John R. Allen
February 19, 2018
The Gilded University Cage
This is my third letter to you concerning a study conducted by the Brookings Institution titled “Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city”, in which we asked you to conduct an investigation and respond. You continue to choose silence.
You are one of the many who have been silenced by the Litchfield Consciousness in regard to the University of Pittsburgh’s uncontrolled growth in its host community. Over 5,000 faculty members and 7,000 staff have done the same. There are those at the university who are well aware of the destruction in Oakland caused by the administrators’ decisions, and who would want to see that destruction end, but their voices have been muted. They are entrapped in what I will refer to as “The Gilded University Cage”. Fear of retribution, reprisals, retaliation and revenge render them unable to fully express their thoughts and feelings. They work in an environment where they lack the intellectual freedom to be honest.
Your institution is now entrapped in its own gilded cage. The above 72-page study was filled with economic data but makes no reference of how the recommendations would impact the longtime residents of our community. Their dignity was completely ignored. The Litchfield Consciousness, in which economic gain trumps human dignity, has reached Washington D.C.
Your silence speaks volumes. It reveals that the spark for courage is a deep level of caring for oneself, one another, country, community, cause or any endeavor that requires courage to be put into action. In the “The Litchfield Consciousness” article at www.SavePantherHollow.com, I made reference to a man who travelled to Congress in order to stop the destructive plans of Edward Litchfield. Like you, he was a former Marine. He fought in the jungles of the South Pacific in World War II. Dozens of other men on our street fought in that war, and then later, with the support of the women in our neighborhood, fought Litchfield and his supporters who sought to destroy their homes. The difference between your silence and their action is how deeply they cared about human dignity and the heritage of their community. They are our heroes and we will continue their efforts to protect and preserve our community.
In my previous letter to you on January 8, I provided you with a link to a bombshell essay written by a former Pitt professor concerning sexual harassment and discrimination against people of color in the university’s Department of Communication. I mentioned that the shame in other university departments is likely to be brought to light. On February 4, a former tenured female faculty member in the university’s School of Medicine commented on that link. She talked about experiencing the pattern of administrative cover-up and harassment following her reporting of extensive research misconduct by a male colleague. She called her work environment a “toxic, immoral culture” and has filed a lawsuit against the university. This coincides with what I mentioned to you, in that same letter, about a female researcher from China who said, ‘There is more academic freedom in China than there is at the University of Pittsburgh.”
Your institution has aligned itself with the University of Pittsburgh but these are just a few of the troubling questions that you must answer to: Will there be an in-depth investigation by the university of any sexual harassment or discrimination against people of color? Will the university investigation be conducted with transparency, or in secrecy as the university once again hides behind the shield of being exempt from Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law? Will law enforcement agencies become involved and the perpetrators and enablers be brought to justice? Will the victims be compensated and employees protected going forward? Are the perpetrators and enablers currently employed? How many abused women and people of color suffered in silence because they didn’t trust the university’s avenues of complaint? How many decades ago did the abuses begin? How many women in position of power have betrayed other women? How many people of color in position of power have betrayed other people of color?
It was reported in a 1988 Pittsburgh Magazine article that Panther Hollow was not Edward Litchfield’s first choice for the location of his proposed grandiose Research Park. His first choice was in the black community from the Upper Hill District to the Lower Hill District. The article went on to say, “Litchfield alluded to universities, as The Pittsburgh Press puts it, ‘protecting their flanks from encroaching slums.’” Is it plausible to conclude that discrimination against people of color at the university has occurred continuously from the 1960s to the present?
Central Catholic High School is often referred to as the best high school experience in Pittsburgh, thousands of male students have graduated from there since the 1960s. These students have life-long cherished memories that are forever a part of their lives. Central would have been demolished under Litchfield’s plan, but fortunately was preserved primarily because of the actions of the Panther Hollow community. However, either through their actions or inactions, some Central graduates support the building of a roadway through our neighborhood. Residents of Panther Hollow as well as 4 Mile Run have emphatically said that the roadway is not needed or wanted, and that it will eventually lead to the destruction of our two neighborhoods. Those who don’t believe that destruction will occur are either in denial, or ignorant of Oakland’s history
Gratitude and compassion are not attributes associated with the Litchfield Consciousness. The mayor’s former chief of staff and the current chair of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors is a graduate of Central. He has the honor of being selected as a Distinguished Alumnus. Yet in his position with the URA, he recently voted to fund Michael Baker International up to $120,000 to find a route to build this roadway that will eventually destroy our two neighborhoods. Coincidentally, the Allegheny County District Attorney is another Central graduate. He was asked to investigate the URA’s first grant application for the funding of such a roadway, but we are still awaiting the results. We have also been waiting to see whether or not he will conduct an investigation of the University of Pittsburgh since the reports of sexual harassment and discrimination against people of color were brought to light. The executive director of Allegheny County is another graduate whose mother-in-law’s family was Italian immigrants that settled in Panther Hollow. He uses the Brookings Institution study to justify the university’s purchase of yet another building in our business district and boasts, in Edward Litchfield’s style, how Pittsburgh will become the greatest innovation center in the world. The city councilman for 4 Mile Run is another graduate and has remained silent, refusing to exercise his power and position to be a champion for the residents there.
Our neighborhoods are an integral part of Pittsburgh’s future. We will not allow them to be destroyed to satisfy the ego or greed of any leader. In the past, we have called for the resignation of University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and the president of Carnegie Mellon University. Both resigned. We will again seek the resignations of those leaders who continue to force this roadway upon our two communities. We will take our actions to their places of employment, or anywhere they have influence, to have our voices heard.
Your institution is not the only one entrapped in a gilded cage because of the Litchfield Consciousness. Nine years ago we created the website www.OaklandDignity.com. Illustrated on it are the University of Pittsburgh puppets: The mayor, city council, planning commission, zoning board, media, organizations, state government. Each has its own gilded cage whereby individuals are not free to honestly express their thoughts and feelings. The University of Pittsburgh leaders have not taken responsibility for the decimation of Oakland. They blame each of these puppets for that ruination, either by granting them permission or supporting their actions.
At the top of that website we have the words: Human dignity must be the highest priority of a University. The University of Pittsburgh has ignored those words and we are all now seeing the consequences of that as individuals are starting to break their silence. We have said it often to university leaders: Shame that is masked, denied, ignored or numbed will continue to grow. Is human dignity the highest priority of your institution?
Like many others, you have chosen silence. Does your silence compromise your personal integrity? Does it further your self-respect? Is it congruent with your core values? Is it in alignment with your spiritual beliefs?
The Litchfield Consciousness is fundamentally weak. Its strength is derived from people that it needs: Enablers, puppets and victims who have given up their own power for silence. How can leaders of universities, foundations, and government, or anyone, dominate, manipulate or instill fear when there are no enablers, puppets and victims left? When this phenomenon occurs, the Litchfield Consciousness will cease to exist.
The key to unlock a gilded cage is choice. We hope everyone entrapped will make the right choice. We especially hope more individuals at the University of Pittsburgh will break their silence, and have the courage and confidence to leave The Gilded University Cage.