Faculty union, SGB discuss hopes and opportunities for Chancellor-elect Gabel


Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor

Joan Gabel at a press conference in the Cathedral of Learning after being named the University’s next chancellor on April 3.

By Madison Dean, Senior Staff Writer

Student Government Board president Ryan Young said he is eager to work with Chancellor-elect Joan Gabel in the coming year and is excited to witness the “positive changes” she can bring to the University, such as strengthening University funding and increasing engagement with students.

“There is always room for growth in transparency and availability, and I think students want to see higher levels of accountability from administration,” Young said. “I hope to see Chancellor-elect Gabel embrace this and work and communicate more directly with the student body.” 

After a seven month long search process, the University’s Board of Trustees selected Joan Gabel as Pitt’s chancellor-elect on April 3, 2023. As the University prepares for Gabel to serve as chancellor in July, groups like the faculty union and Student Government Board are eager for Gabel to address campus issues surrounding unionization, compensation negotiations and administrative accountability.  

A search committee to find a new chancellor was appointed by Board of Trustees chair Doug Browning in September 2022, according to Eva Tanksy Blum, the search committee chair. The committee included Board of Trustees members along with faculty, staff, students and alumni. 

Blum said Gabel shares optimism in guiding the University in its future endeavors and will “determine the best way to move forward” as she speaks with constituents. 

“Chancellor-elect Gabel is on record as saying she is excited and filled with optimism when she thinks of leading this institution into its important next chapter,” Blum said. “To taking leaps when needed, and incremental steps as necessary, to ensure that every step we take, however large or small, moves us forward.” 

The committee was impressed with the number of higher education leaders who showed interest in the position as Pitt’s next chancellor. 

“We think this is indicative of how well the University and its leadership team is viewed by its peers,” Blum said. “It was a very coveted position at a time when there was an unprecedented number of openings at universities across the country.”   

Young said the lack of transparency from the University during the search process for a new chancellor was “somewhat frustrating.” He added future searches should include a more open process that incorporates student voices on final decisions. 

While I respect the need to keep early applications confidential to allow for a broader candidate pool, search progress and finalists were kept behind closed doors and very little student feedback was facilitated,” Young said. 

Blum said the search committee chose Gabel to serve as Pitt’s next chancellor because of her leadership experience, qualifications and commitment to advancing the goals of a research university. 

“She clearly possesses the vision, drive, and understanding of the issues and complexities of leading a major research university,” Blum said. “She is also forward-thinking, innovative and driven, and Pitt stands on the threshold of even greater accomplishments and achievements in the future under her guidance.”  

During a press conference in April, Gabel addressed faculty unionization and compensation negotiations and said that she believes in “shared governance.” 

Lech Harris, a member of the bargaining committee and part-time instructor in the English department, said the faculty union looks forward to partnering with Gabel and hopes that she can help the union “make Pitt a better place to work.” 

“Chancellor Gabel could direct the administration’s team to bring timely responses to our proposals and counters, and she could ensure that the administration is sending decision-makers to the table so that it doesn’t take weeks to get signoff on small changes of language,” Harris said. 

Now in their second year of bargaining compensation negotiations, Harris said the faculty union is “optimistic” that Gabel will meet the needs of faculty and graduate students. As Gabel transitions into the position of Pitt’s next chancellor, the union also wants to see University administration agree on important issues for faculty, like salary and job security. 

“We want to see a Pitt that invests in its people, that rewards loyalty and years of service to the University,” Harris said. “No faculty member should have to leave their job because they can’t live on a Pitt salary.”