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May 26, 2005


Not Lake Wobegon

To the editor:

On May 12, 2005, the University Times reported that salary increases for continuing faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh compared favorably to reported increases at other AAUP institutions. This good news follows from an analysis based on the AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2004-2005. As a faculty member committed to Pitt’s institutional progress, one can only applaud this achievement — unless one reflects on the damage of the reporting on the morale of faculty members in the ranks.

Speaking from experience in the Arts and Sciences only, I can say with little doubt that one might expect no more than 1 in 10 or 1 in 9 continuing faculty members to have been awarded salary increments above the reported Pitt average by rank (4.5 percent for professors, 5.0 percent for associate professors, and 5.8 percent for assistant professors). In some departments there might be as few as one or two faculty members who were awarded increments above the numbers reported for their rank. Think about this — one or two faculty members above the average in a given department; 1/10 or 1/9 for the school as a whole. All others were below average. This is not Lake Wobegon.

Indeed, if the modal increase for faculty members was in the neighborhood of 2 percent (which is highly likely, given the salary policy applied last year), the vast majority of conscientious faculty members received less than one-half of the reported average. Put another way, every one of those faculty members could have received an increment that was twice as large as the increment they actually received, and they still would have been below the reported average. The damaging effect of this reporting should be recognized fully. At a minimum, those reporting would do this University a service if they published the median increase (as well as the average increase) in each category. Someone must be pleased by the numbers reported in this article, but I cannot imagine who it would be — certainly not those of us who care about the well-being of this University.

Frank Giarratani



(Editor’s note: The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Economic Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2004-05, did not report median salaries. According to John Curtis, director of research at the AAUP, the association does not calculate median salaries because of the way in which it receives its data, which is in aggregates.)


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