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March 2, 1995


A vote against Pitt's new slogan

(Editor's note: The following letter was sent to Kenneth Service, director of Communications. It is reprinted here at the request of the author.)

Dear Mr. Service:

I find it hard to believe that you have had no feedback concerning the new slogan that appeared without warning on our University letterhead (University Times, Feb. 2, 1995). I guess it is just that no one knew to whom to complain since there was no prior information about the change.

Let me then be the first to say that I find this statement silly, vacuous and pretentious, and downright embarrassing. The latter so much that I have ceased to use printed University letterhead in my professional correspondence, relying on my own computer (sans slogan) printing. Please count this letter as one vote, though I have heard similar sentiments from many faculty and staff around the University, to delete this inane and non self-descriptive slogan, the next time printing is to occur.

Peter Machamer


Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Professor says there was no threat of funding loss

To the editor:

There certainly has been considerable interest in the votes of the Medical Rate Review Committee with respect to the health options for the University community. As the reports in the University Times indicate, the issues that the committee addressed were initially quite complicated and became even more so over time. However, I would like to correct an error in Bruce Steele's report on the Feb. 3 meeting of the committee. I, no doubt the "she" alluded to in that article, am the co-director of the Center for Research on Health Care, a center that has received funding from the UPMC. It is indeed true that the UPMC (as well as individuals from the medical school and other schools of the health sciences) were very interested in how the committee would vote. However, I can state unequivocally that I was never "threatened with the loss of funding should the medical center be forced to make further budget cuts."

Judith R. Lave


Health Economics Graduate School of Public Health


Additional information provided on salary data report

To the editor:

I'm writing on behalf of the University Senate budget policies committee (SBPC) to offer additional information about the salary data reported in the Feb. 16 issue of the Times.

The table listing average percentage increases by school is only a small part of a much larger and more complex report, prepared by the Office of Institutional Research for SBPC and also provided to the dean of each school. This table is not intended to be the focus of attention, and comparisons among schools based on it are bound to be misleading. The percentages given do NOT represent the size of the salary increase pool received by each school, but rather the size–in percentage terms–of the average salary raise received by a specified subset of individuals in that school.

The variability in these percentages reflects a complex set of factors, some of which I'll try to explain briefly.

1. As the Times story reported, the salaries of many individuals in each school are excluded from the data, for technical reasons. In some units, no faculty were excluded, in others as many as 26%. However, many of the excluded individuals did in fact receive raises from the funds available to the unit. Some may even have received relatively large raises. For example, some units have policies which link sizable merit raises to promotion; but faculty who are promoted are excluded from the data precisely because of their change in rank.

2. Another source of variability is the number of people who received zero or very low increases. The new salary policy (which applies to all units except the School of Medicine) specifies that all faculty performing satisfactorily should receive a raise of at least the previous year's rate of inflation, in this case 2.7%. Excluding the School of Medicine, 43 individuals received an increase of zero and 57 received more than zero but less than 2.7%. In most schools very few people received such low raises; but in certain schools relatively large numbers fell into these categories–in one case, 18% of those listed, in another 23%. Having many low or nonexistent raises could pull down the averages in those schools.

3. The size, in percentage terms, of a unit's average raise is also significantly affected by the distribution of limited merit dollars between those with relatively low salaries and those with relatively high ones. Some units, for example, award merit raises as fixed dollar amounts, which means that meritorious people toward the lower end of the scale receive larger increases, in percentage terms, than those toward the top. In other units, people toward the top of the scale may receive the bulk of the merit money, which would tend to lower the size of the average raise in percentage terms.

4. Another source of variation was due to circumstances of timing. The data in the report were those available as of Oct. 31, 1994. The equity and market portion of the pool of salary increase funds (0.3%) was distributed in the Health Sciences area at the same time as the maintenance (2.7%) and merit (1.0%) portions, last summer. But in the Provost's area, this portion wasn't distributed until after Oct. 31, and thus doesn't show up in the data.

SBPC is continuing to study the full report, and is seeking further information which will help us better understand the relation between the University's salary policies and practices.

We are particularly interested in learning from individuals who received raises of less than 2.7% whether they were informed in writing that their performance was judged unsatisfactory, and were given reasons for that judgment, as the policy requires. Letters can be addressed to me at 501 Cathedral of Learning.

Philip K. Wion


Senate Budget Policies Committee

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