Resolutions seek to strengthen shared governance’s role in new budget model


Faculty Assembly on March 16 approved resolutions created by the Senate Budget Policies committee aimed at strengthening shared governance’s role under Pitt’s proposed new responsibility center budget model and seeking more transparency from senior administration on the plan.

“I really wanted to call attention to this issue specifically because I wanted to bring visibility to it,” Senate President Robin Kear said. “I'd like to move forward and I'm not getting the response I think that we need from the provost’s office.”

Kear said she has asked several times for more information to be shared with the unit planning and budgeting committees and others, with little success. The budget model is in its pilot year and some details are still being worked out, she said, but “but I don't think that totally precludes us from understanding more about it.”

In response to the resolutions, the offices of the provost and the chief financial officer said, “We look forward to working with the University Senate on ensuring that shared governance systems work effectively under the parameters of the new budget model, particularly at the school level.”

The Budget ReSTART — Revenue Sharing to Accelerate Responsive Transformation — committee has been working on the new model since December 2020. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher approved the plan in November, and now deans and their schools are working to figure out how to implement it for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The new approach shifts all revenue from tuition, fees and grants to the schools and then each school will pay a 16 percent “participation fee” — sometimes called a tax — back to the central administration to pay for strategic development and other initiatives. The schools also must pay fees to support shared services, such as Human Resources and IT.

Tyler Bickford, who chairs the Senate budget committee, said the resolutions are a “baseline set of proposals for changes we think would be necessary to make the new budget model, in my view, sort of minimally functional and work with shared governance and be reliable and trustworthy.”

Kear said at the budget committee meeting February that the resolutions are a starting point for discussions about the budget model with the provost’s office. Provost Ann Cudd and Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry have chaired the Budget ReSTART process.

At this week’s Faculty Assembly, Bickford said his committee has been frustrated when trying to get more information about the budget process from Pitt’s administration and how to reform it to work better.

“After the union vote, the administration said that they were no longer willing to engage in this process with us of reforming the planning and budgeting system,” Bickford said. “They never really gave us a very specific legal reason, whether they think it's a mandatory subject of bargaining, or whether they just don't want to be engaged in multiple revisions to policies at the same time. But they framed that as things are up in the air right now.”

The Senate Budget Policies committee has long said that in order for this plan to work, the planning and budgeting committees (PBCs) in each school and unit need to be strengthened.

Shilpa Sant, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy, said she is on the PBC at her school and the last time she brought up the new budget model, “Nobody had any idea how this is going to work.” She agreed with Bickford’s assessment that many PBCs are much more about planning than budgeting.

One of the resolutions expands on how those committees and their processes can be improved to meet the needs of shared governance.

  • Voting members of unit-level PBCs should be elected and have faculty, staff and student representatives. Their names should be listed on the unit website.

  • PBCs should meet regularly (preferably monthly) and be actively involved in budgetary decision-making. Unit-level budget requests should be formally supported by PBCs through a majority vote.

  • Elected members in each PBC should elect a chair from their ranks, who will co-chair the committee with the dean or campus president. These co-chairs should meet at least once a year with each other and with Senate officers and Senate budget committee officers to report on their unit's planning and budgeting activities, share advice and best practices, and raise concerns.

  • Uniform information and trainings should be developed for new PBC members to orient them to their role in the University-wide Planning and Budgeting System and to inform them of their rights as PBC members to access information and participate in decision making.

The other resolution focused on making the budget process as transparent as possible. This includes doing a comprehensive review of the University-wide Planning and Budgeting System document and other University policies to ensure the new budget model is in compliance.

The committee also would like to see a website developed with comprehensive information about the new budget model, including orientation materials, a dashboard with revenue and cost allocations, detailed budget formulas, and calculators to allow anyone to explore the impact of different planning decisions. The resolution specifically pointed to the University of Washington as a good model to follow for this website.

The resolutions also ask for University leadership to report to the University Senate at least once a year on the status of the new budget model, and an intensive University-wide review should be planned at the three-year mark.

The document notes that Rutgers University recently released a five-year review of its RCM budget model, which determined that the RCM budget model discouraged desired behaviors and impeded mission-critical programs and initiatives; hindered interdisciplinarity and collaboration across budget lines; and created significant confusion.

“Pitt must work attentively from the start to avoid these problems,” the resolution said.

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


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