By DONOVAN HARRELL
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher told members of the Senate Council that Pitt is in strong financial standing as universities and businesses across the country see economic hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pitt has spent the past year restructuring its debt and issuing bonds to prepare for various construction projects and other activities, Gallagher said.
“We have the resources at hand to withstand the kinds of shocks that we’re seeing here,” Gallagher said. “I just want to reassure, particularly faculty and staff, that we’re going to continue to look after everyone.”
In his message to the Pitt community on March 18, Gallagher made clear that all University faculty and staff will continue to be paid as usual.
This comes as the Pitt community deals with broad changes to the University to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. These include moving all courses online and shutting down most University buildings to everyone — faculty, staff, students and the public — as of 5 p.m. March 20. The meeting itself was conducted virtually with more than 70 participants signing on through Skype for Business.
In the past week, more than 5,000 students have moved out of on-campus housing, Gallagher said. Roughly 500 students will remain on campus, and access to housing will be restricted to only those individuals to promote social distancing.
“We’re not telling them they have to leave,” Gallagher said. “(For) some of them this is the best place they can be. But it will be a place that’s providing only the barest essential services, basically housing, food services, essential health support and so forth.”
These students will eventually be relocated to a different building that can better accommodate these services, Gallagher said.
“The stakes are really high, and I think we’re all doing what we can as individuals in doing our part,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said he has three main priorities moving forward:
Maintain Pitt’s core mission.
Find our part in responding to the pandemic.
Support the community wherever they are.
The University is facing serious restrictions, Gallagher said, and things will continue to change, but he and other administrators are working as hard as they can to meet the Pitt community’s needs.
As for responding to the pandemic, “we are dealing with an infectious disease outbreak, for which at the current time there is no native immunity in the population, for which there is no vaccine, and for which currently there’s no real identified treatment, which means that the tools that are at our disposal … are our individual and collective actions to reduce or slow down the speed of transmission as much as possible.”
To support the community as it shifts mainly to working remotely, Gallagher said he hopes to maintain a sense of community between faculty and staff.
“We want to support them, both in terms of their basic needs as their lives are disrupted, but also in terms of their ability to work under these unusual circumstances,” Gallagher said.
These disruptions may get much worse, Gallagher said, as the country’s economy buckles to the effects of the virus. And since the situation is so unprecedented, he expects that there will be mistakes as Pitt continues to adjust.
But he’s counting on the Pitt community to provide feedback.
“Let us know,” Gallagher said. “Don’t assume we’re trying to make mistakes. There’s just so much happening at the same time.”
Gallagher also praised members of the Pitt community for their flexibility in responding to the many changes that have taken place over the past few weeks.
“I do want to acknowledge because it’s really becoming clear to me, that there are heroic efforts taking place on the part of so many to make this happen,” Gallagher said. “This is something none of us expected, none of us wanted. No student came to Pitt to go to online classes and stay at home. But the outpouring of support -- the most common thing we get is ‘how can I help?’ ”
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
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