Dear Pitt community: 

The calendar may still say summer, but fall classes have started, and last week’s heavier-than-usual traffic, nervous smiles and scenes of parents juggling both raw emotions and baggage carts reliably signal the start of a new academic year on campus. 

To our newest members: Welcome to Pitt! No matter where you are settling in—at Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown, Pittsburgh or Titusville—we are glad that you are there.

And to our returning faculty, staff and students: Welcome back—and thank you! I know that many of you will be spending the coming days reciprocating smiles, offering directions and continuing the traditions that build our University community.

As chancellor, this tradition—this symbolic fresh start—will never grow old. I look forward to filling this year with milestones, large and small, that advance our University’s noble mission of teaching, research and public service.

Yet, this academic year is already different. I am sure that many of you have been watching the news and reflecting on the hateful events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was especially unsettling that the shocking scenes of violence and bigotry did not occur in some faraway place. They occurred on a public university campus in a college town near the start of its academic year—a place and time much like where we find ourselves today.

In the face of turbulent times like these, it is worth remembering that a university is not a place or an idea, but a community dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. Learning and scholarship are not solitary—but social—activities. This means that the formation of a diverse academic community—one that is committed to the ideal that every member has the right to belong and contribute to this vibrant place of learning—enables our very mission as an institution of higher education. For this same reason, such a community cannot tolerate acts like intimidation, harassment and violence—that destroy its inherent purpose.

As we start this year, we renew our shared commitment to our fundamental values of diversity and inclusion, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, integrity and respect for one another.

I look forward to working together to ensure that our Pitt community remains strong, dynamic and true to its fundamental purpose: To make the world a better place through knowledge.