Faculty Assembly supports resolution on lecturer salaries


Faculty Assembly members approved a resolution that asks Pitt’s leadership to address lecturer salaries and sent back a proposed policy on gift acceptance and naming for revisions.

During the Feb. 10, Faculty Assembly Tyler Bickford, chair of the Budget Policies committee, introduced the proposed resolution on meeting salary targets for lecturers, instructors and assistant professors. 

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 University’s Salary Increase Policy sets a goal of “ensuring that average faculty salaries (outside of the School of Medicine) at the Pittsburgh campus are at or above the median (for each rank) of AAU universities.”

This resolution calls for the chancellor and provost to take action as part of the 2021-22 budget “to achieve measurable progress toward compliance with the goals in the Salary Increase Policy for affected ranks.” It passed unanimously and will go to Senate Council for final approval.

Carey Balaban, a member of the Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee and a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, introduced the proposed Gift Acceptance and Naming Policy, which seeks to standardize the University’s requirements for accepting gifts and naming buildings and facilities on behalf of the University.

And these standards, Balaban said, must reflect the University’s values, missions and priorities.

“And this will have, in general, a way of consolidating and putting on a firm and clear basis standards for philanthropic engagement that meet the goals of the University and the donors,” Balaban said.

Several members of the assembly were concerned about a part of the draft policy that says the University should not accept gifts that invite public scrutiny or damage the University’s reputation. 

Jennifer Murtazashvili, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and director of the Center for Governance and Markets, said this language “could also be used as sort of an ideological test that might jeopardize academic freedom of faculty to secure funds with donors.”

“Unwanted public scrutiny is really in the eye of the beholder sometimes,” Murtazashvili said. “Of course, we’re concerned about a policy that might have donors influence and reduce the academic freedom of faculty, but such a loose policy could also jeopardize the academic freedom of faculty to contract with donors.” 

Other members were unsure why the draft policy says these standards would also apply to grants and contracts.

Pat Loughlin, a professor of bioengineering at the Swanson School for Engineering, said grants and contracts already infringe upon academic freedom or restrict the University and its faculty in some way.

For example, he said, some defense agencies impose embargoes on dissertations or publishing research.

Overall, the language isn’t precise enough, other members of the assembly added.

Members ultimately decided that the policy should go back to the committee for edits before reappearing in the March Faculty Assembly meeting.

Additional topics discussed

Members also continued to pressure University leaders to quickly come up with more options for childcare and to make sure teacher evaluations factor in hardships resulting from the pandemic. Two statements on these issues were brought to the assembly for consideration.

One asked the University administration to vigorously pursue additional ways to support employees whose childcare options have been removed or changed due to the pandemic. The other urged the administration make student evaluations, or OMETs, optional for the duration of the pandemic and suggest the administration offer alternate means of assessing teaching effectiveness. 

Assembly members suggested the OMETs should be used to only gather feedback from students to find potential areas of improvement.

David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operations said the University has been working to strengthen its options for childcare and has posted its current resources on the Human Resources website.

Members ultimately voted to endorse the statements with some adjustments to the wording. Senate Council President Chris Bonneau will bring statements on these issues to the next meeting with senior leadership.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905. 


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