-17 academic year.

• BPC’s next meeting is set for 2 p.m. Feb. 19 in 1817 Cathedral of Learning.

—Kimberly K. Barlow   

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