Student organizations navigate limited space in WPU sixth floor


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

The sixth floor of the William Pitt Union.

By Jack Troy, Senior Staff Writer

While Office of Cross Cultural Leadership and Development organizations are striving toward similar goals, the current configuration has them working “on top of each other” and fighting for their own space on campus, according to Laura Stravach, the vice president of Rainbow Alliance.

“So it does feel like ‘who’s going to end up winning?’ because we all deserve our own spaces,” Stravach, a junior film major, said. “But is Pitt actually going to end up giving us all our own spaces? I don’t know.”

Rainbow Alliance is one of the dozen organizations affiliated with the CCLC that has dedicated space on the sixth floor of the William Pitt Union. Other groups include Black Action Society, Asian Student Alliance, Hillel and Feminist Empowerment Movement, among others.

According to Student Affairs spokesperson Janine Fisher, though permanent office space is limited to CCLD organizations, outside groups can reserve common areas on the floor, including conference rooms, a kitchen and a lounge area.

Fisher said initiatives to update the sixth floor are in the works, but did not offer specific detail regarding such initiatives.

“Lack of space is an ongoing concern on campus,” Fisher said. “CCLD is working with student leaders to identify updates to the current space to maximize usage for students.”

Stravach said Rainbow Alliance wants to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students, but limited room sometimes makes that difficult.

“If you have a lot of people come hang out, because we have a lot of people that follow our socials, that are in our Discord, it gets crowded in here sometimes,” Stravach said. “So it’s not the most ideal space.”

Destiny Mann, president of the Black Action Society and a senior political science major, said while she can’t identify any specific difficulties created by sharing the sixth floor with so many others, greater space would allow CCLD organizations to feel “more appreciated.”

According to Mann, BAS is “making do” with the space they have, but would be able to better promote and structure an expanded space, with separate areas for studying and meetings.

Mann said the current BAS office isn’t enough for Pitt’s Black students, but given the general scarcity of space on campus, the organization must focus on making the most of the existing office.

The elevator on the sixth floor of the William Pitt Union. (John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer)

Jessica Ravenscroft, president of Rainbow Alliance and a senior biology major, said the organization is often forced to reserve rooms in the Cathedral of Learning to accommodate meetings, an arrangement that only works for “recurring spillover.”

“I don’t think you can book rooms and use them the same day there, so we would just probably use the CCLD lounge and if that’s closed then we’re kind of SOL,” Ravenscroft said.

According to Ravenscroft, the University likes to showcase the work of CCLD organizations, such as Rainbow’s advocacy for gender neutral bathrooms on campus, without offering them adequate resources.

“There’s a lot of things that Rainbow does to make the University more inclusive … and the University just kind of piggybacks on that,” Ravenscroft said. “They don’t give us the most support, but they do want us to do a lot of the heavy lifting for that sort of event.”

BAS has “been in talks” with CCLD about updating the office, Mann said.

Mann said renovating the “colorless” BAS office, which has the same faded furniture and beige walls from when she joined in 2018, would make it a more functional and inviting social space that reflects the organization’s identity.

“Blackness is so creative and vibrant, and right now our office isn’t necessarily giving the same … energy that we would want to display to the Black students,” Mann said.

Ravenscroft said there are some benefits to working together in such close quarters, allowing for in-person communication between organizations, something she described as “a lot faster” and “more personal” than interacting via email.

Looking ahead, Ravenscroft said while Rainbow Alliance hasn’t been in communication with the University about better accommodations, the Student Government Board is looking to establish an LGBTQIA+ center that the organization would likely be absorbed into.

“Currently, there’s a task force with SGB that’s working on getting that space, but it’s a little tough because, as Laura was saying, everyone wants their own space,” Ravenscroft said.

According to Mann, the sixth floor has a lot of unused potential for collaboration, but students tend to focus on their own organizations.

“CCLD could be so amazing just to see all the diversity on the floor, but instead I feel like we all kind of just stay in our own little bubbles, we stay in our offices, so there isn’t as much collaboration as I feel like a lot of people want it to be,” Mann said.