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May 25, 1995

Employees urged to contact legislators about appropriation

Pitt's Assistant Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Dennis McManus told Staff Association Council (SAC) at its meeting yesterday, May 24, that Rep. John Lawless's call for a reduction in employee tuition benefits is an example of issues that gain support because they are not fully understood by the public.

"I think that there are certain people who don't understand, for example, that sabbatical leave is not a vacation, that sabbatical leave is more akin to an employee development program," McManus said.

About faculty workload, McManus said that if all the public looks at are the contact hours that a faculty member has with students, they are not getting the full picture, especially at an institution like Pitt that also has research and public service missions.

Although the average Pitt professor spends only 8.3 credit hours per week in the classroom, the time that a professor spends preparing for class and doing public service work or research work results in an average work week of just over 52 hours, according to Director of Communications Ken Service.

McManus pointed out that the University last year received about $240 million in research grants and that the sponsors of those grants expect to see work being done in return for their money. "So, to only look at student contact hours and say you have a complete picture of the faculty workload at an institution like Pitt is a misconception," McManus said.

The tuition reduction benefit offered to faculty, staff, their spouses and children is another item that must be looked at carefully because it is a benefit commonly offered by colleges and universities throughout the country, Service said. If the legislature would prohibit it, according to Service, research universities in Pennsylvania, such as Pitt, would be at a disadvantage in recruiting top-flight faculty and staff.

Last year, Pitt offered a tuition reduction to 2,559 people, of which 1,465 were faculty and staff and the remainder dependents and spouses.

Although Lawless's higher education legislative package would have an adverse effect on Pitt and other state-owned and state-related institutions, McManus said, at the moment McManus is more concerned about the state budget proposed by Governor Tom Ridge on March 7.

Under Ridge's proposed budget, Pitt's base appropriation in fiscal year 1996 would increase less than 1.5 percent, or about $1.9 million. And all of the increase would come through the Tuition Challenge Grant Program, which rewards institutions for holding tuition increases for full-time students from Pennsylvania to 4.5 percent.

During separate House and Senate appropriation committee hearings in March and April, Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor requested an additional 4.5 percent in state funds for Pitt in FY 1996, or a total base appropriation increase of 6 percent.

O'Connor told legislators that even with a 6 percent increase in state funds, the University faces a budget shortfall of $3.5 million next year. Without a 6 percent increase, Pitt will be left with a budget deficit in fiscal year 1996 of more than $8 million.

In light of those figures and the devastating effect they would have on the University, McManus, along with Director of Commonwealth Relations Ann Dykstra and Assistant Director of Commonwealth Relations Kevin Evanto, appeared at yesterday's SAC meeting to urge staff to contact their state legislators to request a 6 percent increase in the University's base appropriations.

"We need to get out the message to the General Assembly and to the governor that the University of Pittsburgh is an important asset to the state and urge them to raise the state funding," McManus said. "And we also need to get the message out about what we know about the University in terms of what it does." McManus, Dykstra and Evanto are asking staff and faculty at the University to write, call or visit their state representatives and senators in support of the University.

"I can say with certainty on the part of staff that we are in support of maintaining educational benefits," said Brian Hart, interim chair of SAC's steering committee. "We are entirely opposed to any reduction in tuition benefits through legislative initiatives or otherwise. I can assure you that you have the support of Staff Association Council." To assist members of the University in contacting their legislators and suggest the most effective ways to approach them, the Office of Governmental Relations, in cooperation with SAC, the University Senate's commonwealth relations committee and the Pitt Alumni Legislative Network, is sponsoring a grass roots advocacy briefing and training session on May 31, noon to 1 p.m. in 2P56 Forbes Quad.

Information on contacting legislators also is available by contacting the Office of Governmental Relations at 383-1660; FAX 383-1700; e-mail, or on the World Wide Web,

–Mike Sajna

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