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June 11, 2009

PBS policy not followed universally, report indicates

Pitt’s planning and budgeting system’s established policies and processes are not being followed universally, according to a University Senate committee.

“A responsibility of the budget polices committee, along with the Staff Association Council, is to monitor the implementation of the planning and budgeting system,” Philip Wion told Faculty Assembly June 2. “This year the committee requested, as it has many years in the past although not the last year or two, of the Office of Budget and Controller to in effect contact the various responsibility centers both in the Provost’s area and the Health Sciences area, and get information about the planning and budgeting committees (PBCs) at each of those centers.”

PBCs participate in the development of units’ proposed plans, budgets and contingency plans. Under Pitt’s policies, business and administrative units can choose whether to have planning and budgeting committees, but senior vice chancellor areas and academic responsibility centers are required to have them, Wion pointed out.

“The information was tabulated and the committee took a look at it at our most recent [BPC] meeting,” said Wion, who is co-secretary of BPC. “It turns out there are a couple of units that have not had actively meeting PBCs. There’s also a requirement for the membership that the majority of the members be elected. There are a couple units where that seems not to be the case.”

Wion did not specify any units in his report. He said that BPC first wants to check the accuracy of the tabulations. Then BPC wants to make sure that units know they’re supposed to have PBCs, that the majority of members are supposed to be elected and that PBCs are supposed to meet and actually do something, Wion said.

The budget policies committee also requested data on whether units have procedures in place so that faculty or staff members can exercise their right to appeal or request reconsideration of salary decisions, which also is required in Pitt’s policies.

Wion referred Assembly members to Policy 07-09-01 — viewable online at — which requires faculty and staff members to be informed in writing of the basis for their salary increase and for those whose performance has been judged unsatisfactory to be informed of the specific reasons for that judgment. The policy also calls for procedures through which individual faculty and staff members can request reconsideration of salary decisions.

“It turns out, according to this first pass anyway, that a number of units apparently either don’t have such explicit policies whereby faculty and staff can ask for reconsideration of salary decisions, or perhaps they don’t publicize them. They don’t let people know that they have such policies,” Wion said. “The committee has suggested that with the salary letters, as part of the boilerplate [material] there be mention of the possibility of reconsideration. This too will be followed up, to be sure in the future that people are aware of these policies.”

Assembly member Carey Balaban of the School of Medicine asked, “Just out of curiosity, what is the School of Medicine’s current data on this?”
Wion replied that the data indicate only that the medical school has a “no” in the category asking whether the school has a “document salary reconsideration process.”

He added that the salary decision reconsideration policy does not apply formally to the School of Medicine. “The School of Medicine explicitly is not included in the salary administration policy,” Wion said. “But the school is under the purview of the Senate budget policies committee as part of the University since the University Senate includes all the schools.”

Wion also summarized information from a Pitt-specific faculty salary report drawn from American Association of University Professors (AAUP) survey data that are printed annually in the AAUP journal Academe. That report was discussed at the May 29 BPC meeting, Wion said. (For details, see related story this issue.)

Following his report at the June 2 Faculty Assembly meeting, Assembly member Lisa Brush chided BPC for not asking for gender wage gap comparison data in its annual request for the AAUP-based report.

“I was wondering at what point it will become possible for the University Times to report on this issue,” as part of the annual BPC discussion story, Brush said. She noted that the University Times traditionally covers the report as part of a meeting story and therefore is limited by committee members’ discussion.

Brush added that she has written letters to the University Times in the past asking that BPC expand its request for data. (See April 5, 2007, and May 25, 2006, University Times.)

“When will we have the sex category wage gap become a default part of that report?” she asked, adding that wage gap data always are included in the Academe report and are as accessible as the other data. “They have it by rank and by institution at exactly the same place as the [other information],” Brush said.

Wion replied that although the University Times has not published a chart or table on gender wage gap data, the paper has followed the issue in a number of stories.

(For a story on the overview of the April 13 Academe report that includes comparison data on salaries at national public and private institutions, broken down by gender, see April 30 University Times.)

Moreover, Wion noted, the gender wage gap is virtually universal at universities and that the Academe data are accessible online.

But Brush countered, “Just because the gap is universal that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t vary across institutions. It’s a very important mechanism for making the same kinds of comparisons and benchmarks, because it’s related to gender equity among the faculty. The point about the budget policies committee report is that it is the document of record that measures the things that the University Senate thinks are important. The fact that [gender wage gap data are] not there is a signal that the Senate budget policies committee doesn’t think that gender equity is important. That’s why I’m making this an issue. It’s not about having access to the data, it’s the fact that you get what you measure.”

Wion said he will carry Brush’s request back to BPC. “Certainly budget policies can request whatever it wants,” he said.

In other Assembly business:

• University Senate President John Baker reported on previously raised concerns about faculty in the medical school. (See May 14 University Times.) Baker summarized those issues in a memo to medical school officials, he told Faculty Assembly at the June 2 meeting.

Yesterday, as the University Times went to press, Baker said he had received a response from Ron Montelaro, the chair of the medical school’s planning and budgeting committee. That response, he said, cleared up two of the issues.

“I had been told by several tenured faculty members in the medical school that they would have their salaries cut 20 percent next year if they did not have 50 percent of their salary coming from a funded research grant. I am pleased to report that this was a rumor. The medical school has not adopted such a policy,” Baker told the University Times.

“However, the medical school is instituting a new research incentive policy that links the level of individual faculty salary support on grants to the level of research incentive payments paid to a faculty member. Having 50 percent or more salary support on funded research grants triggers an increase in the amount of the research incentive paid to a faculty member.” The incentive is limited to a $50,000 cap annually per investigator, he added.

The second issue involved complaints from tenured faculty in clinical departments that their annual pay raises were well below the raises that were given in other Pitt schools, he said. “This issue may be true because annual salary increases in clinical departments in the medical school depend upon the department’s own budget, which is derived primarily from grant revenues and clinical income,” Baker said.

“The medical school is self-supporting, so it has a separate budget from the rest of the University. It does not have an annual salary increase pool. However, Dean [Arthur] Levine provides guidelines for annual salary increases that are generally based on the University’s annual salary pool increase,” he said.

Baker told the University Times he expects to present Montelaro’s response for open discussion at BPC’s next meeting, set for June 19.

“I have been elected chair of the budget policies committee starting July 1 and will make a report to Faculty Assembly when it is appropriate to do so,” he said.

• Assembly members agreed to file another request to the Provost’s office to loosen the ban on mass emailing.

In lobbying for greater access to email blasts, member James Becker said that the small number of voters in the recent Senate elections was due at least in part to the constraints on alerting voters via email of the voting deadline. He said the policy limiting mass internal emails restricts important information-sharing.

• Pitt police officer Nashaun Forney demonstrated the proper way to use an automated external defibrillator, the portable electronic device designed for the layperson to provide emergency aid to victims of cardiac arrhythmias.

—Peter Hart

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