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December 5, 1996

Johnstown Faculty Senate condemns performance-based bonus for chancellor

The Johnstown campus Faculty Senate has condemned Chancellor Mark Nordenberg's possible performance-based salary bonus.

At its Nov. 20 meeting, the UPJ Senate voted 21-8 to approve the following motion: "It is the sense of the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown that the Board of Trustees showed poor judgment and a lack of understanding of the form and function of academic institutions by offering the chancellor a bonus for performance. Further, the chancellor showed poor judgment in accepting such a condition." Nordenberg's base salary for the current fiscal year is $225,000. But he could increase that figure by as much as $30,000 if the trustees judge that Nordenberg has performed favorably in the following areas: improving undergraduate education, operational efficiency and fundraising; maintaining excellence in research, and exploring opportunities for technology transfer that may add to Pitt's coffers while stimulating regional economic activity. Acting for the full Board of Trustees, the board's compensation committee approved Nordenberg's salary and benefits in September. It marked the first time that a portion of a Pitt official's compensation was tied to performance.

UPJ Senate President Dennis McNair said: "The overall sense [at the UPJ Senate meeting] was that this performance bonus is much more in keeping with a corporate leadership model than an academic leadership model, and that, in fact, some of the tasks that the chancellor is supposed to perform in order to earn his performance bonus are things that are largely out of his hands." About half of the approximately 60 Senate members who attended the meeting abstained from the vote, said UPJ Senate Secretary Bernard Poole.

Poole said he did not know why so many faculty abstained. "There was very little discussion of the motion during the meeting itself. We all knew it was on the agenda," he noted.

"The one professor who voiced an objection to the motion indicated that he would have voted for it if the motion had been limited to the Board of Trustees," Poole said.

UPJ Senate leaders mailed copies of the motion to the offices of the Chancellor and Secretary of the Board of Trustees last week.

Robert Dunkelman, Board of Trustees secretary, said he faxed a copy of the motion to board chairperson J. W. Connolly this week, but added that Connolly was unavailable for comment.

It is unlikely that Connolly will be disturbed by the accusation that Nordenberg's performance bonus is too "corporate" for an academic leader.

At September's compensation committee meeting, Connolly pointed out that bonus clauses are common for business executives. He said the trustees were adding one to the chancellor's compensation package because they want the University to operate more like a business.

"It's my hope that as we move forward at the University, more and more of the key [administrative] positions will have part of their compensation tied to specific goals and objectives," Connolly said.

Nordenberg declined to comment on the UPJ Senate motion.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 29 Issue 8

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