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Statement from Dean James Martin II on Yesterday's Violence at the U.S. Capitol Building

To our Swanson School Community,

Yesterday’s events in Washington DC have given us pause only a few days into what we had hoped would be a promising new year. We always refer to DC as “Our Nation’s Capital” and “The People’s House” because unlike any other nation, those places are indeed ours. We share in that legacy of representative democracy as Americans – whether we are indigenous, or descended from immigrants or slaves, or if we are newly minted citizens. That is why what we witnessed yesterday viscerally hurt and shamed us. This is especially true for us in higher education, as we are dedicated toward creating new knowledge that advances the human condition and further developing the young minds that will one day succeed us.

I join Chancellor Gallagher in denouncing the violent acts of insurrection against the U.S. Capitol. We are a nation of laws undergirded by what should be a shared and respected commitment to the Constitution and to each other. Yesterday’s events – as well as the past year of social unrest and inequity – are in part a result of a loss of respect for our shared heritage, our laws, and what should be a shared concern for each other. When we supplant that respect with arrogance and fealty, our mutual bonds as Americans, citizens, and neighbors are broken.

I also echo the Chancellor’s confidence in our shared birthright to work toward a more perfect union, and his confidence in our students as future leaders. Over the past several months I have witnessed first-hand the determination and passion that our engineering students have for helping to bend the arc of the moral universe toward freedom. They are not hiding from arguments of racial injustice and socioeconomic imbalance; rather, they are committed to finding solutions for our Swanson School, our University, and the greater community. Some in our broken body politic may denigrate their passion as idealistic and sophomoric; I, like the Chancellor, believe our students are the foundation for a society better than what we have produced.

I hope you will join me in recommitting ourselves to the spirit of We the People, and to provide our Pitt students with the support, knowledge, and tools they need to build a more perfect union for all. Higher education is a most noble profession; universities have always been associated with the principles of freedom and are a conduit to create new knowledge and inspire learning. Likewise, engineering is a long-lived profession that furthers a healthy global society.

We have important work ahead of us. Together.


Author: Dean James Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering

Contact: Paul Kovach