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March 2, 2017

Provost’s office to collect info on faculty salary appeals

The Provost’s office plans to begin building a database to document the number of faculty salary appeals and their outcomes as part of its annual oversight of salary practices.

David DeJong, executive vice provost, told the University Senate budget policies committee (BPC) Feb. 17 that the salary appeals data collection would begin next year, adding that his office also will request any data available from previous years.

The lack of that data is “definitely a shortcoming in our oversight process,” DeJong said.

An April 27, 1999, memo by then-Provost James Maher on annual review processes for faculty ( requires that procedures for appealing annual review assessments should be clearly defined, although how that definition is communicated and how formal the process is varies, DeJong said.

DeJong noted that the School of Medicine is not governed by the Maher memo nor the University salary policy, but the school’s own criteria and processes are spelled out online.

“They’re outside of our process, but they are actually quite formal,” he said.

In 2012, DeJong, in conjunction with Carey Balaban, then-vice provost for faculty affairs, canvassed units on their practices and found “pockets of noncompliance where there was no policy written down or guidelines for on what basis you could appeal.”

Laurie J. Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development and diversity, has since continued that work, DeJong said, adding that now “every unit has something in place.”

The way the appeal process policy is communicated to faculty varies, DeJong said. Some units include a simple statement in salary increase letters instructing how the decision may be appealed. Others provide a link to the unit’s written policy online, or retain hard copies of the guidelines in accessible form, he said.

The level of formality in the appeal process varies, too. The most formal lay out the grounds on which an appeal may be made, whether it must be in writing, and the time frame in which it must be submitted and responded to, DeJong said.

In some units, a faculty member appeals directly to the dean; elsewhere, appeals may begin at the department or division level and move up through a hierarchy.

Said BPC chair Beverly Gaddy, a faculty member at Pitt-Greensburg, “My concern is that the appeals process itself doesn’t allow for some kind of outside review.”

Elsewhere, universities often have a faculty committee or committee outside the unit itself to mediate appeals that aren’t resolved within the department or school, she said, noting that some have an equity adjustment process for faculty who feel their salary level is not appropriate.

At Greensburg, the appeal goes to the individual who essentially made the decision, she said. That rarely results in a change. “There’s no place to go for faculty who feel there’s been a bias in their salary decision,” Gaddy said.

DeJong said salary decisions are in the hands of deans and campus presidents, adding that those decisions must be made in accord with policy. “We’re not putting ourselves in a position to micromanage their stewardship over their units.”

BPC member Tyler Bickford commented, “We’re in a business where people with conflicting personalities work together all the time, and often in long-term relationships.

“If there are people who are members of protected classes who are being systematically denied salary increases, there is some separate procedure,” he said, noting that the administration is paying attention to those inequities.

But there’s no similar procedure for those denied raises due to personality conflicts. “We want people who don’t get along with their bosses to still be able to have adequate pay raises over the long term,” he said.

“It seems like there’s a gap in the policy. Empowering administrators to do a good job with salaries makes sense, but it does also empower them to pick on people.”

University Senate President Frank Wilson, also of Pitt-Greensburg, agreed that data on the number and outcome of appeals is needed. “We need data if we’re going to make these kinds of changes. People who feel they are being shortchanged should file an appeal.”

Gaddy noted, however, that some faculty who would like to appeal don’t do so for fear of retaliation.

Wilson acknowledged that it can be frustrating, but said individuals shouldn’t be punished for taking action that’s provided for in the University’s policy.

“We’re never going to break out of that until we can establish how big the problem is.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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