SGB hosts Dean Panzella, discusses dining and diversity and inclusion grant


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

Carla Panzella, the dean of students, speaks at Student Government Board’s weekly meeting in Nordy’s Place on Tuesday evening.

By Kiera Ledermann, Staff Writer

At Student Government Board’s weekly public meeting, Carla Panzella said she is “pleasantly surprised” by the Pitt community’s willingness to work hard to address tough challenges, such as sexual assault and student wellness.

“The community is ready to work on these things,” Panzella, dean of students, said. “They’re ready to be guided, they want to do the work, they want to make these changes and evolve.”

Panzella and SGB addressed student questions and concerns, including questions about the new COVID-19 variant, inclusive dining options and excused absences on Election Day.

Annalise Abraham, Student Office of Sustainability liaison, asked Panzella if the University has plans to respond to the new COVID-19 variant, called Omicron. The World Health Organization has classified Omicron as “highly transmissible,” though scientists note they need more time to learn more about the variant.

Panzella said no changes to the University’s current COVID-19 response are underway, but she is confident that the COVID-19 Medical Response Office is having regular conversations about the variant. If the CMRO determines changes are necessary, Panzella said the University will communicate the changes to the students.

“I’ve certainly advocated that we share and communicate with students as often as we can, as clearly as we can, as soon as we can,” Panzella said. “So when we think that there’s going to be a change, we need to share that.”

A member of the Muslim Student Association, who is a senior, said he noticed an exclusion of Arab and Middle Eastern students from diversity initiatives.

“We don’t really get grouped in as like these POC, we don’t get awarded certain like diversity scholarships, because we’re all considered white,” the student said. “There are other campuses across the country that are making that distinction between what is considered white and are Middle Eastern people considered white.”

Panzella thanked the student for sharing and said she “couldn’t speak to scholarships,” but “wanted to acknowledge the complexity of the issue.”

“Being sure that we are thinking about all students being included in all different ways and how certain identifiers eliminate or exclude is sometimes a challenge,” Panzella said. “I think that when we think about diversity, equity and inclusion, a lot of times we’re focused on particular groups, but I think we’re certainly wanting to be inclusive of all.”

Another MSA member said he was concerned about the hours of Za’Tar, the halal food station in the basement of Litchfield Towers.

“It seems like almost every time down there, that section is closed. And I found that kind of shocking because a lot of students who are Muslim, that is the only place that they can really go and eat,” the student said.

Panzella said she would bring the issue to the dining services.

Another student said he had a couple of friends who recently experienced sexual assault and asked Panzella about her plans to help survivors. Panzella said she plans to start a “sexual assault advocates” pilot program to support people who report assault.
“We believe that having a support person outside of counseling, outside of the process, if you choose to report or if someone chooses to report and somebody can just be there for you,” Panzella said.

Bhuvitha Chagantipati, the chair of SGB’s diversity and inclusion committee, announced the launch of the D&I Collaboration grant. According to Chagantipati, the grant intends to promote collaboration between organizations and the committee will review applications on a rolling basis. Student organizations can request up to $500 for an event, with requests over the threshold handled on a case-by-case basis.

“The purpose of the grant is to promote interaction and discourse among student organizations and is aimed towards groups who normally do not collaborate with each other, or hold distinctly different perspectives,” Chagantipati said.

Isabel Lam, chair of the facilities, technology and transportation committee, said she and Lily Schneider, chair of the wellness committee, have finished and published a map showing the location of AEDs around campus. Lam encouraged students to contact her or Schneider with questions about the new map.

Board member Matt Moore said he will present the proposal for excused absences on Election Day on Friday to the Dietrich Undergraduate Council. Moore said in a previous meeting he hopes the initiative will be adopted by next year’s midterm elections.


The allocations committee reviewed 11 requests for a total of $54,294.38. The committee approved a total of $13,542.93. Of the 11 requests, six required board approval. The board approved a total of $28,004.88.

PIST Ski and Snowboard requested $13,200 to fund transportation to two trips to Jay Peak and Whiteface by Lake Placid for 96 students, and 48 students per trip. The board approved in full.
Women’s Club Frisbee requested $2,280 to fund transportation to and registration costs for a competition in Norco, California. The board approved $2,090 in accordance with the allocations committee recommendation to fund only the registration for undergraduate students.

The Muslim Student Association requested $6,897 for transportation, lodging and registration costs for a conference in Chicago. The board approved $5,000 to cap.

The American Marketing Association requested $3,600 to fund the cost of a room, coffee and lunch, parking for speakers, prizes and decorations for the student-led Pitt AMA 2022 Regional Conference. The board approved $1,150 in accordance with the allocations committee recommendation to approve only the speaker’s parking and the cost of the room.

The American Marketing Association also requested $8,622.63 to fund registration, flights, lodging and meals for 10 students to attend the AMA International Collegiate Conference 2022 in Chicago. The board approved $2,564.88 in accordance with the allocations committee recommendation to fund the registration, lodging and airfare for four members.

Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Club requested $4,000 to fund lodging for the undergraduate members at the national competition. The board approved in full.