The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Opinion | Pittsburgh is not Pitt’s playground — it’s our community

Opinion+%7C+Pittsburgh+is+not+Pitt%E2%80%99s+playground+%E2%80%94+it%E2%80%99s+our+community
Annika Esseku | Senior Staff Illustrator

New chapter, new neighbors, new city. 

Settling into a new community doesn’t happen overnight. I’m entering my third year at Pitt, living off campus, have best friends and my partner in the city — yet Pittsburgh feels new to me every day. But Pittsburgh has a way of sneaking up on you until suddenly you realize it’s more home than your hometown.

More than 50% of Pitt students employed after graduation will work in Pittsburgh or the surrounding Western Pennsylvania area — so your odds of calling this city home in the long term are pretty high. But even if you don’t, it’s your responsibility as a resident to care, to be mindful of how you walk through this city as a college student and to be a good neighbor even in the smallest ways.

As you enter this phase of your life, it’s worth taking to heart that you’re not just here for a fun time for four years — you’re part of a community. That community isn’t just your classmates, TAs, professors and campus staff, though you should hold your campus community close. The community I mean is bigger than Oakland, the neighborhood Pitt has largely taken over — it’s 90 neighborhoods and several ZIP codes wide. 

I love having access to so many things to see and eat and do — but most importantly, I love being surrounded by a city that’s full of warm, unique people who are fiercely protective of their neighbors. I love being a part of something bigger than myself.

Part of loving your city, though, is loving it enough to care about healing its wounds. Pittsburgh markets itself as a “most livable city,” the “new Brooklyn.” Take one stroll through Lawrenceville and you’ll see why hipster travel bloggers drool over the city’s post-industrial charm. 

Meanwhile, the city is one of the worst in the country for Black residents. A 2019 city report found that the mortality rate for Black Pittsburgh adults is higher than in 98% of similar cities, that the infant mortality rate for Black babies is over six times higher than that for white babies and that Black men are subject to high levels of occupational segregation. Forty-five percent  of Pittsburgh’s Black children live in poverty — more than in 95% of comparable cities

Now, gentrification and the expansion of Pittsburgh’s “nonprofit” giants — Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, UPMC and Duquesne — continue to threaten the neighborhoods and livelihoods of families who have been here for decades. I say “nonprofit” in quotation marks because these eds and meds benefit from the infrastructure, culture and people of Pittsburgh every day without paying their fair share in property taxes

Black Pittsburghers are being pushed out of the city by gentrification, skyrocketing rents in historically Black neighborhoods and illegal evictions, resulting in a whopping 13.4% decline in population between 2010 and 2020 — one of the highest for comparable cities, with many residents lost to surrounding suburbs with more affordable costs of living. 

You might also know that Pittsburgh has a long, storied history as a city of unions. Originally a hub for steel production and transportation thereof, unions have been a part of Pittsburgh’s local fabric since the city made a name for itself — and they continue to be essential to fighting for better conditions not only in the workplace, but at home. 

There have been some big wins for Pittsburgh unions recently, including a win for fairer scheduling and more favorable tipping policies at local chain Coffee Tree Roasters and a union for Pitt’s own faculty currently aimed at just compensation for adjunct professors and salary floors for full-time faculty, among other issues

Other efforts have been met with fierce opposition. Journalists and craft union members from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have been on strike for over eight months now demanding affordable healthcare but have yet to receive a satisfactory response. Meanwhile, Pitt’s own graduate students have expressed a need to unionize as they struggle to cover rising bills with the University’s stipend. 

As you’ll see, it’s graduate students who will teach your lab courses, grade many of your assignments, tutor you and put together course materials. When the people responsible for educating you aren’t being taken care of, your education is bound to suffer.

I don’t mean to sound negative by raising current issues in the city. Rather, I want more students to understand the context of our existence here. We have the privilege to live and grow in this vibrant city whose residents I promise will make you feel at home. All Pittsburgh asks in return is that we’re aware of the inequalities present in our city and that we care about participating in the solutions. The worst thing Pitt students can do is be ignorant about City issues and stay checked out in our Oakland bubble, treating campus like a personal playground. 

It’s hard to pin down quite what I mean by treating Pittsburgh like home. It might mean choosing a local business for your morning coffee, even if it’s a little more expensive, because you value investing in Pittsburgh ideas and lives. Maybe it means spending more time in one of the city’s countless unique neighborhoods. It means voting in county elections, not just national ones, because it’s the county executive who sets the priorities for all county decisions. It means taking out your trash promptly from your off-campus apartment. It means treating unhoused people around the city like humans, not demonizing them online or ignoring them outright. 

Most of all, it just means living with an awareness of your identity as a student, a sensitivity to how the rest of the city might be both wary and weary of oblivious college students, an ear to the ground to local happenings and a heart that cares about what your neighbors think and need. Talk to chatty strangers on the bus. Go to Jam on Walnut. Show up to Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board meetings and make public comments on its leadership’s unacceptable callousness toward inmates. 

Pittsburgh has 300,000 permanent residents but over 80,000 university students. Imagine the potential if every one of us spent just a little bit more time catching up on local news, or joining a single off-campus community organization, or making an effort to get to know someone who lives here and what they care most about — it could be a coworker, a professor, someone you always see at the public library or anyone. 

Mobilizing this many people, even as voters alone, would drastically change the way our city is governed and the priorities of its leaders. I hope that you, from the moment you step on campus, no matter how overwhelming college life can be, commit to being a part of that wave.

About the Contributor
Livia Daggett, Assistant Copy Chief
Livia Daggett is a junior double majoring in politics-philosophy and nonfiction writing. They love that this is the only job where you get paid exclusively for nitpicking. You can find them petting other people’s cats and agonizing over whether to go to law school. Email them at  with places to get a yummy meal in Pittsburgh for less than $10 or complaints in solidarity about the AP policy on Oxford commas—one day, we’ll all wear them down together.