By SUSAN JONES
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher used part of his time at Senate Council on March 24 to discuss the state budget season and its impact on Pitt.
“I do want to highlight that the support from the community to lawmakers will be consequential this year,” Gallagher said. “We continue to hear of concerns particularly in the House Republican caucus about whether there's sufficient support for the appropriations that cover the state-related universities and Pitt specifically.”
The chancellor followed up these statements with an emailed message to the Pitt community on March 31, which said in part: “We enjoy strong bipartisan support in the state Senate, as well as solid backing from the governor and House Democrats. Some House Republicans and a select number of their leadership, however, are using unrelated issues as political bargaining chips to justify a failure to support Pitt students.”
At Senate Council and in his message, he reminded everyone that appropriations for the state-related universities, which also include Penn State, Temple and Lincoln, require approval by a super-majority, which means the amount of support needed is higher than a normal piece of legislation.
“We do think that there will be concerns. Most of them, in fact all of them to my knowledge, really have nothing to do with the purpose of the appropriation,” Gallagher said. “They have to do with concerns about our curriculum, or around masking and vaccines or around other kinds of issues very similar to the kinds of issues you hear happening nationally with other universities. And we're simply not immune from those dynamics here in Pennsylvania.”
He reiterated a point that he and the leaders of the other three schools made a hearings before the state House and Senate appropriation committees in March. All of the state appropriation is used to give the in-state discount to students who are from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The discount amounts to about $15,000 per year for undergraduate students in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences. The money from the state covers about two-thirds of that discount and Pitt makes up the rest.
“In some cases, lawmakers don't understand that threatening that appropriation, it's not threatening Pitt, it's threatening the support to Pennsylvania students and their families,” Gallagher said.
He urged people to participate in Pitt Day in Harrisburg, which ended up bringing about 100 people from all of Pitt's campuses to the state capitol on March 29 to talk to lawmakers about Pitt. He also said anyone who wants to get involved can sign up to be a Pitt Advocate at with.pitt.edu.
“What that will do is put you on a list where, we can provide you with targeted information, let you know what's happening and specifically, depending on where you're from, perhaps even what representatives are in your area, what position are they taking, what kinds of information might be useful.”
Curriculum resolution: Senate Council approved a resolution on freedom from external curricular interference, which passed Faculty Assembly on March 16. Chancellor Gallagher noted that while there has been no specific threat to Pitt of curricular interference, “Were seeing this happen across the United States. There are cases clearly where external influence, through gifts, through legislatures, through funding and other things have been used to exert and oppose curricular controls over matters that we consider to be matters of academic institutional autonomy and properly the role of faculty either individually and collectively to determine.”
He stressed that Pitt’s bylaws are very clear that it is the responsibility of University leadership, the Board of Trustees and the faculty, particularly tenured faculty, “to uphold and defend these principles of institutional autonomy and freedom. And at t this time, your administration stands with you unified on this and we've talked to our Board of Trustees about this, and they stand unanimous in support of this as well."
Policy approvals: Senate President Robin Kear announced that the chancellor had approved two policies that had made their way through shared governance: the campus crime awareness police and the gifts that support projects policy.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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