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September 28, 2006

Staff salary issues not its concern, BPC told

What is the proper forum for discussion of Pitt’s salary policy as it affects staff?

That was one of the salary-related issues debated Sept. 15 between senior administrators, who say the issue belongs between the Staff Association Council (SAC) and Human Resources, and members of the Senate budget policies committee (BPC).

BPC chair Stephen Carr said he wanted to avoid a repeat of “particularly fruitless discussions” that took place last year at University planning and budgeting committee (UPBC) meetings. UPBC is a group of faculty (including the BPC chair), staff and administrators that makes confidential recommendations to the chancellor on salary increases for full-time staff and faculty.

“It was UPBC that recommended that there be a study of salaries, especially for staff, and I was reiterating that at Faculty Assembly,” Carr said. (See Sept. 14 University Times.)

“I was offering a friendly piece of advice that rather than having individuals make allegations about how things were happening, we need data about how the salary increase policy was affecting staff,” Carr said. “In particular, the suggestion that up to one-sixth of staff change jobs in a given year and that that might have a greater effect on salary than the salary increase pool.”

BPC member Philip Wion said, “It might be possible to produce for staff salaries a report analogous to the annual salary increase for faculty that this committee gets every year.”

(See March 2 University Times.)

That report includes average salary raises data on full-time continuing faculty broken down by responsibility center, Wion explained. “But for the faculty report, those who are promoted don’t get included in the data, so what you were just describing when a large number of staff move, that information might have to be reported [separately],” he said. “But putting those two kinds of information together is certainly more information than has been available in the past and, as with faculty salaries, there might be certain trends or patterns, especially over time, that would be useful to know about and that would help staff, and the administration for that matter, understand [the effects of] the salary policy.”

Arthur Ramicone, vice chancellor for budget and controller, acknowledged that data on the number of staff changing jobs within the institution and what the changes in salary were for such staff are available.

But Ramicone and Robert Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, said that BPC was not the appropriate venue for securing data on staff salaries.

Ramicone and Pack are liaisons appointed by the administration to BPC.

“I think it’s a discussion more appropriate between SAC and Human Resources, because that’s where they generally interface,” Ramicone argued.

Pack agreed. “This is a matter right now between SAC and HR. SAC deals with HR. That’s its structure. So it really ought in the first instance to go there and discuss what’s possible and what’s not possible and reach some agreement on what information is available. I don’t see why that should be pre-empted by this committee, to ask for this or that kind of report. It is an HR issue, and that’s where it belongs.”

Pack added that, historically, BPC does not make recommendations to the chancellor on staff salary issues. “So you are moving into a different direction,” he said.

Carr responded, “I have no desire to make any recommendations on staff salaries. None whatsoever. But this involves salary policy, right? I do think that it is the purview of this committee to attend to issues of salary policy. I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to stir up problems, but I do think we should support SAC in determining the information beforehand simply to have a better-informed discussion at UPBC than what happened last year.”

The committee then agreed to recommend to SAC officers that they first seek salary data from Human Resources, but reserved the right to ask for data if SAC is unsuccessful.

BPC also discussed how part-time faculty are affected by the salary policy.

Pitt’s salary increase policy does not cover part-time faculty, Carr noted. “My concern is that rational decisions given limited funds in any year may have unhappy effects for certain groups,” he said. “This committee deals with groups, not individuals. It is fruitless to argue over little, tiny percentage points, but we should be proactive to identify groups who should receive special attention as the salary policy gets worked out over several years.”

Pack explained, “This is such a highly individualized issue that it’s difficult to discuss centrally. Each department determines what it wants to pay part-time faculty. That ranges anywhere from a great deal of money in some units — certain clinical people, some people in the law school, for instance — to more traditional places like [Arts and Sciences departments] where compensation might be low. Units take some fraction of the salary pool and apply it to part-time faculty. It’s a unit decision.”

Similarly, rectifying salary compression, where, for example, associate professors in some schools earn less than incoming assistant professors, also is handled at the unit level, Pack said.

“Chairs and deans have broad discretion in giving salary increases,” he pointed out. “In doing that they’re supposed to look at issues like compression, retention, equity, merit and so on.”

Certain kinds of salary compression are market driven, Pack maintained. “Should we take one group and simply give them larger salaries because some other group got larger salaries due to market changes when it’s not their market? No,” he said.

On the other hand, when an individual’s salary has not kept pace with performance relative to others’ who are similarly placed, then that should be addressed by chairs and deans, he said.

“UPBC agreed several years ago that there was a legitimate academic issue that was separate from the salary policy that had to do with faculty compensation and that should be addressed within the academic initiatives line item,” Pack said.

But to be eligible for academic initiatives (also called faculty initiatives) funding, the faculty member must already have been awarded an increase higher than average in the unit, he said. “In other words, the provost isn’t substituting what the dean should be doing for the person out of the salary pool allocation,” Pack said.

He said the basic salary distribution philosophy of the administration is to provide as much discretion for deans and chairs as possible and to point to issues on which they should focus.

“A lot of this is between faculty and deans, and that is not a discussion I want to get in the middle of,” he said. “If faculty want to understand what is the goal of their unit regarding salaries, they ought to ask. If there is an issue at a particular unit or a particular campus because people don’t know what’s happening or don’t like what’s happening, deal with it. And if you try and there are brick walls preventing that, then raise it [in other forums].”


In other BPC developments:

• The committee will invite Jeff Long, Pitt athletics director, to a meeting to report on the athletics budget. BPC heard a preliminary report on that budget in executive session June 16. Now the committee is requesting a public airing of the final budget figures, Carr said.

Ramicone said that if Long could not attend a BPC meeting that he could pinch hit for him. “In terms of where athletics might be headed, I can’t do it justice, but in terms of reviewing financial results and what they look like, I can do it justice in that regard.”

He agreed to present the budget numbers at a fall BPC meeting if the athletics director is unable to attend.

• BPC also plans to invite Provost James Maher early in the spring term to report in executive session on the faculty initiatives program that he administers.

• The committee’s fall meeting dates are Oct. 6 and 27, Nov. 17 and Dec. 8, all in 501 CL at noon.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 3

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