Students call for sweeping reforms at SGB meeting following ‘pathetic response’ to shooting hoax


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

Student Government Board at its weekly meeting in Nordy’s Place Tuesday night.

By James Paul, Staff Writer

Student Government Board President Danielle Floyd called upon the University to improve emergency communication and mental health resources at SGB’s public meeting Tuesday evening following a hoax active shooter incident in Hillman Library Monday night. 

“What happened last night, to reemphasize, was truly traumatic and the utter lack of communication that happened was truly unacceptable,” Floyd said. “We are once again left begging and asking for basic resources when it comes to mental health.”

Police responded to a hoax active shooter threat at two buildings on Pitt’s campus Monday night. The highest concentration of police was at Hillman Library, where Pitt and City police evacuated and searched the building for a threat. One City police officer fired shots at a locked ground-floor door to gain access into the building, the sound of gunshots adding to students’ panic. 

It took more than an hour after police evacuated the library for Pitt to send out an Emergency Notification Service alert, which clarified that the threat was “unfounded and false.”

At the weekly meeting in Nordy’s Place, SGB held an open floor to allow students to voice concerns over the University’s response to the hoax. Students called for a more responsive ENS system, better mental health resources and an effective evacuation plan for students with disabilities.

Lucas McDonald, a junior political science major, said the delayed ENS response showed “a brazen disregard for the safety of the students.” He demanded that whoever is “directly responsible for this system” be held accountable. 

“I need to see some actual changes and not just the platitudes that we get after every single thing that ever happens here,” McDonald said. “There needs to be something to come of this because it may not have been real, but the terror that people experience over those 90 minutes — 90 minutes, by the way, 90 minutes — It’s disgusting, frankly.”

In an email Chancellor Patrick Gallagher sent to students Tuesday evening before the meeting, he acknowledged the weaknesses in the Pitt ENS system and said the problems are “both technological but also procedural.” 

“Our current emergency notification technology has proved to be insufficient,” Gallagher said. “The problems are both technological but also procedural. We will make whatever changes necessary over the long term and are also exploring immediate ways to make the right information available to the population impacted.”

Zach Shafer, a sophomore physics and astronomy major, criticized the “broad, vague details” of the University’s messages to students following the incident, and questioned what exactly Pitt would do to improve the ENS system.

Floyd said she had a meeting earlier that day with Vice President for Student Affairs Kenyon Bonner, where he said Pitt can make short-term improvements to the ENS system, but Floyd said he did not specify what those improvements are. 

“We talked about how many students were left up to their own interpretations — were getting more back from group chats, on social media, than from the administration — and that simply was not okay,” Floyd said.

Maxwell Wasserman, a sophomore civil engineering major, called for the immediate removal — either through resignation or termination — of the vice chancellor for Public Safety and Emergency Management Ted Fritz as a result of the delayed ENS response.

Fritz sent an email to students Tuesday morning, saying students “can and should expect to receive ENS messages in an active killer situation.” Fritz acknowledged that the ENS messages were both “delayed and flawed” during the Monday incident. 

“I don’t give a shit about how [ENS] is supposed to work, it didn’t work,” Wasserman said. “If this was real, people would have died because of the pathetic response on the part of the University. So yeah, he should be fired and I’ll be happy to tell him about it.”

Students previously criticized Pitt for its response to another hoax active shooter incident on March 29 at four high schools across Pittsburgh, including two in Oakland. During that incident, some students said they did not receive ENS alerts and others reported being locked out of their dorms.

One student who said they were on the fourth floor of Hillman Library during Monday’s incident recalled running down four flights of stairs. They said they wondered, after wearing crutches all of last semester for a knee injury, how anyone with disabilities would be able to evacuate in the case of a legitimate active shooter incident.

“I think there needs to definitely be a protocol that is set in place for students with disabilities and students who cannot physically run down those stairs,” they said.

Board member Sophia Shapiro and chair of the disability resource services ad hoc committee said an evacuation protocol for students with disabilities should “be at the forefront of all conversations” with administration and noted she brought this initiative up at various meetings with administration throughout the day.

“There’s a lot of students in wheelchairs, for example, that can’t go down the steps in case of an emergency and there absolutely needs to be a solid plan in place for that,” Shapiro said.

Devon Batty, a first-year political science major, was one of several students in attendance who criticized the University for not providing adequate mental health resources following the incident. She said students are not “supported in the way they need to be supported.”

Vice President for Governance Ryan Young shared Batty’s frustrations, namely criticizing the two-hour mental health counseling service event the University hosted Tuesday. Pitt hosted the event in O’Hara Student Center from noon to 2 p.m., and Young said the timing made it difficult for students to attend.

“I don’t know anyone that attended them,” Young said. “And I know a lot of people that would have wanted to attend to something like that, but they were in class or for whatever reason they weren’t able to make that time.”

In a statement released by SGB moments before the meeting, they demanded Pitt repair the ENS system as well as issue an apology for how the University handled the situation. 

“The Student Government Board would also like to state its unwavering support for Pitt students and whatever responses they see necessary during this crisis, whether it be civil disobedience, taking classes online, or demanding action from University officials,” the statement said.


Global Medical Brigades, a medical service organization, requested $2,247.50 for storage space for supplies they will take abroad on future service trips. The board voted to approve the request in full.

Reform University Fellowship, a Christian student organization, requested $2,099.56 for registration and transportation to send four delegates to a summer conference. The board voted to approve the request in full.