Senate Council discusses ‘anti-trans’ events, Student Government Board election


Alyssa Carnevali | Staff Photographer

Senate Council at their weekly meeting on Thursday in Posvar Hall.

By Khushi Rai, Staff Writer

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher opened this month’s Senate Council meeting by acknowledging the “anti-trans” events occurring on campus in the following weeks. 

“Ideas are dangerous and powerful things,” Gallagher said. “And universities are in the idea business and one of the principles that sort of centers a modern university is the idea of a liberal education. The liberty we’re talking about is the freedom around ideas.” 

Senate Council held its monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon in person in Posvar Hall and over Zoom. The Council discussed the controversial transphobic events and the higher education funding received in Pennsylvania.  

Gallagher said the University allows “enormous latitude” by not having someone dictate what is appropriate and not. He said the media is worsening the situation and that Pitt students are not to blame. He also recognized that the values of Pitt would be tested in the following weeks while events on campus occurred. 

“Exacerbating this already difficult situation is a community that is not at the University of Pittsburgh,” Gallagher said. “This has been fueled by social media commenters that are trying to create dissent and foster activity. And I just want to remind everyone they bear no responsibility for their actions, whatever dissent and outrage they create. They don’t bear any responsibility, for they’re outside the university. We just need to be careful that we don’t overreact to that.”

Carla Panzella, associate vice provost and dean of students, said she wanted to reiterate to everyone to trust their gut and focus on their personal safety during the anti-trans events. She said students should review and understand their rights and responsibilities before the events.

“The Office of Inclusion and Belonging will host support spaces Monday and Friday evening during the time of the events for our LGBTQIA+ community and allies,” Panzella said. “Our University Counseling Center folks will be present there but also we will have counselors available in the center for drop-ins that are needed for all students.”

Senate Council President Robin Kear said the student government leaders unified to push for more action from administrators and Senate leaders.

“Unfortunately, this will not be the last time that we have speakers brought into our community that seek to divide and inflame and manufacture intolerance,” Kear said. “So I’m at the beginning of a process to convene a Senate ad hoc group that will allow deeper discussion of free speech, hate speech, and the responsibilities of our community members within the obligation of being a public university and intellectual environment.”

 Student Government Board President Danielle Floyd mirrored students’ sentiments and shared that those who wish to promote hate and exclusion should be ignored. She also said the board met with It’s On Us, a nonprofit dedicated to talking about sexual misconduct. 

“Our student sexual misconduct committee has been very active, and we’re making progress in our different initiatives,” Floyd said. “They recently met with PAAR to talk about how we can better leverage them. We met with Dr. Darr to talk about how we can go about creating confidential advocates and I believe it’s already been in the works and we’re trying to figure out what we can do to kind of support these efforts.” 

During the meeting, Floyd also introduced the newly elected president for next year’s Student Government Board, Ryan Young. Young said he was honored and beyond excited to get to work next year. 

“This year we had over 2000 Pitt students cast a ballot in our election,” Young said. “I’m happy to say I could not have hoped for a better board elect. Common themes over the course of the campaign include working in sexual misconduct, support for student workers, and improving services for trans and gender non-conforming students among many other wonderful initiatives.”

 Gallagher also said he spent the week in Harrisburg testifying before the House of Representatives about the appropriations process for the annual budget. He said he is testifying before the Senate next week to support Pennsylvania students.  

“Pennsylvania is somewhat unique in the country by not having one sort of system with different types of institutions that support various goals but actually three or more separate systems that are separately funded and separately prioritized,” Gallagher said. “For a state that already ranks near dead last in per capita spending in higher education, this ability to not even allocate the limited resources properly further exacerbates that situation and it does so at the expense of our students since they don’t receive the support they need.”