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November 23, 2016

Become engaged, faculty are urged after election

In the aftermath of this month’s elections, University Senate President Frank Wilson is urging faculty to become more engaged.

“We’re at a moment where, in my view, what we do is more important than it’s ever been,” said Wilson in his Nov. 16 report to Senate Council.

“Those of us who teach are in the midst of a teachable moment of some significance,” Wilson said. “There are questions now about policy that’s being made that will affect all of our lives.”

The systematic approach to knowledge and objective pursuit of truth provide ways of dealing with issues at emotional times, he said. “It’s important for a lot of the public debates that are happening now and that will unfold for us to do what we do really well: to make the research that we’re doing known; to provide examples of how to pursue answers to questions in an objective and systematic way, that if we can discern facts and we can agree on facts, we might be able to have serious debate about which way to go.”

Wilson said: “It’s our job as a public university to pursue that and demonstrate it. … I hope we will do that in a responsible and a civil way, remembering that we are a public institution that includes a variety of viewpoints. We are the place where difference is supposed to engage in a principled way so that we can move forward” together even amid disagreement.

Wilson called attention to changes at the state level, where Republicans expanded their majorities in the Pennsylvania legislature in this month’s elections, gaining three seats in the House to take a 122-81 majority, and rising to a veto-proof 34-16 majority in the Senate.

“We know as the budget process for us and the state begins, that’s really significant. If we think about it for the years down the road, we need to be engaged,” he said.

The University Senate governmental relations committee “is trying to remake itself to be more engaged with the Office of Governmental Relations” by providing more research and faculty expertise, as well as by “thinking of politics at the more grassroots level than we have before,” Wilson said.

‘We’re not a partisan group; we’re trying to act on behalf of the University and other institutions of higher education which are, without question, under the gun,” Wilson said.

“We’ve known that for a number of years now and we can only expect it will continue or get tougher. We’re hoping that we can work in a collaborative way and a more serious way and maybe improve that situation too.”

In other Council business:

• Justin Saver, Graduate and Professional Student Government president, said GPSG is working with Community and Governmental Relations to increase graduate student involvement in Pitt Day in Harrisburg. A research symposium is being planned to highlight graduate student work.

• Jacob Kantorowitz, a first-year medical student, has been elected to represent the Schools of the Health Sciences as a graduate student representative to Senate Council.

• Natalie Dall, Student Government Board president, reported that SGB, in conjunction with Student Affairs, is distributing safety information, including tips for securing homes over Thanksgiving break, in Oakland neighborhoods following recent burglaries.

“We’re trying to make sure that all our students who live off campus know how to keep themselves safe and also watch out for each other,” she said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

The results of the Nov. 8 presidential elections prompted a variety of reactions. There were campus demonstrations here and nationwide. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher issued an election message ( that said we “must re-engage in the shared task of addressing the challenges and opportunities we face as a country.” Others on campus shared their support and ideas about where we go from here. Read Post-election thoughts.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 7

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