SENATE MATTERS: We all have a stake in the Oakland Plan


At the most recent Senate Council and Faculty Assembly meetings, I made announcements regarding the Oakland Plan, the in-progress plan for guiding the development of the neighborhood that Pitt’s main campus resides in. The development of this plan is proceeding under the direction of the Department of City Planning of the city of Pittsburgh with the aid of a Steering Committee made up of local stakeholders.

Pitt has three representatives on the steering committee: one for the institution, one for students, and one for faculty. As it happens, I am the faculty representative, so please allow me to share some thoughts, including why faculty should care about the plan at all.

First, if you work at Pitt’s main campus, the Oakland neighborhood is your work environment. You likely use the streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, public parking lots and other infrastructure. You experience the sensory milieu — the bad and the good — of a dynamic urban setting, and whether you acknowledge it or not, you also contribute to that milieu.

If you have a disability, you likely face non-trivial barriers related to the accessibility of this environment. If you are in a growth industry within your discipline, you may face limitations on the availability of specialized space for your projects. All of this is to say, if you work here, you spend part of your life here, and the concerns you have are important to a comprehensive plan to develop Oakland.

Second, some of you may actually live in Oakland, like me. If you do, you probably already intimately appreciate — in principle, though maybe not in detail — how the development of Oakland over the next 10 years will impact your life. When you go home from work, you do not leave Oakland behind, you go home to your own piece of Oakland, and as you navigate all of the important milestones in your life, you do so largely with Oakland as an implicit partner.

You may have ideas for improving the neighborhood but struggle to find a way to get those ideas to the right ears to bring about the change you are looking for. Your unique perspective as both Pitt faculty and Oakland resident is essential to development of the Oakland Plan, and your involvement will be worth the time and effort as the results begin to manifest over the next few years.

Lastly, consider your neighbors. Whether you live in Oakland or just work here, you have neighbors here. Many are multigenerational families who have been in Oakland since well before there was a Cathedral of Learning, and many are newer transplants attracted by the opportunities afforded by proximity to the universities and health system.

As Pitt faculty with vast experience in a broad diversity of academic domains, you could be very powerful advocates for those folks, many of whom may rightly feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the sheer size and influence of the big institutions, like Pitt, that also have a stake in the neighborhood’s future. To be clear, I personally believe that Pitt always strives to respect and support the interests of its neighbors, but you can probably sympathize with the perception that the little guy’s voice does not always matter.

So, with all of that in mind, I encourage you to at the very least learn more about the Oakland Plan development process, and if you have the time, consider participating. If you do not have time to participate formally, you can also take a moment to send your thoughts on the Oakland Plan to me or to the Oakland Plan project team.  Your views and contributions as Pitt faculty will matter to someone, probably more than you expect.

Senate Vice President David Salcido is a research assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine.