[HOME]

  1. Introduction
  2. Open Letter to the Board of Trustees
  3. University's Response to Open Letter
  4. Response to University
  5. YouTube Documentary
  6. Preuniversity Settlers
  7. Oakland Bill of Rights
  8. Declaration of Freedom
  9. Problems
  10. Solutions
  11. Actions
  12. UPMC
  13. PITT
    SempleFest
  14. Jul. '09
  15. Aug. '09
  16. Sept. '09
  17. Oct. '09
  18. Origin of SOUL
  19. WPXI - Group talks trash
  20. National Disgrace
  21. Gratitude
  22. Support Letters
  23. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  24. Pittsburgh City Paper
  25. Media - Broken Trust?
  26. Feb. '10
  27. Jun. '10
  28. Done Deal?
  29. Mayor's Reply
  30. Pitt Fireworks
  31. Pitt Fireworks
  32. Pitt Fireworks
  33. Aug. '10
  34. Sep. '10
  35. Letter to Legislators
  36. Letter to Chancellor
  37. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  38. A Call for Compassion
  39. WPXI Coverage
  40. Human Dignity
  41. Letter to the Editor
  42. SempleFest
  43. Request for Apology
  44. The Shame of a University
  45. Firebombs Must End
  46. Call To Action
  47. Fireworks Press Release
  48. Shadow on the Lawn
  49. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Article
  50. Right-to-Know Law Testimony
  51. University Impact Aid Law
  52. Proposal University Impact Aid Law
  53. Nordenberg Must Resign
  54. Allegheny County Council Testimony
  55. Time for New Leadership Message
  56. Time for New Leadership Testimony
  57. Class-Action Lawsuit?
  58. Nordenberg Must Resign Paid Message
  59. Time for A New Beginning
  60. Letter to the Editor
  61. Letter to the Editor
  62. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  63. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
  64. A New Paradigm
  65. In Memoriam: Robert "Bob" Casciato
  66. Symbol of Domination
  67. Revised University Impact Aid Proposal
  68. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  69. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  70. Community Objectives
  71. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  72. City Planning Commission Testimonies
  73. Letter to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher
  74. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  75. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  76. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  77. End The Shame
  78. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  79. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  80. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
 
Enough Is Enough! Trashed street photo.

[HOME]

  1. Introduction
  2. Open Letter to the Board of Trustees
  3. University's Response to Open Letter
  4. Response to University
  5. YouTube Documentary
  6. Preuniversity Settlers
  7. Oakland Bill of Rights
  8. Declaration of Freedom
  9. Problems
  10. Solutions
  11. Actions
  12. UPMC
  13. PITT
    SempleFest
  14. Jul. '09
  15. Aug. '09
  16. Sept. '09
  17. Oct. '09
  18. Origin of SOUL
  19. WPXI - Group talks trash
  20. National Disgrace
  21. Gratitude
  22. Support Letters
  23. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  24. Pittsburgh City Paper
  25. Media - Broken Trust?
  26. Feb. '10
  27. Jun. '10
  28. Done Deal?
  29. Mayor's Reply
  30. Pitt Fireworks
  31. Pitt Fireworks
  32. Pitt Fireworks
  33. Aug. '10
  34. Sep. '10
  35. Letter to Legislators
  36. Letter to Chancellor
  37. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  38. A Call for Compassion
  39. WPXI Coverage
  40. Human Dignity
  41. Letter to the Editor
  42. SempleFest
  43. Request for Apology
  44. The Shame of a University
  45. Firebombs Must End
  46. Call To Action
  47. Fireworks Press Release
  48. Shadow on the Lawn
  49. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Article
  50. Right-to-Know Law Testimony
  51. University Impact Aid Law
  52. Proposal University Impact Aid Law
  53. Nordenberg Must Resign
  54. Allegheny County Council Testimony
  55. Time for New Leadership Message
  56. Time for New Leadership Testimony
  57. Class-Action Lawsuit?
  58. Nordenberg Must Resign Paid Message
  59. Time for A New Beginning
  60. Letter to the Editor
  61. Letter to the Editor
  62. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  63. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
  64. A New Paradigm
  65. In Memoriam: Robert "Bob" Casciato
  66. Symbol of Domination
  67. Revised University Impact Aid Proposal
  68. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  69. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  70. Community Objectives
  71. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  72. City Planning Commission Testimonies
  73. Letter to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher
  74. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  75. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  76. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  77. End The Shame
  78. Pittsburgh City Council Testimony
  79. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher
  80. Letter to Chancellor Gallagher

Right-To-Know Law Testimony

The following testimony was given to
Pennsylvania State Legislators on January 11, 2012

I would like to voice my support for House Bill 2051 which would bring universities such as the University of Pittsburgh completely under the Right-to-Know Law. Legislators are now realizing that the reasons the universities gave for exemptions under the present law were spurious, and they are taking action to right that wrong. Not only must legislators remove that exemption, but they also must close any loopholes that prevent universities from being more honest with the public.

I am from the community of Oakland in Pittsburgh where the University of Pittsburgh has its campus. In March of 2007, I started a grassroots movement in an attempt to end the domination of the University over our community, especially the elderly long-time residents. Pitt’s exemption from the Right-to-Know Law is one of nine issues that confront our community and are results of the University’s presence.

Our efforts to end Pitt’s domination are documented on the website www.oaklanddignity.com. Human dignity must be the highest priority of a university. Until that occurs, that website and this type of legislation are necessary.

My experience with the Right-to-Know issue began in 2010 with Pitt’s Homecoming Week fireworks display, which originates just several hundred feet from the homes of elderly people in our community. Because a Pitt administrator was dishonest with me when he said that decibel readings were taken for the previous year’s fireworks display, I went to Pitt’s payment office to seek a copy of the University’s invoice from the fireworks manufacturer that would verify the number and type of fireworks used. I was turned away with the admonition: “We are exempt from the Right-to-Know Law.”

I then asked for help from our local councilman and he received this reply from Pitt’s Government Relations office: “The fireworks were sponsored with student activities fees. There was no government money used for this campus event, therefore there is no reason to disclose.” You must close this loophole, which prevents our right to know just because student money is used to pay for an event.

I then contacted the local ACLU office for assistance but received none. I was sent a letter stating that it gives priority to cases where the ACLU’s participation can benefit a large class of people or lead to a positive change in the law. I do hope that recent events at Penn State are a wake-up call for the ACLU, and that it is now working with the legislature to protect the public on this important legislation.

For years, on the Friday before Pitt’s finals week, drunken revelers would completely take over a street in our neighborhood. In one year, there were approximately 1,200 participants resulting in 73 documented offenders, of which 18 were Pitt students. While non-students face the possibility of having their names and photos in the local newspapers or on television, our community receives very little information from Pitt administrators about the Pitt students who break the laws in our community. We certainly understand that students have rights, but just as importantly, so do residents of our community. The legislature must close this loophole that prevents our community from getting full information about students who go through the University’s Judicial Board process.

The overwhelming ownership of approximately 90 buildings in the community of Oakland is, unfortunately, not sufficient for the University of Pittsburgh. The university’s insatiable greed for further expansion has fostered a sense of entitlement, evidenced by the actions of Pitt’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Business who arrogantly told residents at a community meeting that expansion will never end.

Pitt’s desire to dominate our community was clearly evident as far back as 1967 when the General State Authority (GSA) declared eminent domain of a two-block area of South Bouquet Street, which is in the heart of our community, resulting in the demolition of homes, businesses, and also a church. The GSA then declared that only University buildings could be placed in that area. Nothing is sacred when the forces of greed and domination combine, and forty-five years later our community is still feeling the detrimental effects of that devastating decision. The legislature must help put an end to the greed and domination of this University by removing Pitt’s exemption from the Right-to-Know Law, and by protecting our community from further University of Pittsburgh expansion.

In addition to owning an inordinate number of buildings, Pitt also leases properties in our community. One example of the deleterious impact this expansion has on our community is the Park Plaza condominiums on North Craig Street, which are located across from St. Paul’s Cathedral. It used to be a serene place comprised mainly of elderly residents who had the convenience of having a family-style restaurant in their building, but Pitt’s greed took away that valuable amenity. A developer from Greensburg purchased the restaurant in 2008, and before the restaurant officially closed, Pitt signed a 10-year, $4.9 million dollar agreement to lease that space from the developer. The restaurant was demolished and the University took over the location. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and his administrators did not care what impact that expansion would have on the elderly residents, whose lives have been significantly and adversely altered. At this point, some residents have moved out, the value of units has diminished, and elderly people are choosing not to move into that building. Too often the suffering of people in our community has been buried beneath the silence of University personnel and, just as egregious, that suffering is cleverly masked by University personnel and their supporters who tell us that Pitt’s never-ending expansion is good for the economy. The legislature must ensure that all of Pitt’s lease agreements and construction contracts are accessible and open to the public and the media.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Form 990 tax returns of 2005-2009 show the University earned a net surplus of more than $651 million dollars. In addition, the legislature has given Pitt tens of million of dollars for each of those years. Some legislators naively believe the University’s surplus monies and state monies are shared with our residential community. Pitt gives ample funds for the betterment of Oakland’s business district where its profitable businesses are located. However, when our grassroots movement started in 2007, Pitt’s Direct Funding to the five residential organizations in our community was the paltry and shameful sum of $27,000. We asked the Chancellor for the reasonable amount of $100,000, which would be used only for salary payments of 10 at-risk youths who would work to control the community’s litter problem, a problem that is caused overwhelmingly by the vast number of students in our community. The program is known as SOUL (South Oakland Urban Litter). It is detailed at oaklanddignity.com Link 5. Ninety-six petition signatures in support of this program and four letters of support from state legislators were dismissed as meaningless.

The Chancellor refused the funding, telling our community to start a Neighborhood Improvement District. There are approximately 30,000 full-time students at Pitt. An investigation by the legislature will show that every year the Chancellor has been in office, he has given less than the equivalent of $2 of a student’s tuition fee in Direct Funding to the residential community. The Chancellor justifies this pitiful funding by stating the University does In-Kind Funding and this effort should be sufficient for the community. Grade school and high school students in our city conduct food drives and clothing drives, do volunteer work, and raise money for community organizations. Universities should be held to a much higher standard. The legislature must make certain that all sources of income and expenditures of the University of Pittsburgh are available to the public and the media, and that the funding the state gives to the University of Pittsburgh must be shared more abundantly with our residential community, which is severely impacted by this University’s presence.

The Board of Trustees has authorized over $2 billion dollars in construction during the leadership of Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Those decisions have severely impacted our community. When the University wanted to construct another dormitory in our neighborhood in 2009, I wanted to send an email letter to Mr. Stephen Tritch, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, to ask him what benefit the expansion would have for our community. When I could not get a University email address for him (not a personal one), I contacted the University Times newspaper. I was told that not even their publication could get this information. I had to deliver my letter to Chancellor Nordenberg and was told that it would be forwarded. I have yet to receive a response from Mr. Tritch. You must end the loophole that prevents the public from getting University email addresses for members of the Board of Trustees.

There is a culture of fear that exists within the University of Pittsburgh for people to speak out against injustices of the University. There are approximately 4,000 faculty members there and our grassroots movement does not have a letter of support from any of them. When I was at a Pittsburgh City Council meeting recently, to speak about the domination of the University of Pittsburgh over our community and others and about the injustice of Pitt’s never-ending expansion, a Pitt professor sitting next to me said: “I totally agree with you, but I will never say it publicly.” Ironically, the professor is an active member of Amnesty International, an organization that seeks to end injustices throughout the world. Members of the legislature must take back the power that they have given away to the University of Pittsburgh, and be an inspiration for University of Pittsburgh faculty and staff, as well as such entities as Pittsburgh’s City Council, Mayor, and Planning Commission.

Finally, our community deserves the right to know why a chancellor continues with policies that severely impact a community. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, during his 14-year reign, to the best of my knowledge, has never met face-to-face with members of our community to discuss our problems. We cannot honor and respect a leader who knows about the suffering in our community and allows it to continue. Some of us have called for the resignation of Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, and we look forward to the day when new leadership at the University of Pittsburgh places human dignity as the highest priority.

Carlino Giampolo

 

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