In its first meeting of the new school year, Pitt’s Student Government Board picked up where it left off on the most pressing projects from the spring.
Chief among those were its efforts to improve relations between Oakland’s student majority and the neighborhood’s permanent residents.
On Tuesday night, SGB announced that the former Community Outreach Committee and Governmental Relations Committee, which operated during the last school year, have merged to form a single new committee: the Community and Governmental Relations Committee.
The move rebrands a board-wide effort to bridge neighborhood relations, decrease student run-ins with Pitt police and address issues students have with the homes they rent near campus.
Nicholas Fisher, a junior political science and communication major, will chair the new committee. He said because the chairs of the two former committees worked closely together in the past — particularly to put on events — it was a clear choice to blend the committees into one.
“The committees were tied very closely together,” Fisher said. “Having it all in one place gets you great coordination at events.”
Though the two former committees were moving toward this merger last year, the new committee isn’t just a compilation of the old. The former Community Outreach Committee operated and coordinated Pitt Make a Difference Day in tandem with the Office of PittServes. With the merger, Fisher said the newly formed committee completely gave over the coordination and planning of PMADD to the Office of PittServes.
In leading the committee, Fisher said he hopes to promote more community involvement in the neighborhoods where students live, such as South Oakland. Former Governmental Relations Chair Pat Corelli pushed to form a Student Tenant Association last school year designed to connect students to their non-student neighbors and foster relationships with Oakland and South Oakland residents.
Last year, Correlli said the SGB-appointed board members would attend the community group Oakwatch’s meetings. The Association would also serve as a middleman to connect students to city services, including the building inspection office, to address housing and other concerns.
This year, Fisher said though he plans to continue Corelli’s legacy, he’s going to focus more on building relationships among students, administrators and campus leaders.
At the Pitt Community Forum on Sept. 22, Fisher said students will pose questions to administrative leaders, police and local elected officials. Among the leaders attending the event are Pitt Police Chief James Loftus, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay and Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus.
Students must submit questions ahead of time, Fisher said, and the committee members will choose the questions they believe will lead to the best discussion among students and panel members.
In other news, board member Alyssa Laguerta announced she will be working on an ad hoc diversity committee. She said the committee will make sure SGB stays involved in the discussion of diversity on campus.
“I thought it was part of SGB’s responsibility to engage in this conversation,” she said. “[The committee] will hopefully become a sustainable part within the structure of SGB itself.”
Student groups and Pitt’s administration have called for a focus on diversity and inclusion. Earlier this year, the University announced that the 2016-17 academic year would be the “year of diversity and inclusion.”
Laguerta and the committee are working to create a new publication, called Pitt Voices, that will “highlight the voices of those who might not always be heard or are underrepresented on campus,” she said.
Although she said the publication is still in the planning stage, it will most likely feature interviews with people passionate about diversity and that showcase the campus community.
Laguerta said the committee is also planning a second human rights conference. Last spring, board member Robert Tessier held the first human rights conference at Pitt to promote campus-wide conversation about human rights. The committee will reach out to local organizations about the possibility of speaking for this year’s conference.
SGB president Natalie Dall, in her first meeting at the helm, said she is working to make sure SGB continues to raise awareness about sexual assault. Her own project this semester is to take a closer look at the University’s policies — such as how it applies the federally mandated Title IX policy — and compare them to other schools. She said she wants to make sure the policies are “up to par.”
“I’m still not sure if I want to change anything. I just want to see how we fall and what we could be doing better,” she said.
No student groups made requests for allocations at Tuesday’s meeting.