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March 17, 2016

Report on faculty performance, salary issues nears completion

A provost’s ad hoc committee has been reviewing issues related to performance evaluations and associated salary decisions for tenured faculty and expects to complete its work in a matter of weeks.

Committee chair Laurie Kirsch made an interim report on the group’s work to Faculty Assembly March 15.

The faculty performance evaluation and salary decision task force was convened in October in response to a Senate ad hoc committee report that recommended University-wide guidelines and recommendations be developed related to salary reductions for tenured faculty. (See Sept. 17, 2015, University Times.) The September 2015 report is posted under the documents tab at

“Concerns had been raised about the way in which salary reductions were made, including the size of the salary reduction, the lack of well-defined criteria for reducing salaries of tenured faculty, and the lack of uniform criteria for determining salary reductions across the University,” said Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development and diversity.

The committee is working to develop recommendations to complement and supplement existing guidelines and policies, including a 1999 memo from then-Provost James Maher that provides guidelines for the faculty review process and issues to be addressed in the annual review, as well as the University’s policy on salary administration.

“This policy provides general guidance for salary increases, but in fact there’s no guidance for salary reduction,” said Kirsch. “There’s no discussion about under which conditions a salary reduction might be appropriate action, amount of reductions that can be given, and options for remediation and appeal.”

Senate tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC) co-chair Barry Gold, who chaired the Senate ad hoc committee, is the Senate representative to the provost’s committee. Other members are Janet Grady, vice president for academic affairs at Pitt-Johnstown; Jim Knapp, senior associate dean in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; and Ann Thompson, vice dean of the School of Medicine.

“As a committee, we are committed to protecting the rights of the faculty and ensuring processes that are fair and transparent, and applied in a uniform manner across the University,” Kirsch said.

In the course of its work, the task force has articulated guiding principles and core beliefs about faculty performance reviews, salary adjustments and processes for appealing salary reductions, Kirsch said.

They include:
• That faculty have responsibilities to contribute to the mission of the University and their academic units.

• That annual performance reviews of tenured faculty should consider the balance of research, scholarship, teaching and service as appropriate for a unit and a faculty member’s rank.

• That faculty salaries may be increased, stay the same or be reduced as a result of the faculty member’s performance, as documented in an annual performance review.

• That faculty have the right to appeal a salary reduction.

“We believe that faculty performance review processes and salary reduction appeals processes should be fair, transparent and applied equitably,” Kirsch said.

“We’ve been keeping these guiding principles and core beliefs in mind and we’re working to develop the specific University-level guidelines related to the review of tenured faculty performance for associated salary adjustments and for salary reductions appeals processes in line with the charge that the committee was given from the provost,” she said.

Those guidelines center on multiple topics, including:
• Articulating the circumstances when no salary increase or a salary reduction for tenured faculty might be appropriate.

• The amount of the salary reduction that can be given to tenured faculty.

• Remediation opportunities.

• Opportunities to restore a salary reduction.

• Processes related to warnings of possible salary reduction before a reduction is imposed.

• Appeals processes, including articulation of possible grounds for appeals and the composition of the appeals committee.

• Ensuring that appeals processes are made available to all faculty.

The committee also is discussing other guidelines related to the proper oversight and monitoring of processes and salary reductions across the University, Kirsch said.

Said Gold: “We also are focusing on the evaluation process and how that’s done: the warnings and messages that are relayed to the faculty that eventually could trigger either a zero percent raise or a salary reduction.

“I think it will be more rigorous, more uniform, so that clear messages will be sent, rather than vague messages that are sent to faculty, then next thing they know, they are targeted for reductions in their salary.”

In response to questions about whether the policies should be extended to non-tenure-stream faculty, Kirsch said the committee had been working within the scope of its charge from the provost, specifically pertaining to tenured faculty.

Several TAFC members suggested a moratorium on salary cuts while the committee finishes its work, expressing concern that some faculty have received notice in their most recent evaluations that they are facing salary cuts in the upcoming fiscal year.

Francesca Savoia of French and Italian languages and literatures suggested developing guidelines addressing faculty salary compression issues.

Others suggested the Senate’s ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream faculty issues review the issues as they might apply to non-tenured faculty.

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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