Student government board president Eric Macadangdang addressed the recent spike in COVID-19 cases on Pitt’s campus in SGB’s weekly Tuesday meeting. Macadangdang said SGB is discussing safety precautions in light of graduation and finishing the semester.
“With the prevalence of cases now on campus, SGB will be looking towards deliberating and considering suggestions regarding our risk postures, additional testing and other mitigation efforts to make sure that we have a safe campus,” Macadangdang said.
According to Macadangdang, in order to keep COVID-19 cases low, Pitt needs to not only make “individual choices,” but “institutional” choices as well in regards to vaccine distribution and safety restrictions. Macadangdang said it is “vital that Pitt stays proactive and preventative.”
According to Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office, there have been 30 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday, and 50 new cases stated in the report prior. According to the CMRO, large St. Patrick’s Day gatherings and the COVID-19 variant first found in the U.K. surfacing on Pitt’s campus caused the spike in cases.
SGB member Kathryn Fleisher encouraged Pitt students to adhere to safety guidelines in order to stop COVID-19 from spreading and affecting things like in-person graduation.
“I want to remind everybody that if we go too fast, we could risk everything, from in-person graduation this year, to COVID-related policies next year,” Fleisher said. “So please look out for one another, and please be responsible in these last few weeks of the semester. We really have the power to stop the spread of COVID on campus.”
SGB member Annalise Abraham, along with the rest of the board, introduced a resolution to urge Pitt to remove criminal history questions from its undergraduate admission application. According to Abraham, the resolution was inspired by the Ban the Box movement, which urges universities and employers to remove criminal history-related questions from applications.
Abraham said questions regarding criminal history “deter” people with criminal records from applying to college or jobs. She said Black people and people of color are “overcriminalized,” and including such questions “disproportionately deter” them from applying. She said implementing the resolution will make higher education “more accessible and more equitable.”
Abraham said passing the resolution is one way Pitt can help support those affected by criminalization.
“We believe that this is a move that we know that universities across the country are taking, and it’s really time for Pitt to do the same,” Abraham said. “This is only one small step that the University can take to support people and communities affected by criminalization and incarceration.”
SGB waived the resolution while reading it and deferred voting until next week’s meeting. The board will post a draft of the legislation under the “proposed legislation” tab on SGB’s website, according to Macadangdang.
Tyler Viljaste, vice president and chief of cabinet, introduced the Lauren’s Promise resolution, which states, “I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you,” at last Tuesday’s meeting. Lauren’s Promise, which advocates for campus safety, was created in response to Lauren McCluskey, a University of Utah student, who was killed on campus by her ex-boyfriend.
McCluskey made multiple reports to police and campus officials, but her reports were ignored and ultimately led to her death.
Alina Sheykhet, a Pitt student, was killed in 2017 by her ex-boyfriend in South Oakland. Before her death, Sheykhet mentioned emotional and physical abuse, potential break-ins and even filed a protection from abuse and restraining order.
The board unanimously approved the resolution, and according to Macadangdang, the resolution can be viewed under the “legislation” tab on the SGB website.
Danielle Floyd, wellness committee chair, and Preeti Venkat, academic affairs committee chair, created and sent out a survey to students to collect feedback on Pitt’s self-care day. In the past, many students were disappointed with Pitt’s self-care days, and felt they didn’t sufficiently replace spring break. Pitt students only had one self-care day last semester, but Macadangdang urged administrators to add a second self-care day in the spring semester.
Floyd said SGB created the survey to gather feedback and make sure professors and instructors were acknowledging the self-care day, and to “hold them accountable.”
“We thought it was really important to gather student feedback to just ensure that our professors and lab instructors are continuing to prioritize our mental health and our well-being during this very unique time of heightened stress,” Floyd said.
In his closing remarks, Macadangdang asked Pitt students to look at the Lauren’s Promise resolution, as well as the proposed draft for urging the removal criminal history questions from admission applications. Macadangdang said although the pandemic is ongoing, issues such as relationship abuse and discrimination should still be addressed.
“Even though we are in a pandemic — and that alone occupies a lot of our thoughts — higher education in general and Pitt in specific continues to have issues that lie outside of the pandemic that needs student input and solutions applied to it,” Macadangdang said. “These resolutions highlight two of those issues.”