SGB to form task force for preserving names of independent student organizations


Emily Wolfe | Contributing Editor

The University is aiming to instate its new student organization name policy in fall 2020.

By Jon Moss, Assistant News Editor

Following a Friday meeting between members of Student Government Board and Pitt’s Division of Student Affairs, SGB will form a student task force to look into ways for independent student organizations to continue using their current names.

Last week, Pitt announced updated Student Organization Resource Center registration guidelines to student leaders which will block any independent student organization from re-registering next fall if University trademarks and wordmarks like “Pitt” and “Panther” are in organization names. Out of all 639 student organizations on campus, 393 clubs, or about 62%, currently contain one of these words in their names.

SGB President Zechariah Brown, Executive Vice President Anaïs Peterson and board member Eric Macadangdang released a joint statement Friday morning about the meeting and said one possible solution could be creating a new tier of student organization.

“We discussed what it means to be an independent organization, and exploring options in creating a new tier for student organizations so they can be SORC-registered, receive allocations and get to keep their name, while reworking what a truly independent student group would be defined as,” the statement said.

The task force will deliver a report to Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner with recommendations on how to accomplish this. Several high level officials within Student Affairs — Linda Williams-Moore, an associate dean of students and director of student life, SORC Coordinator Lynne Miller and Steve Anderson, an associate dean of students and director of residence life — will be involved with the task force.

No completion date has been established, but the joint statement said SGB is “working diligently to find solutions.” The board members added that additional information will be available at SGB’s next public meeting on Tuesday at 8:45 p.m. in Nordy’s Place.

Williams-Moore said she and SGB leaders had a “very productive and open” conversation Friday morning, and confirmed the student leaders will be presenting recommendations on how to proceed to Dean Bonner.

“I am looking forward to hearing the students’ recommendations as we continue to work together on these guidelines,” Williams-Moore said.

Independent student organizations currently make up 87% of all clubs on campus, while sponsored student organizations — which have an official association and working relationship with an operating unit of the University, and are not subject to the updated guidelines — compose the remaining 13%.

Current SORC guidelines prohibit student organizations from acting “in the name of the University,” which means representing the University or representing the organization as an official part of the University.

According to University spokesperson Meg Ringler, the guideline changes follow a summer audit of current SORC guidelines and student organization names that determined many student organizations were not in compliance with existing University policy.

“The review of guidelines and organization names made us aware of the discrepancies in student organization naming,” Ringler said in an email earlier this week. “As a result of these findings, we provided instructions and updates intended to clarify and ensure compliance with these existing guidelines by the start of the next academic year.”

The updated SORC registration guidelines allow for names of independent student organizations to include the phrases “at Pitt,” or “at the University of Pittsburgh,” to denote being located at Pitt. But many student leaders were still upset by the updated guidelines.

Pitt Archery President Julia Lam said she would be upset if her club was not able to use the University’s name or logos at tournaments, citing it as a way to express their Pitt pride.

“I founded the team and am proud of my past 3 years’ work on developing this club’s brand recognition within USA Archery, and changing it now would feel like a loss,” Lam wrote in an email.

Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said the University “always” encourages students to share their concerns with the University.

“Students are always encouraged to present their concerns to Students Affairs so we can work together on potential solutions,” Zwick said.