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February 23, 2012

Battle against proposed cuts expands

The University community is mobilizing in response to Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to cut nearly $42 million in support for Pitt as part of his fiscal year 2013 state budget. (See Feb. 9 University Times.)

Pitt’s Governmental Relations staff are continuing to meet with state leaders, but grassroots efforts are underway as well.

John Fedele, associate director of News, said faculty, staff and student groups are organizing letter-writing campaigns in coordination with the Pitt Alumni Association.

Earlier this week, the Staff Association Council and Student Government Board set up stations in the William Pitt Union that resulted in more than 30 letters to state legislators by midday Wednesday.

Paul A. Supowitz, vice chancellor for Governmental Relations, said special efforts are underway to enlist students and their parents in communicating with their legislators.

Information on finding and communicating with state legislators is posted at

Also, registration is open for the March 13 Pitt Day in Harrisburg, which last year drew a record number of Pitt supporters.

Jennifer Poller, the Pitt Alumni Association’s alumni advocacy manager, said more than 500 people participated in last year’s Pitt Day in Harrisburg, adding that at least that many are expected to make the trip this year.

The annual event buses Pitt faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and other supporters to the Capitol to visit state legislators. Registration information is  available at The deadline to register is March 1.

University Senate President Michael Pinsky said that as a follow-up to Pitt Day in Harrisburg, he will distribute a letter urging faculty to contact their legislators. Special efforts will be turned toward “swing” areas, such as Greensburg, which lean Republican but also have local community ties to Pitt, he said.

At the regionals, Pitt-Titusville spokesperson Tammy Knapp said a busload of students and staff are set to attend Pitt Day in Harrisburg. Campus President William A. Shields plans to meet with local legislators prior to the event. Knapp said he also will outline what the state funding cuts could mean for UPT in a letter to campus advisory board members.

Pitt-Greensburg also plans to sponsor a bus to Harrisburg, said campus spokesperson Susan Isola. In addition, campus President Sharon P. Smith has formed a faculty/staff committee to search out additional cost savings at UPG.

With an eye toward ongoing advocacy strategies, the Civil Action Movement, a grassroots social justice organization, is hosting a lunch seminar on campus March 1 to discuss what the governor’s proposed budget will mean for education, transportation and human services and to plan efforts to lobby legislators for budget resources for these areas.

State Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) and nonprofit leaders are scheduled to discuss the effects of the governor’s proposed budget and offer insights from a legislative perspective on effective advocacy strategies.

The event also is to include planning sessions led by local advocates and activists to chart the course for advocacy activities.

The event is set for 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. March 1 in 2017 Cathedral of Learning. Reservations are required. Sign up at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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