By MARTY LEVINE
The purpose of instituting Pitt’s new budget model “was not a reduction of staff, a reduction of the people” employed at Pitt, Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry reassured Staff Council at the group’s May 19 meeting
Staff Council heard a presentation about the new responsibility center budgeting model — after complaining via a resolution that staff had not been included in the planning process.
Controller Thurman Wingrove told the meeting that they haven’t finalized how the shared governance structure will work in the new budgeting model, but it will only be rolled out in fiscal year 2021-22 as a demonstration parallel to the normal budget methods. The new process will be instituted fully in the next year, Wingrove said.
Asked about pay equity for staff and other needs to balance the funding of different responsibility centers — especially between those that earn a lot of money through student tuition and grant funding and those without such resources — Sastry said responsibility centers will be judged against expectations, not against each other. “The intent here was to make sure we would drive the right progress at the University with the right level of risk.”
Sastry also assured Staff Council that revenue-generating centers would provide the monies to fund those units that did not generate funds directly, such as the University Library System.
Responsibility centers need to “control their own destinies” and the budget process “should empower them,” Provost Ann Cudd said, while University-wide funds would still be maintained for cross-unit collaborative projects.
Presidential candidates speak out
Staff Council also heard responses to staff-provided questions from four candidates for its new president, with the election among members set for June 7.
Angie Coldren (Office of Research Protections): “In the current work environment, especially in the last year, we’ve been doing more with, and for, less. Employees adjusted quickly … but after a year the daily uncertainties and the lack of borders between work and life … have left us burned out.” She suggested that Staff Council should advocate for the University to provide departments with money to “pay salaries at market levels” — not just to new hires but to current employees. She also observed that “jobs now, when they are posted, a lot of them require a higher education level” and suggested existing staff who attain higher degrees should be rewarded: “We need to find these creative ways to level the playing field.” She said that the group, with the return to campus, should “increase our participation in shared governance that will allow us to give senior leadership better information.”
Kelly Gilliam (Office of Human Resources): One of her presidential priorities would be “the issue of Pitt being under-represented by people of color in higher supervisory positions.” She would push for the University to offer more career development programs: “The goal … is that we should work toward parity for salary, not only for people of color, but for women.” She added: “People will say things are good when they’re in a group” but individually will complain about some of the conditions of employment here. “People have to at least have hope that there is a good possibility for career advancement,” she said.
Jessica Lutz (Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences): “My two priorities are compensation and culture,” she said. “We know that Pitt is a predominantly white institution,” whose demographics don’t match the city of Pittsburgh. She suggested more people of color should have opportunities to be in higher-paid positions of leadership, and posited that the anti-racism course, introduced for first-year students in fall 2020, should be for staff members and indeed all of the University community. Saying that staff members were experiencing job creep, low pay, low raises and a lack of a clear path to advancement, she said her goal is “to make sure that everybody who works here wants to stay here and feels welcome. I would like to hear more information from staff,” she added —perhaps through Staff Council having open office hours and instituting a staff survey. “If we’re not hearing from people we are supposed to represent, how can we advocate for them?”
Lindsay Rodzwicz (Swanson School of Engineering): Her priorities include everything from staff roles and work-life balance to parking and child care. Making sure all staff are getting an annual appraisal — a priority for Human Resources this past year — is “the tip of the iceberg,” she said, recommending Staff Council push for ways to expand current benefit offerings to perhaps include relief for employees with student loans and time off to care for aging parents. “We also want to continue our efforts” to communicate how Staff Council benefits Pitt, she said: “The climate is positive but … staff morale is low. … We are only as strong as individual voices and every one of us can make an impact on the culture.”
The new president will take over on July 1 from incumbent Andy Stephany, who will leave office due to term limits.
Staff Council also is still finalizing its Staff Assembly program, which this year will be a Zoom event on June 15.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-758-4859.
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