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September 12, 1996

Despite problems, PBS should be continued, evaluation report says

While Pitt's Plan- ning and Budgeting System (PBS) hasn't lived up to its potential — and has been a farce in some parts of the University — the system has given many faculty, staff and students a voice in planning and budgeting, and improved both processes.

And so the four-year-old system "should be encouraged to continue, to evolve, and to expand effective participatory involvement to more areas throughout all organizational levels," according to an evaluation of PBS that was endorsed this month by Faculty Assembly and Senate Council.

The evaluation report was written by an ad hoc review committee of faculty, staff, students and administrators. The 1992 document outlining PBS mandated an evaluation of the system after four years.

PBS was created by a group of faculty, staff and administrators. It was an attempt "to radically alter the planning and budgeting processes of the University of Pittsburgh. Specific goals were to open planning and budgeting to greater participation by faculty, staff, students and administrators, and to expand the amount of information available to the University community, and to integrate long-range with operational and capital planning and budgeting activities." Under the system, Pitt departments, schools, administrative offices and vice chancellor areas are to maintain their own planning and budgeting committees, with at least some elected members. An overall University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC), chaired by the provost, is to oversee institution-wide PBS activities.

"While considerable skepticism still exists among faculty, staff and administrators, there are clearly areas…where PBS has benefited the University and made substantial progress toward achievement of its goals," the report states. It makes 12 recommendations for PBS's future.

Skepticism about PBS — or at least about the evaluation report — was evident at the meetings of Faculty Assembly and Senate Council on Sept. 3 and 9, respectively.

At the Assembly meeting, Senate Vice President Nathan Hershey attacked the document as "a passive, placid endorsement of something that's not going particularly well." David Pratt, who chaired the PBS ad hoc committee, acknowledged that the system "is by no means working everywhere" but said it appears to be improving and should be permitted to evolve. Pratt also admitted his committee took a "soft approach" in its criticisms of PBS, having concluded there was nothing to be gained from blasting a system the committee wanted to promote.

In a vote on whether to endorse the evaluation report and forward it to Senate Council, seven Assembly members abstained. The remaining members deadlocked 6-6. Keith McDuffie (who, as Senate president, normally does not vote at Assembly) exercised his right to break a tie and voted for the resolution.

At the Council meeting, Hershey criticized the report less directly by asking: Will anything come of the report? Phil Wion, a Senate budget policies committee member who was presenting the report in Pratt's absence, bristled. The whole University is responsible for making sure that PBS works, Wion replied. But he also noted that Chancellor Mark Nordenberg has the primary responsibility for ordering deans and other administrators to take the system seriously.

Nordenberg pointed out that he helped to draft the PBS document and, while interim provost in 1992, chaired UPBC. He said the evaluation report "captured how much we have achieved" in opening Pitt's planning and budgeting and promoting shared governance. Nordenberg said he would strongly encourage administrators and others in the University to follow PBS.

Council's resolution to endorse the evaluation report passed unopposed, although three members abstained.

Besides recommending that PBS be encouraged to evolve and expand throughout the University, the evaluation report concluded that: * The PBS document should continue to guide University planning and budgeting until the year 2000, when new guidelines should be considered.

* PBS does not duplicate, and in fact supports, other University shared governance groups such as the University Senate and the Deans Council.

* Despite concerns that PBS isn't applicable to all units, the system appears to allow enough flexibility to encompass the differing governance and management styles of various units.

* At least every three years, each unit's planning and budgeting committee should formally review, and possibly change, the way it selects members to make sure all relevant constituencies are represented.

* In hiring new leaders, Pitt should consider their potential for working with shared governance systems.

* Unit-level committees should be the foci for discussions of "key strategic issues and their broad budgetary implications and consequences." * Senior vice chancellors, responsibility center heads, and department chairs should expand their utilization of planning and budgeting committees.

* Minutes of senior vice chancellor planning and budgeting committees should be available through the University Times and PITTINFO.

* Lower-level committees should likewise do more to publicize their activities.

* Committees should get better budget and planning data.

* All units, especially those that supply management data, need to be responsive to requests for assistance from UPBC.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 29 Issue 2

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