Gallagher asks for gameday civility

By Emily Brindley / Assistant News Editor

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As Pitt and Penn State fans flood social media with posts about “hate week” in anticipation of Saturday’s renewed football rivalry, university leaders at both schools are calling for respect.

Both Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Penn State President Eric Barron published an open letter Wednesday about Saturday’s upcoming Pitt vs. Penn State football game, urging students, alumni and fans attending the game to be passionate about their teams but to also show common courtesy and respect for one another.

“Good sportsmanship is key to any successful athletic contest and knowing that our fans are some of the best in the world, we expect no less,” Gallagher and Barron’s letter said.

The game is the first matchup between the two universities since 2000, when most of this year’s first-years were 2-years-old. As “history in the making,” the letter said, it’s vital that both schools “showcase the best versions of ourselves to help support our respective teams.”

The letter comes after Penn State fans began a Twitter campaign called White Out Heinz, encouraging fans to attend the game wearing all white in an effort to make their presence more noticeable. Additionally, some Pitt fans have been using the Sandusky sexual abuse case to smack talk Penn State by printing slogans like “Joe Knew” on t-shirts, signs and in Tweets.

Thursday’s letter marks yet another preparation Pitt is making for Saturday’s game, its biggest and most anticipated of the season. The athletic department said this week it expects the game to draw the largest ever crowd to Heinz Field with about 70,000 people expected to attend.

The letter also marks the most recent partnership between Pitt and Penn State’s top leaders. In February, Gallagher, Barron and the leaders of Pennsylvania’s other state-related universities penned a letter calling on the state legislature to pass a budget that would fund the schools.

Along with the open letter, Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner announced an unofficial task force in August to address the gameday concerns. The task force includes representatives from the police department, Student Affairs, Pitt Athletics and the Title IX Office — the University wants all of its branches to be “on the same page,” according to Bonner.
Though Pitt did not formally announce the task force, Bonner said this week Pitt would ramp-up its usual messaging campaign, which sends out messages to students through Campus Connect, social media and the Pitt website. The messages advise students to celebrate responsibly and respectfully. In addition to electronic messages, the University will also distribute fliers with similar information.
“There’s an emotional element to this game that we may not have with other games,” Bonner said earlier this week. “We want students to be respectful of each other, but at the end of the day, it’s a typical football game where you have a lot of students converging on the North Shore.”

Gallagher and Barron acknowledged this game looms large in the minds of both Penn State and Pitt fans, but urged civility.

“The wait is finally over,” the letter said. “Be loud, be respectful, and be a good sport.”

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