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June 8, 1995


There's a big difference between faculty and staff salaries

To the editor:

SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!! At an educational institution of world class reputation, no one is educating lawmakers or the public, in general.

For over a year I have read the University papers and the area papers criticize salaries at the University of Pittsburgh. In all cases, the articles talked of the salaries of FACULTY or ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS. Meanwhile, the silence about staff employee paychecks is deafening! This is probably with good cause since a lawmaker or news reporter would be too embarrassed to say much in this area; especially when they would compare THEIR paychecks with Pitt staff paychecks! Across time, this has created quite an impression in the minds of the students of this University and the public, since impressions DO mean more than reality. The collective perception is that ALL Pitt employees make big bucks (no whammy) — and they resent it! My neighbors all have the impression that "Gee, you work at Pitt, you must be loaded." The work-study employees this past year thought that the people in our office "surely" must make over $40,000 a year for what we do. Don't we wish! What everyone fails to point out (unless someone would purposely look in the Times' job listings) is that the majority of the STAFF at the University of Pittsburgh makes an average of somewhere around $15,000 a year! This is ONE-QUARTER of a professor's sixty-some thousand dollar salary! Let me pick the first job listing (May 25, 1995) I can throw a dart at (since I certainly wouldn't want to "pick" on anyone): Job C-14128, a Staff Specialist II, for $955 a month ($11,460 a year). For this big-bucks job you will answer transplant telephone calls, deal with problems, maintain patient files, fill in for a coordinator, AND you need good verbal and written skills! Let's pick a few more — Medical Secretary: $1,075 per month; Student Services Specialist II (advises students on classes): $1,475 per month ($18,000) and you need a MASTER'S degree ("preferably a Ph.D. in quantitative, technical or natural science field") for these big bucks! There have been people who work in the same office as myself who have qualified for Section 8 housing assistance and/or food stamps! The point of this letter is simple: Ignorance IS curable. It takes a long time to build a reputation but only a few bad impressions to destroy a person, business or institution. SOMEONE needs to educate those who are ignorant of the facts instead of just quoting every negative situation or politician who has an itch to scratch. Reporting, in my opinion, is sinking to the level of entertaining scandal magazines — whereas "true reporting" should expose the truth.

If the current style of reporting is to continue, I would like to see an article on "Lawmaker proposes axing carte blanche medical benefits for State Representatives" since they make over 100 grand a year in big bucks (FACT) and it is silly for a person making 15 grand a year to finance this type of benefit!!

Bob Arlia

Alumnus and Employee Office of Admissions and Financial Aid

Editor's note: According to the Office of Human Resources, the average annual salary for classified staff at the University (those covered by the Staff Classification and Pay Plan) is approximately $25,000.

Regarding state representatives' salaries, the state House of Representative's bipartisan management committee and the Chief Clerks Office of the state Senate both report that the base salary for members of the House and Senate is $47,000 per year. The benefits package for both House and Senate members includes health, life, dental, vision, accidental death and long-term health care insurance, and a contributory retirement plan. House and Senate members also are reimbursed for their mileage to and from legislative sessions. They also receive a $109 daily allowance while the legislature is in session to cover the cost of a hotel room and meals while attending legislative sessions.


Thanks for being a sport!

To the University community:

I just want to take a few minutes to say "Thank you" to all of you who helped to make the recent Be a Sport Program a success. This is the third year that we participated in this city-wide program and we once again were able to deliver a nice array of usable sporting goods and equipment to Pittsburgh's underprivileged children.

Listed below are the 191 items collected: 5 badminton racquets; 7 baseball bats; 2 baseball batting helmets; 2 baseball chest protectors; 1 baseball glove; 1 pair of baseball spikes; 2 baseballs; 2 basket catches; 10 basketballs; 2 footballs; 1 frisbee; 2 golf bags; 1 hockey chest protector; 30 pairs of hockey knee guards; 1 pair of hockey pants; 1 pair of hockey shoulder pads; 30 hockey sticks; 1 jump rope; 5 miscellaneous balls; 6 ping pong paddles; 1 ping pong table; 2 racquetball racquets; 2 pairs of skates; 1 pair of ski boots; 17 soccer balls; 18 softballs; 10 tennis balls; 15 tennis racquets; 1 pair of tennis shoes; 12 volleyballs.

Once again, thanks for sending such an important message to the needy children in the City of Pittsburgh by being a "Sport."

Bill Laird



Speaking out in the dental school

To the editor:

I commend the vast majority of students in the School of Dental Medicine [SDM] who had the courage to sign a student-organized petition expressing outrage over the recent sudden layoff of Charlotte Celidonia (University Times, May 25), a staff member in its Office of Student Affairs who had earned their respect and affection.

Most faculty and staff have grown too afraid to speak out because summary dismissals, transfers and intimidation have occurred all too often in the SDM the last few years. Protests to Pitt's higher administration have been futile, so who can blame employees for living in fear of the fate which befell Mrs. Celidonia: two University police officers arriving to deliver only 30 minutes' warning to clear out one's desk and then be escorted out the building? Intimidation in the SDM has taken other forms as well. Compared to their submissive colleagues, outspoken faculty have been harassed by the Suzuki administration with inequitable teaching overloads, unfair job evaluations, poor annual pay raises, and deprivation of normal career support. Fear of contract non-renewals and frivolous misconduct proceedings are constant threats. Several students critical of the Suzuki administration have been warned to quit causing trouble or else risk not graduating.

One resident, who reported SDM deficiencies to the American Dental Association, was unjustly threatened with loss of his dental license under Pennsylvania's Impaired Professional law (which requires passing a psychiatric examination as part of proof of innocence). Thousands of dollars in legal fees later, the threat of revocation was finally dropped but harassment continued by way of extra assignments, verbal abuse from administration supporters and a dubious "I" grade in a course required for graduation. After the resident had no luck pursuing the University's appeal channels, some state legislators finally intervened on his behalf, convincing administrators to settle out-of-court. Unfortunately for other harassment victims, administrative wrong-doing was concealed by a confidentiality stipulation in this agreement.

Ironically, the recent Board of Visitors report assessing conditions in the SDM gives the erroneous impression that Dean Suzuki possesses an intimate understanding of our students: To cultivate future alumni contributors, it is necessary to create a bond between the student and the University. This can be accomplished through a good working relationship with the Dean, faculty members, and students. Presently Dean Suzuki is meeting on a regular basis with the students without the faculty present.

Yet his recent layoff of Mrs. Celidonia shows an obvious lack of sensitivity to student needs and feelings. Somehow, that's not surprising; her former office has recently advertised for a Student Services Specialist I.

The Board of Visitors Report was authored by State Sen. Michael Dawida, who had been fully informed in advance of many administrative problems in the SDM, yet chose not to mention a single one in his glowing report for the Board of Trustees. Only faculty and students hand-picked by the administration were given the opportunity to address the Board of Visitors, while other faculty requests to meet with them were denied by the dean and Dr. Detre.

The University cannot function properly in an environment of fear, intimidation and one-sidedness. Until administrators restore good employee relations, they cannot expect to generate a favorable public image. No single issue has symbolized this situation more dramatically than their recent highly publicized decision to make Blue Cross Pitt's sole health care provider, despite widespread faculty and staff opposition.

All of Pitt's employees want this to be a great University, but greatness is nurtured by mutual respect, trust, good faith and integrity — not by intimidation, fear, reprisals and unfairness. Pitt's leaders cannot continue to sit idly by, allowing harassment to occur unchecked. For harmony to return, the Board of Trustees must hire a new chancellor and new senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences who will end harassment as an accepted management style, and who will start restoring mutual respect between Pitt's administration and its faculty, staff and students.

John J. Baker

Associate Professor

School of Dental Medicine


Jon B. Suzuki, dean of the School of Dental Medicine, replies:

Obviously, after reading the accompanying letter, it is clear that Dr. Baker has been, and continues to be, a most disgruntled and unhappy faculty member. Thus, both the objectivity and the factual bases underpinning his criticisms must be looked at with a great deal of skepticism. In his zeal to attempt to discredit the administration of the School of Dental Medicine, he calls for the disclosure of sensitive personal information which could potentially harm the very people which he thinks he represents.

The particulars of matters pertaining to individuals in the University, including all employees, students and even Dr. Baker, are private matters that should not be publicly disclosed. Therefore, despite the asserted allegations of cover-up, we cannot divulge private personal facts. We can only say that the facts as presented by Dr. Baker in his letter are incorrect or incomplete statements and, therefore, so are his conclusions. For example, Dr. Baker's statement that a staff member was "escorted out" by University police is both untrue and inflammatory to say the least.

Another point that must be addressed in Dr. Baker's letter is his perception that the Board of Visitors of the School of Dental Medicine serves as an outside auditing body, and that it was required to prepare a comprehensive report on all facets of the dental school. Despite what Dr. Baker wanted the Board of Visitors to do at its first meeting, and despite his admission that its chairman "had been fully informed in advance," the board did its job in "visiting" and in obtaining from various program directors a general overview of the school. Now that the first meeting has been completed, the board will have the opportunity to learn more at subsequent meetings and work on aspects of community outreach, the purpose for which it was created in the first place.

The School of Dental Medicine does agree with one thing that Dr. Baker seems to be alluding to in his letter. It is time for all members of the University community, including Dr. Baker, to work together to arrive at the common goal of keeping the University of Pittsburgh and its School of Dental Medicine a place where excellence in teaching, research and clinical service are achieved.

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