University of Pittsburgh:

University of Pittsburgh: Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Provost Ann E. Cudd

Oppose_corporate_immunity
https://www.225.pitt.edu/content/download-campus-photos
We demand that the University of Pittsburgh oppose corporate immunity and stop lobbying Congress for such legislation. We demand that the University respect the rights of its students and workers upon return to campus, and stop any attempts to force them to waive liability.

The University of Pittsburgh is a member of the American Council on Education (ACE), an industry group that is currently lobbying Congress to grant blanket immunity to institutions and corporations from all coronavirus-related lawsuits. [1] This legislation seeks to limit workers’ and students’ abilities to hold institutions accountable should those institutions behave recklessly during the unprecedented reopening period planned for the fall semester.

ACE is lobbying for corporate immunity in the name of the University of Pittsburgh. As members of the Pitt community, we demand that the University withdraw its support for this initiative and stop lobbying in our names for legislation that would enable it to avoid accountability for recklessly endangering our health and safety. The University of Pittsburgh must state clearly and forcefully that it rejects, and will oppose, corporate immunity.  

The University has announced many guidelines and plans in the last few weeks to ensure a safe return to campus and a successful completion of the fall semester. Under the current plans, however, even classes taught remotely by faculty will still require an in-class presence by teaching assistants, other faculty, or staff members. [2] Additionally, staff members like custodians and food service workers who make the University run will still be required to work on campus, even if the majority of instruction takes place remotely. The risks associated with this will place a disproportionate burden on people of color. Across the country, over 30% of university and college workers are people of color, and so any reopening plan will risk the reinforcement of existing racial disparities. [3] In Allegheny County, Black residents are twice as likely to contract the virus as white residents. [4] Currently, the county is experiencing its highest rate of infection, with daily case numbers higher than they were in March or April. [5] If the University of Pittsburgh intends to bring students and workers to campus under these conditions, they must have every incentive to protect the health of our community.

As one of the largest employers in Western Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh must not encourage legislation that eliminates any legal incentive for the University to take safety precautions as workers and students return to campus.[6]  Blanket corporate immunity could shield universities and other large employers from liability if they:

  •    Unreasonably fail to provide students and campus workers with PPE.
  •    Fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that students can socially distance in classrooms and student housing.
  •    Are aware that a student has tested positive for COVID-19, and fail to reasonably trace and test other campus community members that the student has come into contact with.
  •    Fail to take reasonable steps to prevent students who are sick from coming to class.
  •    Unreasonably ignore clear guidance from state or federal public health officials.[7]

We demand that any return to campus take place under safe conditions, with the proper precautions in place. Corporate immunity would incentivize schools and corporations to discount safety concerns, and this is unacceptable.

We call on the University to:
  •  Stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity
  •  Announce its opposition to corporate immunity, and
  •  Pledge to not require students and workers to sign liability waivers.


______________________________________
[1] Danielle McLean, Higher-Ed Lobbying Group, Eyeing an In-Person Fall, Asks Congress for Liability Shields, Chronicle of Higher Education (May 28, 2020) https://www.chronicle.com/article/Higher-Ed-Lobbying-Group/248878
[2] Jon Moss, Faculty not required to be in person, but must provide ‘classroom experience,’ The Pitt News (June 26, 2020) https://pittnews.com/article/158587/top-stories/faculty-not-required-to-be-in-person-but-must-provide-classroom-experience/
[3] Daria Roithmayr, Gregg Gonsalves, Anthony Paul Farley, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, INSIGHT: Universities Should Stay Closed to Protect Workers of Color, Bloomberg Law (June 25, 2020) https://bit.ly/3eF3ceH
[4] Ryan Deto, Black people in Allegheny County twice as likely to get coronavirus compared to white people, Pittsburgh CityPaper (July 8, 2020) https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/black-people-in-allegheny-county-twice-as-likely-to-get-coronavirus-compared-to-white-people/Content?oid=17608146
[5] Western Pa. reports 303 new cases with Allegheny County's 200 leading the way, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 12, 2020) https://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2020/07/12/COVID-19-coronavirus-Allegheny-County-Western-Pennsylvania-cases-deaths-data-pandemic-38/stories/202007120123
[6] Pennsylvania Top 50 Employers & Industries: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (2019) https://www.workstats.dli.pa.gov/Documents/Top%2050/Allegheny_County_Top_50.pdf
[7] Sejal Singh, Students Oppose Corporate Immunity for Universities and Employers During the COVID-19 Pandemic, People’s Parity Project (June 3, 2020) https://www.peoplesparity.org/opposecorporateimmunityforschools/
Petition by
Julie Daw
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

To: University of Pittsburgh: Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Provost Ann E. Cudd
From: [Your Name]

We demand that the University of Pittsburgh oppose corporate immunity and stop lobbying Congress for such legislation. We demand that the University respect the rights of its students and workers upon return to campus, and stop any attempts to force them to waive liability.

The University of Pittsburgh is a member of the American Council on Education (ACE), an industry group that is currently lobbying Congress to grant blanket immunity to institutions and corporations from all coronavirus-related lawsuits. [1] This legislation seeks to limit workers’ and students’ abilities to hold institutions accountable should those institutions behave recklessly during the unprecedented reopening period planned for the fall semester.

ACE is lobbying for corporate immunity in the name of the University of Pittsburgh. As members of the Pitt community, we demand that the University withdraw its support for this initiative and stop lobbying in our names for legislation that would enable it to avoid accountability for recklessly endangering our health and safety. The University of Pittsburgh must state clearly and forcefully that it rejects, and will oppose, corporate immunity.

The University has announced many guidelines and plans in the last few weeks to ensure a safe return to campus and a successful completion of the fall semester. Under the current plans, however, even classes taught remotely by faculty will still require an in-class presence by teaching assistants, other faculty, or staff members. [2] Additionally, staff members like custodians and food service workers who make the University run will still be required to work on campus, even if the majority of instruction takes place remotely. The risks associated with this will place a disproportionate burden on people of color. Across the country, over 30% of university and college workers are people of color, and so any reopening plan will risk the reinforcement of existing racial disparities.[3] In Allegheny County, Black residents are twice as likely to contract the virus as white residents.[4] Currently, the county is experiencing its highest rate of infection, with daily case numbers higher than they were in March or April.[5] If the University of Pittsburgh intends to bring students and workers to campus under these conditions, they must have every incentive to protect the health of our community.

As one of the largest employers in Western Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh must not encourage legislation that eliminates any legal incentive for the University to take safety precautions as workers and students return to campus.[6] Blanket corporate immunity could shield universities and other large employers from liability if they:

• Unreasonably fail to provide students and campus workers with PPE.
• Fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that students can socially distance in classrooms and student housing.
• Are aware that a student has tested positive for COVID-19, and fail to reasonably trace and test other campus community members that the student has come into contact with.
• Fail to take reasonable steps to prevent students who are sick from coming to class.
• Unreasonably ignore clear guidance from state or federal public health officials.[7]

We demand that any return to campus take place under safe conditions, with the proper precautions in place. Corporate immunity would incentivize schools and corporations to discount safety concerns, and this is unacceptable.

We call on the University to:

• Stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity
• Announce its opposition to corporate immunity, and
• Pledge to not require students and workers to sign liability waivers.

______________________________________
[1] Danielle McLean, Higher-Ed Lobbying Group, Eyeing an In-Person Fall, Asks Congress for Liability Shields, Chronicle of Higher Education (May 28, 2020) https://www.chronicle.com/article/Higher-Ed-Lobbying-Group/248878
[2] Jon Moss, Faculty not required to be in person, but must provide ‘classroom experience,’ The Pitt News (June 26, 2020) https://pittnews.com/article/158587/top-stories/faculty-not-required-to-be-in-person-but-must-provide-classroom-experience/
[3] Daria Roithmayr, Gregg Gonsalves, Anthony Paul Farley, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, INSIGHT: Universities Should Stay Closed to Protect Workers of Color, Bloomberg Law (June 25, 2020) https://bit.ly/3eF3ceH
[4] Ryan Deto, Black people in Allegheny County twice as likely to get coronavirus compared to white people, Pittsburgh CityPaper (July 8, 2020) https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/black-people-in-allegheny-county-twice-as-likely-to-get-coronavirus-compared-to-white-people/Content?oid=17608146
[5] Western Pa. reports 303 new cases with Allegheny County's 200 leading the way, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 12, 2020) https://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2020/07/12/COVID-19-coronavirus-Allegheny-County-Western-Pennsylvania-cases-deaths-data-pandemic-38/stories/202007120123
[6] Pennsylvania Top 50 Employers & Industries: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (2019) https://www.workstats.dli.pa.gov/Documents/Top%2050/Allegheny_County_Top_50.pdf
[7] Sejal Singh, Students Oppose Corporate Immunity for Universities and Employers During the COVID-19 Pandemic, People’s Parity Project (June 3, 2020) https://www.peoplesparity.org/opposecorporateimmunityforschools/