Statues for sale: gently used

By Lindsay Carroll

As Pitt’s homecoming approaches, the much-discussed Paint the Panther statues are getting ready… As Pitt’s homecoming approaches, the much-discussed Paint the Panther statues are getting ready to prowl once again, although four will retain their current designs. Six fiberglass statues, a project of the 2007 Student Government Board under then-president Shady Henien, have been spray-painted gray and will be redecorated by new student organizations. The panthers of Black Action Society, Pitt Band, The Pitt News and Pitt Pathfinders, however, will not be redecorated. The Pathfinders and The Pitt News each bought their panthers from SGB for $4,000, at their own requests. SGB adviser Joyce Giangarlo said that the original price of the statues was about $4,700 each. The price tag for all 10 panthers from the Canadian company Heavy Industries was $47,850. Although she didn’t have the exact figures at hand, Giangarlo said the project cost about $60,000 in its entirety,’ including advertising, painting supplies and transportation. SGB president Sumter Link, who voted in favor of the statues as a board member last year, said the statues were not sold for less than their original value. He said that the board charged the organizations that asked to buy their panthers the amount it would cost to buy a replacement statue. ‘The original idea we had was that the group could buy it, and we would get another panther to replace it,’ said Link. ‘It would slowly increase [the number] of panthers without using more of the Student Activities Fund.’ He said the reason why the statues cost more last year was because the initial purchase included the mold as well, which increased cost per statue. The mold remains with the manufacturer. Giangarlo said that the BAS and Pitt Band statues will not be redecorated because of their good designs. SGB did not ask for money from those organizations because they don’t have those funds, she said. ‘We’re not trying to make money off of them,’ said Giangarlo. SGB public relations chairman Nikolai Condee-Padunov said that BAS and Pitt Band will not retain their statues indefinitely, but they will go unchanged for at least one more year. Link and Giangarlo said the money organizations paid for their statues will go back into the Student Activities Fund. Link said future boards may choose to buy replacement panthers, but the 2008 SGB chose not to buy more this year, because last year the statues were manufactured too late for homecoming. They were not unveiled until Jan. 10 of this year. The 2007 SGB was divided on whether or not to buy the panthers. At the end of the school year in 2007, the board had a budget surplus because organizations did not use all the money they claimed in their budgets. SGB and the traditions chair Amanda Satryan looked into different projects on which to spend the money. Satryan came up with the panther project to replace the idea of a homecoming parade, which would cost more money without long-term value, Giangarlo said. Rhajiv Ratnatunga, the 2007 allocations chair, said that the board had overturned the unanimous allocations decision not to fund the Paint the Panthers project. The board voted 3-3, with Henien casting the tie vote and former board member Bianca Gresco abstaining. ‘Even though we denied it, we suggested that it would be a sustainable project,’ said Ratnatunga. The vote was cast over the summer, and some board members felt they did not have enough information to make a decision, said Giangarlo. ‘Really, we should never do anything when the board is out of town like that,’ she said. Link said he did not know how this year’s board felt about the panther project, because they had agreed not to buy more this year. ‘We haven’t really talked about it much,’ about buying new panthers,’ said Link. ‘We didn’t want to buy them and not have them come in on time [for homecoming]. I don’t know how this board feels about it.’ Giangarlo maintained that the panthers were appreciated by alumni and the student body, reminding students that projects like Telefact, the bronze statue outside the William Pitt Union and the bus shelter by the Cathedral of Learning were all SGB projects. She said projects like Paint the Panthers can become a tradition, unlike paying for guest speakers, such as Geraldine Ferraro, for whom SGB allocated $17,500 this month. ‘People tend to believe that the government shouldn’t spend their money and that [the people] should,’ she said. ‘But then they see projects like this and appreciate them.’ Lindsay Carroll reports on Student Government Board.