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October 29, 1998


To the editor:

As a clarification to the article of Oct. 15, "Sabbaticals take a sabbatical at Johnstown campus next year," it should be pointed out that UPJ has been forced to take the extreme measure of canceling sabbaticals not solely because of the early retirement program (which has effectively reduced the UPJ faculty by four positions this year and will eliminate another 11 next year) but because nine replacement positions, due to unexpected resignations and one untimely death, have yet to be approved. Each of these positions is a full time, tenured position for which money would already have been budgeted but requests to search for them have been stalled since mid-September.

The early retirement program has exacerbated the chronic staffing shortages at UPJ. The Provost's office solution of "[returning] 25 percent of the faculty member's salary to the [retiree's] unit to help hire temporary replacements" does not solve UPJ's problem. For example, a typical Humanities professor's salary at UPJ is so low that 25 percent of the retiree's salary does not cover the cost of the eight courses (the normal course load of a UPJ faculty member) even at the obscenely low rate paid to part-time faculty here.

Finally, Provost Maher's assertion that "so far I'm not hearing anything that sounds as if the Johnstown campus is making any greater sacrifices than any other unit is being asked to make" has provoked considerable comment here at UPJ. What would Provost Maher "hear" if sabbaticals were suspended at Oakland? In keeping with a tradition of historic underfunding, this year UPJ has suffered cuts in academic operating budgets of one third across the board. What other "units" are experiencing this level of austerity? Worse, to argue that early retirement program costs have created these staffing problems is chimerical. Corporations routinely offer early retirement packages and set aside funding for those packages without crippling their day-to-day operations. Pitt planned this program over a three-year period. Are we to assume that no forethought was given to allocating the funds necessary to that retirement plan, or that lack of funds at UPJ would purposefully be blamed on retirements? From either scenario, only the darkest of interpretations can be inferred.

David F. Ward

Associate Professor

Humanities Johnstown Campus

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