Hennigan reflects on 2016, looks to future


Written By Josh Croup, Editor-in-Chief

A primary goal for Point Park President Paul Hennigan in 2017 is to finish fundraising the $14 million needed to complete the Pittsburgh Playhouse, he told the Globe Friday as he reflected on 2016 and looked ahead to the next calendar year.

“Spatially, to see it now, I’m jumping out of my skin,” Hennigan said of the Playhouse.

The construction of the new Playhouse is slated to conclude in 2018. Hennigan said the university has already fundraised $46 million for the Playhouse, which includes donations from trustees, foundations, corporations, alumni and a $5 million state grant.

The final beam for the Playhouse was on display for the Point Park community to sign last week. According to a media release from the university, the Playhouse is about 30 percent complete. The work site will be covered this month so construction can continue throughout the winter season.

Additional work on the Playhouse is currently being completed off campus, including the restoration of the stained glass ceiling in the Stock Exchange Building, and the three Forbes Avenue facades that are being restored to use in the Playhouse outdoor courtyard.

The Playhouse construction will create challenges for the university that Hennigan said the school would have to work through in the next calendar year, including increasing housing options on campus and securing the facility and its three entrances.

He said the next need for the university facility-wise is leasing more property for student housing, preparing for an increase in on-campus enrollment as the Playhouse moves from Oakland to Downtown.

“I do think more and more students will want to live here if we can get the price point right,” Hennigan said. “Once the Playhouse gets here and everything’s down here, I think more students will want to live here.”

He said the Point Park’s police department, which introduced body cameras and began carrying Narcan in 2016, must next prepare for the opening of the Playhouse.

Students will all enter the Playhouse through the University Center on Wood St., patrons will use the Forbes Ave. entrance and a service entrance is on Fourth Ave. The department will have to figure out its strategy in securing those three entrances, along with the inside of the structure.

Point Park police have dealt with an increase in on-campus harassment in the weeks following the Nov. 8 presidential election, Point Park Chief of Police Jeffrey Besong said in an email to students Nov. 14.

Multiple campus leaders expressed their concerns with safety in last week’s Globe story detailing the rise in harassment, particularly on Wood St. and in the ground covered between Lawrence Hall and the University Center.

Hennigan said to now expect a regular Point Park police officer patrolling Wood St.

Point Park police use the same safety system as Ohio State University (OSU), which had to put its training into action when a man drove his car into a group of students and stabbed others with a butcher knife Nov. 28.

ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evaluate, includes the “Run, hide, fight” instruction OSU Emergency Management sent out to students during the attacks.

Hennigan said the university trains regularly for the possibility of an attack or threat on campus.

“You talk about it, you plan for it, you train for it, but when something bad like that happens, you hope that all of the training kicks in,” Hennigan said. “We can get a lot of the right people here very quickly. We have a lot of them around who know what they’re doing. I’d like to believe that if something unfortunate were ever to happen downtown, that all of these first responders would do what they’re trained to do.”

Point Park also began negotiating with its full-time faculty members for their first union contract in 2016.

Talks began in earnest in May 2016 after Point Park chose to recognize its full-time faculty’s right to form a union in July 2015.

Negotiations have continued since between the university and the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/Communications Workers of America, which represents the full-time faculty members.

“Both parties are working in good faith and the process continues,” Hennigan said. “Collective bargaining was not designed to be efficient. It’s unfortunate. It’s a very old law. It’s a clunky way of doing it. We have to work with it.”

The Guild negotiators informed faculty members last week that they secured a “temporary” benefit in the negotiations.

Michael A. Fuoco, president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, told faculty in an email that their health insurance costs will not increase in January, as previously expected.

The sides temporarily agreed to hold off any increase in health insurance costs. The Guild argued there should not be an increase in health insurance costs until there is a wage increase.

At the end of January, the sides will assess their progress and the state of the negotiations to determine if the health insurance costs will rise.

2016 at Point Park also featured the opening of the Center for Media Innovation and the food service provider transition from Aramark to CulinArt.

Among other goals in 2017, Hennigan said he hopes to continue implementing the new strategic plan and improving the Pathways for Success program.