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May 26, 2016

BPC targets new regional peer group

Citing improved relations between Pitt faculty and the University administration, University Senate budget policies committee (BPC) chair Beverly Gaddy and Senate President Frank Wilson are taking the lead in developing a new peer group for benchmarking faculty salaries at Pitt’s Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown campuses. (See Oct. 1, 2015, University Times.)

BPC last week gave its okay to proceed over the summer with the aim of preparing a proposal to present when Senate groups reconvene in the fall.

The existing peer group for the Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown campuses was approved in 2010, following a contentious multiyear process in which several peer groups were proposed but ultimately discarded in favor of the administration’s list, which Gaddy said was forced on the faculty: “‘Accept it or else.’”

Gaddy and Wilson, both Pitt-Greensburg faculty members, were instrumental in developing a peer group proposal that gained broad acceptance among regional faculty. (See Feb. 19, 2009, University Times.) In the end, then-Provost James V. Maher rejected the so-called “Greensburg list” in favor of a proposal that aggregated salaries at the three Pitt campuses and compared them to a peer group of Carnegie category IIB schools (four-year institutions characterized by an emphasis on undergraduate baccalaureate-level education, as opposed to graduate degrees) in the three AAUP regions bordering Pennsylvania. (See March 4, 2010, University Times.)

Aggregating salaries at the three Pitt regional campuses hinders identification of any disparities among them, Gaddy said. In addition, the peer group includes private-independent, church-related and proprietary institutions in addition to public ones, as well as some other seemingly incongruous peers including the Naval Academy and schools as far away as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Exactly what criteria should be used remains fodder for discussion.

Wilson suggested starting with Carnegie IIB public institutions in the region. “I’m not sure how far our region really should go,” he said, adding, “I’m pretty sure that the University of Puerto Rico-Ponce, which is a IIB, is not appropriate. I would probably also say the Naval Academy, which is included on our list right now, is probably not appropriate. But I think we can look at that list objectively and say (which) are similar and would be useful.”

At least some of Penn State’s commonwealth campuses should be included, given that those in western Pennsylvania compete with Pitt’s regional campuses for students and faculty, Wilson said.

And, he says, the regional campuses should be consulted in order to identify who the nearby competitors are. “So, for Greensburg, our list would include right away two religious schools: Seton Hill University and Saint Vincent College, which are just several miles on either side of us and are literally our main competition for all kinds of things.”

Campus size also might be taken into account in establishing a new peer group, he said.
Said Wilson, “What we would like to do now, since we’ve got a different kind of relationship going on (under Provost Patricia E. Beeson and BPC liaison David DeJong, executive vice provost), is just sit down and say: ‘If we were being objective and we were starting from scratch, what would be an appropriate benchmarking group?’”


In other business:

• Gaddy previewed BPC’s agenda for the coming year, noting that work on a first-ever report on part-time faculty salaries will continue this fall. Salary equity issues will be a matter of concern, and the committee will attend to its duty to ensure that units are in compliance with the University’s planning and budgeting document, she said.

In addition to the annual reports BPC typically receives, Gaddy noted that the gender equity salary report is due for presentation this fall.

• In closed session, the committee received the University Planning and Budgeting Committee’s (UPBC) parameters committee’s budget recommendations, including recommended tuition rates and the salary pool for the coming year.

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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