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March 2, 2017

Gallagher addresses immigration concerns

In his report to Senate Council last week, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher addressed the ongoing uncertainty surrounding federal immigration policies and shed light on his reasons for not declaring the University a sanctuary campus.

“We remain in a very volatile time with regard to immigration,” he said, citing uncertainty related to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, as well as to changes in visa status and immigration enforcement.

Universities are intrinsically global, he said. “We are a magnet for the best and brightest from around the world. They come to study and enrich all of us. That’s one of the reasons why these changes are a concern to us and we are watching them very closely.

“No matter what side of the spectrum you’re on — thinking about security versus openness and how this should be handled — we’ve gone from sort of knowing what the ground rules are to sort of not understanding them,” Gallagher said.

He assured Council that the University is monitoring the situation closely. “One of my concerns is that we could provide to the best of our ability accurate information to affected, possibly affected individuals and also to the broader University community,” he said.

“In this kind of environment, being concerned is natural, it’s human. I’m concerned too. We’re all looking at the situation,” the chancellor said.

Citing discussion in a Provost’s current issues forum (Feb. 2 University Times) and a subsequent meeting with faculty, as well as letters he’s received on the issues, Gallagher thanked the University community for its engagement.

“I think we are better off when we openly talk about these issues and seek to understand them. That’s hard to do sometimes in this climate where people want to sort us into camps and have us throw rocks at each other,” the chancellor said.

“Everyone knows I haven’t made a sanctuary campus statement. I want you to know I’ve been listening to the calls,” he said.

“Making a preemptive statement about our intent on how we would react to a hypothetical change in immigration policy will have some value to some people because it can be viewed as reassuring. But it also will have consequences,” the chancellor said. “In some respects it could narrow our options going forward.

“It’s also not the only thing the University can do: We have been very actively involved with the university associations across the country, in amicus briefs that are happening in support of court action, in direct outreach and advocacy to our federal and state officials. We have a very rich capacity to do things and some of that capacity could change based on our statements,” the chancellor said.

In light of the ongoing volatility, the University is “reserving as much capacity as we can to take action as needed as we go forward,” Gallagher told Council. “I am deliberately not taking any options off the table,” he said.

University Senate President Frank Wilson added that legislation is in the works to deny funding to cities that declare themselves sanctuary cities, as well as to campuses that declare themselves sanctuary campuses.

Among those is House Bill 14 (currently in the House state government committee), which would prohibit any institution of higher education in Pennsylvania that declares itself a sanctuary campus from receiving state appropriations.

“So, there are consequences. There are going to be choices and they aren’t going to be simple ones,” Wilson said. “We need to keep this in mind when we demand one thing, or think about an appropriate way to respond to issues out there in the public that we think we need to take a stand on.”

Wilson added that a difficult state budget year is ahead, noting that Gov. Tom Wolf, who has worked to restore higher education funding that was cut under the previous administration, began the state’s fiscal year 2018 budget discussions by proposing flat funding for Pitt and its fellow state-related institutions.

Wilson noted the particular importance this year of the March 21 Pitt Day in Harrisburg advocacy event.

“Each year, that is a very important thing. I think there’s been no year more important than this year for us to show our unity and to demonstrate the value of the University of Pittsburgh — in all of its schools — to the economy and the well-being of the state.”

Noting that not everyone in Harrisburg is friendly toward the University, “We have to deal with them and hopefully change some of their minds going into that final budget deal,” Wilson said.

“We have our work cut out for us.”

Staff Association Council report
Staff Association Council President Rich Colwell urged the administration to consider the cost of living when setting the salary pool for Pitt staff. Colwell cited the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ January Consumer Price Index report, which showed the index rose 2.5 percentage points over the past 12 months, the largest increase in five years.

Noting that the portion of last year’s salary pool increase dedicated to keeping pace with inflation was 0.75 percent, Colwell said, “It is our hope that this year’s cost-of-living pool can come closer to matching the current inflation rate and help staff continue to make ends meet.

“We have complete confidence in the University’s leadership to create a long-term solution for the salary structure and we want to be a partner and a resource for this endeavor.”
In other business:
• The council unanimously approved a new policy on consensual sexual, romantic and intimate relationships with students and between employees ( The proposed policy underwent several revisions before being approved by Faculty Assembly last month. (See Feb. 16 University Times.)

• The Senate ad hoc committee on non-tenure stream faculty issues is slated to present a final report to Faculty Assembly this month, said Wilson. The committee, which initially examined full-time NTS faculty issues, most recently has turned its attention to part-time NTS faculty at Pitt.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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