SGB, Black Senate leaders form student-run Pitt police advisory panel


Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer

Members of the Black Senate and Student Government Board have been meeting regularly with Pitt police to work on issues of accountability and transparency in the Pitt police department.

By Nathan Fitchett, Senior Staff Writer

A student-run “police advisory body” became an official subcommittee of the long-standing Chancellor’s Public Safety Advisory Council this week, according to Student Government Board member Kathryn Fleisher.

The panel — made up of SGB and Black Senate leaders — will discuss accountability and transparency-related items with the Pitt police. Fleisher said those involved are still finalizing further details about the subcommittee.

“More details will be coming soon as we work out an official mandate and formalize membership for the subcommittee,” Fleisher said.

Fleisher said the student-run police advisory body became an official PSAC subcommittee after a meeting with David Harris, who chairs the PSAC. Harris, a professor in the School of Law and expert in policing, is also on the Pittsburgh Community Task Force on Police Reform. Cedric Humphrey, SGB executive vice president, and Fleisher said they hope to continue their police accountability work next semester.

SGB wrapped up the fall semester at its final virtual Tuesday night meeting by discussing ongoing initiatives such as the police advisory board that will carry over to the spring semester. SGB also voted on a bill and resolution.

The board voted in full to pass board bill 2021-2, which provides several updates to SGB’s election code for the upcoming 2021-22 SGB election, after its introduction last week. The amendment changes some wording about referendums on SGB elections ballots. The election and judicial committees now must both approve a referendum before it is placed on the ballot.

The board also approved resolution 2021-1 in full. The resolution — also introduced last week — expresses SGB’s support for an amendment to PA Act 111 of 1968. Act 111 of Pennsylvania says police and firefighters are not allowed to strike and provides for disputes about union contracts or other matters to go to binding arbitration.

Fleisher also brought up SGB’s continuing efforts to improve conditions for student workers at Pitt. She said a finalized job satisfaction survey for student workers was sent out last week to the University’s human resources department to be approved and distributed next semester.

After an unprecedented semester filled with Zoom calls and social distancing, Student Government Board reflected on this semester’s initiatives. President Eric Macadangdang said he is proud of SGB’s accomplishments, despite roadblocks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know my fellow SGB members and I ran in last year’s election without an imminent pandemic in mind,” Macadangdang said. “But each board member and committee has really stepped up to the plate to make the best of what we had in front of us.”

SGB completed some goals for the fall semester, while others remain as larger long-term projects. SGB’s initiative to revise the governing code was completed early on in the semester, with board bill 2021-1 revising parts of the code to better fit with SGB’s current virtual operations.

But the board’s work to update the SGB constitution is still ongoing, with the constitutional task force’s final meeting on Friday. Ben King, vice president and chief of finance, said more updates on constitutional changes can be expected next semester.

Tyler Viljaste, vice president and chief of cabinet, said the civic engagement hub initiative is still underway. This initiative is an ongoing effort this semester to create a space on campus to promote students’ civic engagement. Viljaste said the formal proposal to create the hub is still in the works.

An initiative to create an LGBTQ+ student center is seeing similar progress, with a 63-member task force beginning to work on drafting designs for the center and creating a website. Viljaste said the work of the task force will continue into the spring.

During this semester, SGB also passed a resolution in support of a Black Studies general education requirement and worked to improve mental health resources on campus. Many of these initiatives were addressed alongside Pitt’s Black Senate in response to a list of demands released by 18 Black student organizations over the summer.

To close out SGB’s last meeting of the semester, Macadangdang said students should take time over break for self-reflection and self-care.

“I hope that we actually take some days, over the next couple of months, to put down our devices,” Macadangdang said. “Take a brief break from grad school applications, or doom-scrolling on twitter, and really reconnect with our inner selves here.”