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February 21, 2008


At the Feb. 6 Senate Council meeting, Chancellor Nordenberg indicated that the University faces a tight budget next year if it receives only a 1.5 percent increase in its state appropriation, as Gov. Rendell proposed in his FY09 state budget.

Inflation for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2007, was 4.1 percent for the CPI-U (Consumer Price Index-Urban) and 4.3 percent for the CPI-W (Workers). Without more help from the state, it will be difficult for the University to give an annual salary pool increase next year that matches or exceeds the 4.3 percent inflation rate, because budgetary differences have to be made up by increasing student tuition.

If the salary pool is below the inflation rate, we could again see a situation where over half our faculty get a meritorious job evaluation, yet a salary increase that fails to keep pace with inflation. Such a situation is not good for the health of the University, or for faculty and staff.

What if anything can the Senate do about it? For starters, we can let the administration know our feelings about any proposed increase in the annual salary pool, and make a recommendation. The Senate has a voice because we have eight appointed members on the University planning and budget committee. The Senate budget policies committee also monitors budgetary issues. The administration to its credit tries to be fair and takes our opinion into consideration, but of course they make the final decision based upon the overall objectives and circumstances facing the University in a given year.

If you have an opinion on the annual salary pool increase and the budgetary issues facing Pitt, please let your opinion be known. Send a letter to the University Times, talk to one of the Senate representatives from your school, send a letter to me or, better yet, get involved in the Senate yourself.

The Senate and its committees do make a difference at Pitt, as evidenced by some of our accomplishments over the last six months:

• In September the Senate benefits and welfare committee played a key role in getting the University to prohibit smoking within 15 feet of the primary entrances to campus buildings.

• In October the Senate benefits and welfare committee and Faculty Assembly reviewed and approved proposed revisions to the University’s Faculty Medical and Family Leave Policy.

• In October the Senate held its 2007 fall plenary session on Fitness for Life, with free biometric screenings by UPMC Health Plan.

• Several times during the fall term, Faculty Assembly and the Senate educational policies committee held discussions on the new University procedure for Pitt faculty to waive royalties from their own authored textbooks that are used in courses at Pitt.

• In November the Senate sponsored a presentation by Pitt’s Food Services Department on the catering services that are available at Pitt.

• Faculty Assembly had a number of interesting presentations from various administrators, including the Senate presidents of the regional campuses; Vice Chancellor Paul Supowitz; Vice Provost Patty Beeson; Marion Hampton from the University Library System; Jay Frerotte, director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety; Christopher Ryan, director of the Institutional Review Board, and G. Alec Stewart, dean of the Honors College.

• The child care subcommittee of the ad hoc committee for the promotion of gender equity has prepared a report with recommendations on child care that will be presented at Faculty Assembly Feb. 26. Interested faculty and staff are welcome to attend.

I encourage you to get involved in the Senate. The Senate elections committee currently is accepting nominations for Senate officers, open Faculty Assembly seats and open Senate committee seats for the upcoming April Senate elections.

If you would like to run for one of these open positions, please email Senate director Lori Molinaro at to indicate your interest. In order to have a voice in what happens at Pitt, you need to participate in its shared governance structures. I can assure you it is well worthwhile.

John J. Baker is president of the University Senate.

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