Pitt, community prep for tailgates for Penn State football game

By Lauren Rosenblatt and Emily Brindley / The Pitt News Staff

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In August, Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner was already planning ways to keep rowdy students under control during Saturday’s Pitt vs. Penn State football game.

For most football games, Pitt launches a messaging campaign for students through social media, Campus Connect messages and Pitt’s website encouraging students to “celebrate responsibly” before, during and after the game.

But for Saturday’s game, now only four days away, Pitt is preparing a more extensive campaign encouraging students to party responsibly and be conscious of those around them.

The expanded messaging campaign is the result of an unofficial task force Bonner announced in August, which included representatives from the police department, Student Affairs, Pitt Athletics and the Title IX Office to make sure all branches of the University were “on the same page” for game day.

Bonner debuted the idea when he attended an Oakwatch meeting, a group of Oakland residents founded to bridge relations between students and permanent residents of the neighborhood.

“When we beat Penn State, we will be prepared,” Bonner said at the meeting.

Pitt did not formally announce the task force but instead marketed it as a temporary collaboration between the departments. According to Bonner, Pitt does not have additional plans for this game other than ramping up the messaging campaign.

“There aren’t any unique concerns, but there are going to be more people than we typically get, and there’s an emotional element to this game that we may not have with other games,” Bonner said. “We want students to be respectful of each other, but at the end of the day, it’s a typical football game where you have a lot of students converging on the North Shore.”

Bonner said the University will send out more messages than usual this weekend and will distribute handbills before students board buses to Heinz Field. According to Bonner, these messages will focus on sportsmanship and “respecting the rivalry.”

Although the University is encouraging camaraderie among fans, Twitter users on both sides of the rivalry have unofficially named this week “Pitt/Penn State hate week.” Penn State fans have also started a campaign on Twitter called White Out Heinz Field, encouraging Penn State students and fans to all wear white when they come to the game to make the Nittany fanbase more obvious.

In regards to amped up security and safety concerns, Pitt Police did not respond by the time of publication to comment about their preparations for the game.

Although attendees at the Oakwatch meeting in August expressed concerns about parties and other disruptive activity this weekend, Hanson Kappelman, co-founder of Oakwatch, said on Tuesday partying in Oakland has become less destructive in recent years.

“Over the last few years, we’ve generally seen a trend toward more responsible partying,” Kappelman said. “[But] obviously, Pitt-Penn State is the rivalry. That will draw extra attention from students.”

Kannu Sahni, Pitt’s Director of Community Relations, said for a game like this, more planning than usual is required. He encouraged students not to be bystanders but instead to reach out for help if they notice anything concerning.

“The goal is not to get people in trouble,” Sahni said. “The goal is to keep people safe.”

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