SGB addresses Tower B quarantine, dining concerns

Student+Government+Board+met+Tuesday+night+via+Zoom.+

Zoom Screenshot

Student Government Board met Tuesday night via Zoom.

By Nathan Fitchett, Staff Writer

Despite recent COVID-19 numbers showing an overall decrease in cases, Student Government Board warned students at its Tuesday night virtual meeting to continue to be mindful of safe quarantine practices throughout the remainder of the semester.

“Even as the numbers start to look better than in past weeks, there is no point in this semester where we should really let our guard down,” Eric Macadangdang, the board president, said. “Wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings and following proper hygiene should always be a routine that we continue to do throughout the entirety of the semester.”

Macadangdang’s comments were prompted in part by Pitt’s quarantine of about 60 students in Litchfield Tower B on Friday. The University took action after it saw an increase in cases coming from the residence hall in the last few weeks.

But the discussion of quarantining on campus was not all negative, with board members making a point to commend student organizations for finding ways to operate amid pandemic restrictions. Aboli Kesbhat, the allocations committee chair, said she has been happy to see the amount of clubs making an effort to continue operating this semester.

“I wanted to commend student groups who have made their programming accessible in a virtual environment,” Kesbhat said. “It has been incredible to see student groups still make strides toward their missions as organizations in a less than ideal environment.”

Besides discussing the state of the pandemic on campus, SGB also talked about its meeting with Compass Group, the ongoing Mental Health Awareness Month and the kickoff of SGB’s new civic advising program.

SGB met with Joe Beaman, Pitt’s dining services director, to discuss student concerns surrounding Compass Group, Pitt’s new dining service provider. Tyler Viljaste, vice president and chief of cabinet, said one of the main points discussed was concerns surrounding meal plan minimums for first-year students. Beaman said Pitt’s policies on meal plan minimums reflected that of other universities, which SGB contested by stating that wasn’t an excuse. Viljaste said it appears there may be room to amend these meal plans in the future.

Other concerns included a lack of food diversity in dining halls, as well as limited meal options for students with common food allergies. Beaman said Compass plans to address both of these areas in the future.

Board member Annalise Abraham said SGB wants to continue collecting feedback from students about how dining services can be improved.

“We really want to emphasize that, especially since we have a new dining provider this year, we believe it’s really critical to understand what parts of our dining system are working or not working for our students,” Abraham said. “We are actively thinking of new ways to continue this dialogue between students and dining staff.”

SGB also gave an update on the ongoing Mental Health Awareness Month, which kicked off last week with several online events. Last week’s events included a seminar from Active Minds on how to engage with peers about mental health and a webinar hosted by SGB’s diversity and inclusion committee on intergenerational trauma. The Black Action Society will host a workshop on Wednesday about Black wellness. Links for all of this month’s events can now be found on SGB’s website or on its Facebook page.

In an update from last week’s meeting, Cedric Humphrey, executive vice president, said the board plans to meet Friday with Pitt police chief James Loftus and Ted Fritz, vice chancellor for public safety. Humphrey said SGB plans to discuss dissatisfactions with the police’s handling of student concerns with police accountability on campus. He said he also wants to try to improve lines of communication between students and campus police.

This week also marked the launch of SGB’s Civic Advising Program, which will offer 35 hours per week of advising to all undergraduate students. Counselors walk students through a “civic pathways diagnostic,” which is a survey that helps to determine which areas of civic engagement are best suited for students interests and skills. Advisers then help students create long-term plans to engage with the civic service areas they are most interested in.

Macadangdang closed the meeting by again reminding students to reach out to SGB with any concerns they may have.

“I know I sound like a broken record, but Student Government Board’s success largely relies on communication from our student body, so please don’t hesitate to make your voice heard,” Macadangdang said.

Allocations

The allocations committee received six requests for a total of $5,239.82, approved $4,789.82 and postponed review on one request. Two of the requests required approval from the board.

Biomedical Engineering Society requested $1,120 for the 2020 National Biomedical Engineering Society National Conference. The board approved in full.

Women’s Choral Ensemble requested $1,800 for virtual choir video editing by Christopher Boyd. The board approved in full.

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