Pitt lecturer salaries have lagged behind average for years


At Pitt, the title of "lecturer" has generally been used for full-time, non-tenure-stream, teaching-focused faculty. Almost all of the lecturers at the University are in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, where they make up more than a quarter of the school’s 825 faculty members, according to the 2021 University Fact Book.

While the salaries of Pitt faculty at other levels, except instructors, rank near the median when compared to the 34 other public American Association of Universities institutions, lecturer salaries have historically been near the bottom of this list, even when cost of living is considered.

The latest comparison from the Office of the Provost, presented in December to the Senate Budget Policies committee, puts Pitt lecturer salaries at 31st out of 34 with a bump to 28th when adjusted for cost of living.

For Steve Wisniewski, vice provost for Budget and Analytics, the numbers reflect the varying ways that universities use the title lecturer.

“At the University of Pittsburgh, the vast majority — well over 95 to 98 percent — probably are in arts and sciences, as opposed to being spread out across the disciplines,” Wisniewski said. “Where in other schools, they may be spread out, and how they're used varies.”

He suggested to the Budget Policies committee that some further benchmarking needs to be done. “Are we comparing apples to apples or are we comparing apples to oranges? … For us to get a better understanding of that, we need to go through that next step.”

But Lorraine Denman, senior lecturer in French & Italian, said the low salary problem has been built up over several years, starting with the recession in the mid-2000s and the severe budget cuts to education under the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (2011-15).

Those people hired at Pitt 15 to 20 years ago, especially in the humanities, had starting salaries that were pretty low, which reflected the economy of Pittsburgh at the time and the demographics at Pitt, she said.

“At that time, that number seemed quite reasonable or at least seemed not problematic,” Denman said.

But with small annual raises and bumps of only 4 to 5 percent for a promotion from lecturer 1 to lecturer 2 or senior lecturer, the salaries have fallen behind those at peer institutions.

Denman said for people who have been at the University for several years, 19 in her case, “we get kind of fully embedded in departments and in units and organizations on campus. We take on more and more responsibility. We take on more service work; we take on more mentoring work for colleagues and for graduate students. … We have an increase in production — we're teaching a lot, we're developing curriculum, we're advising lives of students, we're doing all of those functions in the University, and that is not being reflected in salary increases.”

New data on diversity and inclusion at Pitt has highlighted another area of concern, Denman said. “It's reflecting a lot of the things that we kind of knew already, that … a lot of non-tenure-stream faculty, in general, are people that represent marginalized groups, whether that is people of color or LGBTQ faculty or women. …

“As Pitt is working on its priorities for equity with regard to faculty, I think that'd be really prime area of research and interest for a lot of people on campus,” she said.

Tyler Bickford, co-chair of the Budget Policies committee and an assistant professor in the English department pointed out that it is lecturers who predominantly teach undergraduates.

“Budgets reflect values, and Pitt is an institution that has really been focused on growing sponsored research and growing its reputation in the health sciences,” he said. “And I think that's all well and good, but it may very well be that the core undergraduate mission has not been invested in, in the same way as those other parts of the University.”

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.” Salaries for lecturers, instructors and assistant professors have fallen below this goal since at least the 2012-13 budget year, Bickford said, with lecturers being the most glaringly under the median.

At the Jan. 22 Budget Policies committee meeting, Bickford proposed a resolution urging the provost and chancellor 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, and that the administration present a timeline and plan for achieving full compliance with the salary targets to the Senate Budget Policies Committee by September 2021.”

The other issue raised in the resolution was how lecturers should be classified going forward. Last year, Provost Ann Cudd proposed changing the nomenclature for non-tenure-stream faculty. The move, which was approved by the Board of Trustees Governance and Nominating committee, would use "appointment-stream" to replace "non-tenure-stream," and would more widely use “professor” titles, so that "lecturer I," "lecturer II" and "senior lecturer" would become "assistant teaching professor," "associate teaching professor" and "teaching professor," respectively.

Denman said the name change is welcome. “As a younger female professional working in academia, I can tell you that it's harder if you don't have the kind of title or nomenclature or kind of transparent description of your own role within the University.”

But Bickford worried that eliminating the lecturer title would make it harder to benchmark against other universities. The other part of his resolution on Jan. 22 asked that “faculty currently holding "Lecturer" titles who are converted to "Teaching Professor" titles will continue to have their salaries benchmarked to the "Lecturer" peer group, at least until they meet the target for that peer group.”

Wisniewski suggested that those transitioning from lecturer titles to teaching professors be listed both ways for a few years. “My concern is thinking through this to the poor folks who are going to be sitting on this committee in 15 years trying to figure out why are we still doing this,” he said. “I think we do it both ways for a few years until we reach some sort of steady state and then transition out the old way. And I think it'll help us understand where we're coming from and where we're going.”

Both parts of the resolution passed unanimously, and Denman said the Faculty Affairs committee, which she co-chairs, would be interested in taking up the resolution as well.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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