SGB hears criticism of Sodexo, the University


Knox Coulter | Staff Photographer

Provost Ann Cudd makes a surprise visit to introduce herself at SGB’s weekly meeting. (Photo by Knox Coulter | Staff Photographer)

By Emily Wolfe, Staff Writer

Pitt’s Student Government Board had a busy meeting Tuesday night, fielding questions about recent Sodexo health violations, University planning and more.

SGB will hold its second Eat and Greet meeting this Friday — the first public opportunity for students to question Sodexo officials since revelations last week that the Allegheny County Health Department cited Market Central for 14 health code violations. A petition to replace Sodexo in Pitt’s dining facilities has climbed to more than 2,000 signatures since the health inspection.

Sam Smallwood, president of the Resident Student Association, asked at the meeting if SGB planned to address concerns about the violations.

“I hate to bring that up,” he said, “but I just want to know if there’s going to be something done about it.”

In response, board member Albert Tanjaya cited remarks by Abdou Cole, resident district manager of Pitt Dining by Sodexo, that a sanitarian has been added to the Pitt Dining management team. Tanjaya added that a second inspection a week after the first showed fewer violations than the first.

“There’s a lot about this that we as board members might not be completely equipped to answer,” board member Zechariah Brown said. “[Eat and Greet] would be a great time to talk to all the managers and really ask them the questions that you have and voice your concerns.”

Aaron Hill, president of Pitt’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, an organization of historically African American fraternities and sororities, voiced a complaint with a plot that he said the University had promised to set aside for NPHC during renovations of the quad, and which failed to materialize. Hill is particularly concerned with the University’s new Master Plan, which he said contains no plans for a NPHC plot.

“We are nowhere on their radar, even though we have been advocating for plots years before the Master Plan,” Hill said.

Hill described the plot as a monument to the organization and said during the meeting that NPHC had paid the University for this plot —  though he clarified in a follow-up email to The Pitt News that he had misspoken and no formal payment had occurred.

“My understanding of the agreement is the University would set aside the space for the plots, and we would have to fundraise for the actual monuments to be there,” he said in the email.

SGB seemed unfamiliar with the issue. In a conversation with Hill after the meeting, Executive Vice President Jahari Mercer and Tanjaya agreed that Tanjaya would bring up the issue at an upcoming meeting with Pitt Associate Vice Chancellor for Business and Auxiliary Services Jim Earle.

Mercer also advised Hill to follow up with the University directly, which Hill said he plans to do.

“We’re historically cultural organizations,” Hill said. “When a plot is created, it signifies at the University that those cultural organizations matter here at Pitt. And we gave them a chance and they failed us.”

The Pitt News has contacted Pitt about the issues Hill raised, but Pitt did not respond by the time of publication.

In the weeks leading up to midterm elections Nov. 6, SGB will also continue efforts to promote student voting. Community and Governmental Relations Committee Chair Ritika Bajpai said the committee will distribute materials informing students about their polling places and local candidates’ positions.

“We’re going to make a resource for the SGB website talking about the candidates for this area,” Bajpai said, adding, “It’s nonpartisan, of course.”

The Elections Committee is also starting to plan an even more local election — the annual spring Student Government Board elections. Elections Committee Chair Katie McLaughlin said the committee plans to soon begin spreading awareness about how to run, starting with a table in the Towers lobby on Halloween that will give students the opportunity to learn about running for SGB.

“You can stop by, get some candy and learn how to run for board and what that takes,” McLaughlin said.

After having postponed a vote on an allocations request from the Student Slovak Club for the past two weeks, the board finally voted Tuesday to deny the request in full after the club failed to send a representative to defend the request for three consecutive weeks. It had requested $2,250 for its Annual Slovak Festival, which it said mostly non-Pitt students would attend, leading to a recommendation to deny from the Allocations Committee.

The University’s new provost Ann Cudd also stopped by the meeting to introduce herself. She always enjoys hearing from students, she said, and added that she plans to start holding office hours later in the semester.

She also liked getting the chance to see the board in action, she told them.

“Seems very organized,” she said. “It’s very impressive. You go lickety-split!”



The Student Slovak Club requested $2,250 for a festival. The board denied in full.

Women’s Club Gymnastics requested $6,312.96 for a conference. The board approved $6,030 and denied $282.96.

Some of God’s Children Gospel Choir requested $2,715 for a concert. The board approved in full.

Mock Trial requested $1,951.97 to attend a tournament. The board approved in full.