Editorial | Gallagher needs to pay it forward


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

The Chancellor’s residence on 718 Devonshire St.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Former Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg had a history of donating large portions of his retention bonuses to Pitt, donating $50,000 of his $75,000 bonus in 2003 and further donations in 2009 in response to the nationwide economic recession. In light of his $500,000 retention bonus, it’s time Chancellor Patrick Gallagher followed suit.

Along with a 2.25-percent salary increase to his base $550,000 salary, Gallagher received an additional $500,000 this year as a part of a five-year retention incentive from his hiring in 2014. While the chancellor’s salary ranks among the upper third of the salaries of other public university presidents and chancellors, Pitt professors and instructors are far from enjoying the same privileges.

Out of 34 institutions analyzed by the Association of American Universities, the salaries of Pitt’s main campus professors and associate professors ranked 18th and 19th, respectively. Assistant professors ranked 19th, instructors ranked 19th of 21 schools and lecturers ranked 28th of 29.

Gallagher has an opportunity to re-invest his retention bonus back into this learning institution in ways that will have greater beneficial impacts for students and faculty at Pitt than him holding onto the entire retention bonus for himself.

In fact, there is no shortage of worthwhile Pitt programs Gallagher can donate to. Redirecting the retention bonus back to Pitt faculty could help alleviate some of the pressures causing faculty members to file for a union election with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board last Friday.

Textbook costs have soared 812 percent in the last 35 years and Gallagher can follow in the footsteps of Nordenberg in donating toward student textbooks.

Or he could help ease the biggest drain on students’ wallets — tuition. The average need-based loan has remained almost stagnant for two decades while Pitt tuition has skyrocketed 185 percent in the same period of time. Pitt announced a new debt easement program in October called Panthers Forward to help fund students’ educations, offering eligible students up to $5,000 toward federal student loans.

But despite the serious discrepancies between rising tuition and static need-based loans, the Panthers Forward program is currently backed by a budget of $750,000, making it open to just 150 full-time students in an institution that enrolls 19,330 students. Gallagher’s retention bonus alone is two-thirds the entire budget of the Panthers Forward program.

“We think we’re innovating something that’s quite new,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said about Panthers Forward in an interview with The Pitt News. “This idea of paying it forward and kind of replacing the commercial loan space with an evergreening fund that we all support ourselves is [new].”

If Gallagher believes Panthers Forward is a worthy way to pay it forward, he can put his retention bonus where his mouth is and set the standard himself.