Faculty Assembly talks salaries, OMETs


Via Zoom

The Faculty Assembly met Wednesday afternoon to discuss OMET surveys for professors and to ensure faculty and staff are paid an adequate amount.

By Colm Slevin, Staff Writer

The February Faculty Assembly meeting began on a lighthearted note from Chris Bonneau, its president and professor of political science.

“Roses are red, COVID is blue, please mask and distance, so you don’t get it too,” Bonneau said.

The Faculty Assembly met Wednesday afternoon to discuss OMET surveys for professors and a resolution regarding faculty salaries.

Tyler Bickford, the chair of the budget policies committee, proposed a resolution concerning Pitt’s Salary Increase Policy, which governs salaries for faculty outside the School of Medicine and establishes specific targets for salaries at the Pittsburgh campus. The resolution asks that the provost and chancellor take action to comply with the policy, which sets a goal that salaries are at or above the median of those at Association of American Universities member schools.

“Since the 2012-13 academic year lecturers have averaged 28th out of 29 public [American Association of Universities] institutions that report salaries every year,” Bickford said. “So if the goal is at or above the median, 28th of 29 is falling well short of that.”

Bickford also said the University needs written criteria for promotions and merit increases.

“Every school and responsibility center should have written, explicit criteria for merit increases,” Bickford said. “And have written criteria for promotion raises for both faculty and staff. The provost’s office investigated and found no school or responsibility center has any example of written criteria for merit for faculty or for promotion raises for faculty or staff.”

Bonneau then opened the floor for questions about the resolution. According to Patrick Loughlin, a professor and associate chair of the bioengineering department, Pitt does not distinguish between titles on the tenure track versus the appointment track, compared to many Universities nationwide that do so. Loughlin asked about the varying titles at Pitt and how this policy compares Pitt’s own titles to University titles nationwide.

“We have titles for research faculty like research professor, research assistant, where do they come into play?” Loughlin said. “It is not in uniform across universities. At many universities the title of professor, associate professor and assistant professor is specific to the tenure stream. And then they have descriptors for others such as teaching professor and practice or research professor and Pitt is far less clear about that title distinction between tenure stream and appointment stream.”

Linda Tashbook, an adjunct professor of law, asked if faculty librarians were included in this policy. According to Bickford, the association of research librarians has not published data on librarian salaries since 2015.

Bickford said he feels the AAU is the best data for the policy, and while there is some mixing of these varying titles in the AAU benchmark, there is a large pool of data.

The assembly voted 96% in favor of the policy and 4% abstained from voting.

The benefits and welfare committee — which includes Zuzana Swigonova, a biological sciences lecturer, Luke Berenbrok, assistant pharmacy professor, and Allyn Bove, an assistant physical therapy professor — co-authored two statements to the University. They urged the administration to make OMET surveys optional for performance evaluations this year. The other statement asked the University to support child care since many parents’ situations have changed in the past year.

“Faculty Assembly asks University administration to vigorously pursue additional ways to support employees whose child care options have been removed or changed due to the pandemic,” the second statement said.

Loughlin said while the pandemic has changed teaching and learning, it is important to hear how professors can improve after a few semesters of being online.

“It makes no sense to penalize those people because of the situation that’s beyond their control,” Loughlin said. “But at the same time, since we’ve had to do this now going on two and a half semesters, it is useful to get feedback from students after you go through this and to make some changes.”

Swigonova said she felt OMET surveys only give a small view into the classroom and that Provost Ann Cudd’s team should use more than just the surveys in order to rate a professor’s performance.

“The OMET should be used in a formative assessment,” Swigonova said. “Therefore it would be the choice of the faculty to use it as a supplementary assessment of their performance of teaching effectiveness.”

The faculty assembly unanimously voted to proceed and send these statements to the administration.

David Salcido, the University representative for the Oakland Plan Steering Committee — a collaborative group of representatives for the organizations, businesses, institutions and residents of Oakland — spoke at the end of the meeting about the long-term goals of the committee. The Oakland Plan, once adopted by the City Planning Commission, will become City policy and guide public and private investments in the area.

Salcido said the committee wants to establish an environment in Oakland where people can live and to work on developing a 10-year plan for the development of Oakland.

“Quality housing in Oakland is not easy to come by, it is not cheap, it is not affordable,” Salcido said. “Another goal is the development of commercial corridors, adding grocery stores and other things that appeal to and serve the community.”

Salcido said the committee is striving to make Oakland a neighborhood that anyone can call home.

“An Oakland that is welcoming to all,” Salcido said. “Immigrants, refugees, citizens all alike should be accommodated by this neighborhood.”