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May 28, 2015

Chancellor addresses SAC assembly

Don’t expect any late-night email replies from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.

Gallagher told a packed Staff Development Assembly at the William Pitt Union on May 19 that he appreciated how hard University staff worked, but that even he wouldn’t be answering emails that arrived late in the evening.

“These technologies can become a leash if you aren’t careful,” he said. “We can’t be as engaged and as passionate about when we work if we aren’t engaging our family and home and community life.”

Sponsored by the Staff Association Council (SAC), Gallagher’s speech complemented an afternoon of seminars on developing a Pitt career, using for professional development, workforce diversity, using the My Pitt Video service, returning to school as an adult and developing international cultural awareness.

Gallagher recalled forming a SAC-like organization when he was at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, prior to joining Pitt as chancellor.

“Sometimes it feels like the work we do is behind the scenes and under the hood,” he allowed. “The bottom line is, Pitt doesn’t happen without you — that’s why I appreciate all that you do, and that’s why I think it is vitally important.

“I don’t know about your job, but mine feels different every day,” he said. “That’s a very enriching environment. We can make this place an even more engaging place to work … There should be nothing about a university that feels mundane or routine. We’re kind of at the pointy edge of change.”

Asked after his speech whether the University had any plans to increase salaries to keep good employees from being recruited away for higher pay, the chancellor said: “Of all the problems to have, having folks trying to hire away your best people is a great problem to have.”

But, he added, “We’ve been very good at looking beyond the salary side of that” competition for employees, by maintaining health and educational benefits that keep employees here.

“It’s also about the nature of the job,” he said. “I stayed in government a lot longer than I should, based on salary and benefits. It was the mission.”

Asked about Pitt’s efforts to keep pace with technological change, Gallagher said Pitt has adopted existing technology well but needs to broaden its focus from solutions that help only one department or office. “A lot of our tool-making is very localized,” he said. Staff members should ask “not just what is the latest gizmo and technology but how do we use it correctly?” he suggested.

In response to an inquiry from a Greensburg campus staff member about the roles of the regionals, Gallagher said that priorities for regional campuses should be ones that best use their resources and aid their specific communities. “The answer in Greensburg has to look different than it does in Johnstown or here on the main campus,” he said. For smaller campuses, he added, “it may be about creating experiences of depth, and innovating around that.”

Asked for his view on improving campus safety, he replied: “My philosophy on safety … is that you are never done. You can’t settle for anything less than nobody getting hurt, or nobody getting threatened … so we’re never going to be done, so it’s really a journey of how you get better.

“The next step is the harder part. You can’t assume that just because we have a police force, everyone is safe. Everyone has a role.”

—Marty Levine