By DONOVAN HARRELL
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher threw his support behind a resolution that calls for leadership to adjust Pitt faculty salaries to meet the University’s salary target goals.
Tyler Bickford, chair of the Budget Policies Committee, presented the resolution to Senate Council on Feb. 17 for final approval.
The resolution, unanimously approved by Faculty Assembly, calls for the chancellor and provost to take decisive action in University’s 2021-2022 budget and make sure the University works to meet its salary targets outlined in the Salary Increase Policy.
The policy sets the goal of making sure average faculty salaries, outside the School of Medicine, are at or above the median when compared to the 34 other public American Association of Universities institutions.
Lecturer salaries have historically been at the bottom of the list while Pitt faculty at other levels, except instructors, have stayed around the median, Bickford said.
The resolution also calls for staff salaries to be made more equitable. The resolution passed with 23 yes votes. Gallagher and Provost Ann Cudd abstained from the final vote since the resolution would come to them for approval anyway.
Gallagher congratulated Bickford and the Budget Policies committee for the “tour de force report from the committee on a complicated subject.”
“This been a chronic problem for Pitt,” Gallagher said, even though the University clearly defines what a “competitive” salary is for its employees.
“That is our policy,” Gallagher said. “And I think that should be our policy. The problem has been we haven’t executed it well.”
Gallagher attributed the salary pay issue to University budget decisions and the “more insidious” annual pay management process at the University.
He said that whenever someone is given a job at Pitt, there needs to be a system that can take the role and compare it with peer groups to create market-based data.
Some groups of staff, especially at the senior level, have left the University in search of higher salaries because their respective job markets offer other options with better pay. They then return to the University after raising or "resetting” their salaries, Gallagher said.
“That resetting has happened through market forces,” Gallagher said. “In areas where that’s not happening, and a lot of staff positions fall here and a lot of appointment-stream (faculty), the institution has the responsibility to make sure we’re watching the market and we’re moving those (salary targets). You don’t have to go out and try to leave Pitt to get your salary reset. That’s a broken system.”
Gallagher added that he’s looking forward to addressing this issue, especially since it would help the University meet its goals of fair and equitable pay based on gender and race.
Bickford gave essentially the same presentation to the Senate’s Faculty Affairs Committee meeting on Feb. 16.
In response to the proposed resolution, committee member Vinayak Sant, faculty in the School of Pharmacy, said: “There is some fear in appointment-stream faculty about the salary appeal process, especially if it is reviewed by the same people who made the decision in the first place.”
Committee chair Lorraine Denman, a faculty member in the Dietrich School’s French and Italian Language and Literatures department, echoed the sentiment: “We know if we are going to appeal a salary decision, it goes right back to the person who made the original decision.”
Lu-in Wang, vice provost for Faculty Affairs and School of Law faculty member, noted that the policy under which Pitt operates currently dates from 1994 and said her office is asking that the effort to revise the policy be “moved to the front of the line.” She also allowed that, since the policy review process is lengthy, the University might consider some interim changes.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
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