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Faculty Salary Reduction Policy Postponed

by Chelle Jackson

The faculty at Pitt-Greensburg faced the possibility of a new policy that would reduce the salaries of tenured professors if they were underperforming. At the Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, the faculty of Pitt-Greensburg officially voted to postpone the policy indefinitely.

The salary reduction policy was initiated by former Provost Beeson on May 3, 2018.

“We were asked by the provost to define the guidelines for when faculty salaries might be reduced,” said President Sharon Smith at the Faculty Senate meeting. “If we do not define that process, the provost will define the process.”

President Smith gave the provost’s request to the Faculty Welfare Committee, who drew up a draft of the “Tenured Faculty Salary Adjustment Policy.” The draft was sent to Pitt-Greensburg faculty on Feb 1. It included a request for feedback.

The draft included five guidelines provided by former Provost Beeson.

1. Individual salary reductions cannot exceed 20% in a given year.

2. The school/campus-level procedure must include a process for salary restoration if the concerns that have been raised were resolved/addressed.

3. The faculty member must have an opportunity to appeal a salary reduction through a clearly defined, school/campus-level procedure that includes review by a faculty appeals panel on which at least half the membership is either elected to the panel or elected to a school/campus governance committee.

4. Salary reduction can be appealed to the provost if there is disagreement between the school/campus-level committee and the dean/campus president, or if the cumulative

impact of salary reductions exceeds 33% of the highest base salary received by the faculty member while employed at the University.

5. Criteria used to reduce faculties’ salaries will be applied equitably and fairly within academic units.

The initial memo from former Provost Beeson also included two additional guidelines.

1. Prior to receiving a salary reduction, the faculty member must receive written warning and a zero salary increase as part of the prior annual review.

2. Faculty members who receive a warning as part of their review must have had an opportunity to address concerns raised in that annual review through an agreed upon plan.

At the Faculty Senate meeting, many professors expressed their concerns about the policy, including the potential for the administration to abuse the policy in order to take actions against specific faculty members.

“It is not a recommended practice. University policy is that they try to adhere as much as possible to recommended practices of the AAUP,” said Dr. Beverly Gaddy, PhD, associate professor of political science. ;

The AAUP, the American Association of University Professors, sets the standards for how Universities treat their faculty.

“It seems very prudent to wait and see what the University as a whole does,” said Lori Jakiela, professor of creative and professional writing.

While most of the faculty expressed a hope for postponing the policy, some said they saw a need for it.

“From a department that had a person who refused to work with students, who didn’t do what they needed to do, who pulled us down for years, I understand the need for this document,” said Dr. Barbara Barnhart, instructor of biology. “I’m just saying that it is something we need to consider.”

Others, such as Dr. Jessica Everly, professor of psychology, suggested there were better ways to handle people who aren’t doing their jobs.

“We could start by outlining clearer criteria,” Dr. Everly said, “People don’t stop showing up for class all of a sudden. They don’t go from getting excellent on their evaluations to suddenly not doing their job. There has to be a precursor, a warning, somewhere that we could target. I just think that this particular consequence is premature.”

Dr. Stacey Triplette, associate professor of Spanish and French, called the faculty to a vote. The motion was postponed indefinitely.

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