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September 29, 2016

Better communication about salary decisions is promised

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher promised better communication in the future regarding salary distribution decisions in response to concerns raised by Staff Association Council President Rich Colwell.

In his Sept. 21 report to Senate Council, Colwell said salary administration was a topic of conversation at SAC’s meetings this summer with the provost, the chancellor, senior vice chancellors and the Senate president.

In light of a 1 percent University budget cut, Colwell expressed appreciation for the 1.5 percent salary pool increase and the additional 0.5 percent salary increase for those earning less than $45,000 a year.

However, “There are also several areas where we can improve,” he said, citing the need for better communication among staff, faculty and the administration about the salary pool distribution process.

“Right now we’re getting a lot of feedback from staff,” Colwell said. “They’re asking: Where’s the raise?”

Colwell outlined the salary pool recommendation process, which begins with the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC), whose parameters subcommittee makes a recommendation to the full UPBC. The full committee’s recommendation moves on to the chancellor, who determines the salary pool as part of Pitt’s operating budget, subject to Board of Trustees approval.

(The University’s salary increase policy can be found at

Colwell said the chancellor accepted UPBC’s salary pool increase recommendation — a 0.75 percent increase for employees with satisfactory performance; a 0.75 percent increase for merit, market and equity adjustments; and an additional 0.5 percent for those earning $45,000 or less.

In July, in conjunction with the Board of Trustees approval of a $2.1 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2017, Arthur G. Ramicone, senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer, told the University Times that the 1.5 percent salary pool increase would provide a 0.75 percent increase for employees evaluated as satisfactory and above; 0.5 percent for distribution at the unit level for merit, market and equity; and 0.25 percent for distribution by senior vice chancellors to address merit, market and equity imbalances. (See July 21 University Times.)

Colwell said those “holdbacks” for distribution by the senior vice chancellors and unit-level administration left some employees who had exceeded satisfactory performance with only the 0.75 percent “meets standards” portion of the raise.

“It’s hard when you’re dealing with such a small increase, but when you start taking 0.25, 0.25, 0.25 (percent) it adds up,” Colwell said. “We’re hoping that the communications on this can be better. … I’m not saying that the merit, market and equity is not being distributed to the places where it belongs — because I can see it,” he said. “But the amount is not enough to make it happen for those people that need their raises.”

Gallagher said the University “will be communicating this differently going forward than we’ve done before,” to spell out any department- or school-specific variations.

“It’s very clear to me that the communication has not been very good about how the administration of these decisions is carried out,” Gallagher said. “One of the reasons for that is there’s both institutional decisions and then there’s local school-by-school variability.

“Allowing local administrative variation in a place as diverse as the University makes sense, but it shouldn’t be something that is unknown to the people in the organization,” the chancellor said.

“It’s not the case that funds allocated for staff are going anywhere except to staff, but it is the case that who makes the decision is not clear throughout the University,” he said.

“We will do better next time and we’re also looking as well at what’s happening this time very carefully.” He added that he’s already asked Cheryl Johnson, the incoming vice chancellor for Human Resources, to look at the variability in actual practices across the University. She is expected to arrive on campus in early October.


In other business:

University Senate President Frank Wilson said the Senate’s special committee on diversity, inclusion and core values will turn its attention this year toward developing an institutional statement of core values for the Pitt community and exploring the creation of a diversity and inclusion advisory council for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The two issues were among four recommendations made by the group earlier this year. (See Feb. 18 University Times.)

Its recommendations to devote a special Senate Council session to dialogue on diversity and inclusion (see March 31 University Times), and to declare the 2016-17 academic year the Year of Diversity (see April 14 University Times), already have been fulfilled.

The group, comprised of faculty, staff, students and administrators, has been at work since Chancellor Patrick Gallagher challenged Senate Council last fall to help devise a strategy for expanding campus dialogue on diversity and inclusion. (See Nov. 25, 2015, University Times.)

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 3

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