Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

February 22, 2018

Pitt Public Health Building Name to Be Reviewed

The Graduate School of Public Health’s Parran Hall has generated questions because its name originates with Thomas Parran, Pitt Public Health’s first dean, who, before assuming his role at the University, was affiliated with the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which a large number of black men had syphilis that was left untreated.

This and his association with a similar study in Guatemala has prompted Pitt to form a committee to examine Parran’s history and consider whether it is appropriate to have his name on the building, said Senate President Frank Wilson, who announced the decision at the Feb. 13 meeting of Faculty Assembly. This move came after Pitt Public Health Dean Donald S. Burke had sent a request on Jan. 8 regarding the name of Parran Hall to Pamela Connelly, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion.

According to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website, institutional “(c)omplaints or issues are sometimes raised that impact the greater University community and are not subject to other University policies and procedures (e.g., concerns about the University’s commemoration of history that directly implicate its core mission and values).” Among the examples that the office’s complaint response guidelines document mentions are “program and building names.”

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is forming a committee to execute an institutional review. The committee, said Wilson, will include Connelly and representatives from faculty, staff and the undergraduate and graduate student bodies.

The University community should expect the committee’s recommendations no later than 60 days after it first convenes, according to Wilson.

The same week that this discussion took place at the Faculty Assembly meeting, the Pitt Graduate Student Organizing Committee launched an online petition calling on University administration to rename the building.

Committee Responds to Chancellor’s Message

Cindy Danford and Genevieve Cook, co-chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Senate equity, inclusion and anti-discrimination advocacy committee (EIADAC), shared their committee’s statement voicing support for Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s Dec. 20 message to the University community. His message was in response to a former communication faculty member’s descriptions in a December 2017 Ms. magazine blog post about sexual harassment and other discrimination she said she encountered in Pitt’s Department of Communication in the early to mid-2000s.

“Discrimination and harassment of any kind are wholly unacceptable and run contrary to our academic mission and our values as an institution,” the chancellor wrote.

The University’s Title IX office is leading an investigation into the department’s present climate related to these issues. An external review is also underway related to complaints raised in the past.

At the faculty assembly meeting, Paul Munro, a faculty member in the School of Computing and Information, pointed to the text in the committee’s statement that read, “If you experience harassment or discrimination, please report it here:” Munro suggested broadening that call to those who are aware of issues.

“I would think if you know of it, even if you don’t experience it, that should be included also,” he said.

Danford said that the committee would incorporate that revision.

Retirement Plan Changes

During his report, Wilson referred to comments and critiques that he had fielded about the revamped options for retirement plans. He pointed to the Benefits Department and information sessions as resources for people’s comments and questions.

“The complaints I’ve seen I think stem from two things,” said Jay Sukits, a faculty member in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and a member of the Retirement Oversight Committee. “Some of them are — at least a couple of the complaints I’ve seen — are what I would call kind of ideological in nature, and then some of them seem to me, after reading them, that perhaps the people making those complaints don’t fully understand the details of the changes.”

Pitt Day in Harrisburg

Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for community and governmental relations, was present at Faculty Assembly to speak about the annual Pitt Day in Harrisburg. The aim of the March 20 event is to encourage continued state support for the University through testimonials from the Pitt community.

“I’m hopeful that this year will be less eventful than the last couple,” said Supowitz, citing last year’s state budget and the politics of a gubernatorial election year.

The day will feature visits with state legislators, a legislative reception in the Capitol rotunda and a graduate and professional research showcase.

Faculty, staff and students who are interested can sign up by visiting or texting PittDay to 52-886.


This article was updated on Feb. 23 to include information about a petition effort related to the name of Parran Hall.


Katie Fike,, 412-624-1085


Leave a Reply