Editorial | Pitt’s new chancellor-elect has the opportunity to positively impact the University’s future


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Chancellor-elect Joan Gabel speaks at a press conference in the Cathedral of Learning following her appointment.

Pitt’s Board of Trustees named Joan Gabel on Monday as the University’s next chancellor starting in July. Gabel comes from the University of Minnesota and is the first female chancellor in Pitt’s history.

With a change in leadership, the University continues to move toward the future. It’s good for Pitt to shake up who is in charge to bring a fresh perspective. With important issues taking center stage this year — unionization, “anti-trans” speakers, the closure of the English Learning Institute and sexual misconduct on campus, just to name a few — new leadership can, and should, tackle them head-on.

When Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced last April that he was stepping down from his role this summer, students, faculty and staff questioned what the future of Pitt would look like. Additionally, much of the search for a new chancellor remained behind closed doors, much to students’ dismay. We wish this process was more transparent, but now that the new chancellor is appointed, the real work can begin.

Gabel has experience leading another large university, and she oversaw NXT GEN MED, a collaborative program between Mayo Clinic, Google and UMN. As the first female chancellor, she also can provide strong leadership in a position that has only been occupied by men.

Gabel is going to receive a $950,000 annual base salary — which is 36% higher than Gallagher’s current salary. We hope she earns such a large amount of money partially by striving to make positive change with complex issues. 

One issue that affects the future of Pitt is unionization. As a new chancellor, Gabel needs to truly listen to faculty, staff and graduate students in order to compromise and cooperate with their requests. Granting them the pay and health insurance they deserve while balancing the interests of the University is not an easy task, but it’s needed. 

Board of Trustees Chair Doug Browning said when announcing Gabel’s compensation that the board is aware that faculty and staff salaries need to be adjusted to “remain competitive.” Gabel must follow through on this commitment to “close the gap as soon as possible.” 

As students, the most important factor for a new chancellor is whether they listen to our voices. After controversial, transphobic speakers came to the University, many students were frustrated by the administration’s response. With a new chancellor, there’s an opportunity for Gabel to build trust with students, taking their concerns into consideration and working with them.

Diversity, equity and inclusion also need to become priorities of the new chancellor. In a city as diverse as Pittsburgh, the leader of Pitt has an obligation to make real change. Having a woman in leadership is one step forward, but Gabel needs to use her position to uplift other minority groups in the University and throughout the city. 

Becoming chancellor at a place as large as Pitt is a large undertaking. But the only way to progress is welcoming new perspectives. The Pitt News Editorial Board wishes Gabel good luck in her new position.