University of Pittsburgh
February 2, 2009

Chancellor Nordenberg Issues University Update on Super Bowl Aftermath in Oakland

Contact:  412-624-4147

To: Members of the University Community

From: Mark A. Nordenberg

Date: February 3, 2009

Re: Super Bowl "Celebrations"

Each August, the University formally launches the new academic year at our annual Freshman Convocation. As one important part of that ceremony, newly enrolled undergraduates rise and collectively commit to "The Pitt Promise." They are led, from the podium, by the elected President of the Student Government Board and by a wide range of other student leaders, who appear on the Petersen Events Center's big screen. This is their pledge.

The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility

The University of Pittsburgh is committed to the advancement of learning and service to society. This is best accomplished in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility, self-restraint, concern for others, and academic integrity. By choosing to join this community, I accept the obligation to live by these common values and commit myself to the following principles:

As a Pitt Student:

I will embrace the concept of a civil community which abhors violence, theft and the exploitation of others;

I will commit myself to the pursuit of knowledge with personal integrity and academic honesty;

I will respect the sanctity of the learning environment and avoid disruptive and deceitful behavior toward other members of the campus community;

I will support a culture of diversity by respecting the rights of those who differ from myself;

I will contribute to the development of a caring community where compassion for others and freedom of thought and expression are valued;

I will honor, challenge and contribute to the scholarly heritage left by those who preceded me and work to leave this a better place for those who follow.

By endorsing these common principles, I accept a moral obligation to behave in ways that contribute to a civil campus environment and resolve to support this behavior in others. This commitment to civility is my promise to the University of Pittsburgh and its community of scholars.

The values embodied in this promise help define the culture of our community, and the fact that Pitt students almost always live up to their promise is a source of true institutional pride. However, this expressed commitment to civility was publicly violated by a segment of the many thousands of people who took to the streets of Oakland on Sunday night to celebrate the Steelers' Super Bowl victory. Regrettably, that group of offenders included Pitt students.

There were, of course, good reasons to celebrate the Steelers' historic triumph. For a record-setting sixth time, our hometown team brought the world championship of professional football back to Pittsburgh and did so through a victory in one of the Super Bowl's most exciting championship games. At Pitt, we not only share the general sense of regional pride triggered by the Steelers' win but are more closely linked by the bonds that come from sharing Heinz Field, as our game-day home, and the UPMC Sports Performance Complex, as our principal training facility. Even more directly relevant is the special satisfaction that comes from witnessing the successes of a team whose ownership and management have consistently reflected the values and principles that have made it the most widely respected franchise in all of professional sports.

For large numbers of people to celebrate this very significant win, then, was entirely predictable and might even have become a positive addition to a festive occasion. But for some within the group to distort a process of public celebration through acts that put others at risk of physical harm, that included the deliberate destruction of the property of others, that extended to attacks on local businesses that serve the members of our community on a daily basis, and that involved vandalism to facilities serving our educational mission and adding to the aesthetics and functionality of this campus is indefensible.

Because the disturbances lasted well into the early morning hours and involved so many people and because the large law enforcement presence in Oakland was drawn from different departments, our own police officers still are working to secure complete information regarding Sunday night's arrests. It also seems likely that additional arrests will be made as a result of the post-disturbance review of videotape and still camera photos that now is under way.

The University, of course, will cooperate fully with ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute those who are charged with crimes, whether or not they are Pitt students. The process of filing charges under the Student Code of Conduct against students who have been charged with crimes already has begun. Charges may also be filed against those who have violated our Student Code, whether or not they face criminal charges. Our judicial procedures provide for the fair and expeditious disposition of Student Code of Conduct charges, with available sanctions including permanent dismissal from the University.

As I have said publicly on many past occasions, the quality of Pitt students-measured by the strength of their character, as well as by their academic abilities-has been a source of special pride for those who care about our University. Unfortunately, good reputations can be lost far more quickly than they can be built, and the destructive actions of a relatively small group, whose conduct last Sunday evening crossed the lines defining acceptable behavior, have diminished the reputation of our entire student body and of our University.

As noted above and has been widely reported, this same group put others at risk of serious physical harm, deliberately destroyed University property and the property of others, and damaged relationships that are important to Pitt. Moving forward, we intend to deal, quickly and aggressively, with those who violated either the governing criminal laws or our own Student Code of Conduct, rebuild relationships with our neighbors, and work with student leaders to ensure that this type of disturbance is not repeated on any of our campuses ever again.