Pitt police Chief James Loftus answers student questions at SGB meeting


TPN File Photo

Pitt police chief James Loftus.

By Donata Massimiani, Staff Writer

Pitt police Chief James Loftus made an appearance at the Student Government Board’s Tuesday evening meeting for a student Q&A.

Students asked a variety of questions, from safety tips to the department’s new partnership with the University Counseling Center. SGB officials also introduced the long-awaited final bill to alter the Elections Code, which is expected to receive a vote next week.

Tyler Viljaste, the board’s chief of staff, asked Loftus if he had any safety advice for navigating Oakland, as well as good practices for when you leave your house or apartment for extended periods of time, such as spring break.

Loftus said it’s important to have a “heightened sense of awareness” anytime students are walking around Oakland, and to keep windows and doors locked. Anytime students leave campus for breaks, Pitt police increases its patrols in residential areas, according to Loftus.

Annalise Abraham, the Student Office of Sustainability liaison, expressed her concerns regarding the department’s Higher Education Assessment and Response Team program. The HEART program provides response with mental health professionals to the scene of any mental health emergency on campus. 

Abraham said she agrees with the program’s “overall sentiment,” but does not feel it is best to always have police involved in mental health crisis situations to ensure student safety. She asked if there will be any future efforts to separate police officers and mental health professionals when responding to emergencies.

“As far as I am concerned, no. I think it’s intrinsic to the program that you have that co-response,” Loftus said. “I think it’s important to have the police there with the idea of stabilizing the situation.”

An audience member said some students have concerns about how their tuition is being utilized by Pitt police, and asked if Loftus could assure the money is being used correctly.

“Probably anywhere from 77% to 80% of budgetary costs are personnel, so you’re paying for people,” Loftus said. “Beyond that it’s cars, lights and maintaining cameras on campus. There isn’t really a lot of what you would call disposable income.”

Harshitha Ramanan, SGB president, reminded everyone of the many events taking place in February. The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Black Action Society are holding events for Black History Month, the Career and Internship Fair is taking place next week, and hazing prevention week will take place the last week of February.

Marcus Edelstein, the elections committee chair, presented a bill updating the current election code. The bill will be posted on the SGB website for Pitt students to read and leave comments, and a vote on the bill is projected to take place at the next public meeting.

Ryan Murphy, a board member and the vice president of governance, met with Pitt Votes fellows and discussed their initiatives for the semester, which include excused absences for Election Day and expanding on a voter ambassadorship program. He also attended meetings with staff members from the offices of Reps. Mike Doyle and Conor Lamb during ACC Advocacy Days to discuss voting accessibility for students.

Ramanan concluded the meeting by urging students to share any thoughts or concerns through SGB’s online “Fix it Pitt!” form.


The Women’s Volleyball Club requested $15,052.32 for flights to their national competition in Phoenix. The board approved $8,092.33, to cap.

The Salsa Club requested $2,000 to fund dance lessons every Sunday for their members. The board denied the request in full because the committee funded lessons for every Sunday last semester and “the organization has not made a reasonable effort towards shared responsibility this year,” according to Isabel Weir, the allocations committee chair.

Pardus CrossFit requested $1,200 to pay for the facility it rents out each Sunday, which provides access to equipment that students do not have on campus. The board approved the request in full.

Phi Delta Epsilon, a professional medical fraternity, requested $560 to send four delegates to a leadership conference in Philadelphia hosted by its national organization. The board approved $512.27, to the documented cost.

A previous version of this story referred to Abraham expressing support for the police to always be involved in mental health crisis situations to ensure student safety. Abraham does not support this. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Pitt News regrets this error.