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Board plants idea to grow environmental office - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

Board plants idea to grow environmental office

By Abbey Reighard / Staff Writer

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According to Pitt’s Student Government Board, the University is slow to bloom when it comes to establishing an office to handle green initiatives.

One of three bills that the Board introduced at its public meeting last night advocated for the creation of an Office of Sustainability. Pitt is one of the few member universities in the Atlantic Coast Conference that does not have an office devoted to sustainability and environmental initiatives. 

“This bill will pledge student government support of the Office of Sustainability,” Board President Mike Nites said. 

The office would be a new University formula group that would annually receive 0.35 percent —  approximately $9,000  — from the approximately $2.8 million Student Activities Fund. According to the bill, the Pitt Green Fund, which helps finance and support student-run environmental initiatives, would receive about $5,000 of the cut.

The Office of Sustainability will help environmental student groups on campus collaborate on their green initiatives, according to Environmental Chair Kacy McGill. According to the Board, more than 500 students signed a petition distributed by the Green Fund Advisory Board, in support of establishing an Office of Sustainability. Isaac Freedman, coordinator of GFAB, distributed the survey last semester among student groups and online.

The previous Board passed a similar resolution last October advocating for the establishment of the Office of Sustainability. The Environmental Committee, GFAB and SGB have been pushing for the office since 2012.

As previously reported by The Pitt News, previous Environmental Committee Chairperson Mizane Johnson-Bowman said Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey told the Environmental Committee in 2012 that the University would set up the office on the fifth floor of the William Pitt Union. But the University never established the office.

According to the bill, Pitt administrators would appoint one staff member to serve as coordinator of the office. 

Additionally, the Board’s environmental chair would work as the office’s sustainability intern. The intern would spend ten hours a week in the Student Government Board and Sustainability offices, with five hours in each. The intern would receive a stipend of $165 a month from the office’s portion of the Student Activity Fund. 

Board members Mona Kazour and Abby Zurschmit introduced the bill, which Nites, McGill and former Board member Sarah Winston co-sponsored.

The Office of Sustainability, which has yet to be created and given an official name by the Board and Pitt administrators, would operate within the Office of Student Affairs.

McGill said the Board will discuss details, such as location of the office and an official name for the office, over the summer with Humphrey. 

The Board also introduced a bill to raise the current Allocations Committee final approval limit on allocation requests. 

Currently, when the Allocation Committee votes on a request under $500, the decision reached by the Committee is final, and the request does not go to the Board for further deliberation.

This resolution, which will be effective with the start of the Board’s next fiscal year, pending Humphrey’s approval, would raise the approval limit to $1,200.

According to Nites, the Board currently votes on between 60 and 70 percent of all supplemental allocations requests, which are requests heard on a weekly basis at the public meetings. 

Nites said the resolution will no longer make it mandatory that student groups come to meetings to hear what the Allocations Committee has already recommended.

The current Allocation Committee final approval limit has not been raised since 1984, according to the Board.

The Board also introduced a third bill that will extend and make minor changes to the Collegiate Readership Program.

Through the Collegiate Readership Program, Pitt students can pick up free editions of The New York Times and USA Today in boxes, which are accessible with a student ID, in Benedum Hall, the William Pitt Union, Litchfield Towers lobby and Posvar Hall. Two additional boxes in the Cathedral of Learning and Sutherland Hall do not have swipe systems.

The bill introduced by the Board would add a swipe system to the newspaper rack located in the Cathedral.

Nites said the Board decided to add a swipe system to the racks in the Cathedral to ensure that newspapers are only available to students. Nites added that the newspaper racks in Sutherland Hall don’t need swipe systems because they are located behind security desks. 

In other action:

Zurschmit said she met with Humphrey this week to discuss dining proposals for the fall based off food surveys the Board distributed earlier this year. 

Board member Nick Hufnagel said he is working with former Board member Ellie Tsatsos on a “Greening the Quad” initiative, which would add more grassy areas and seating to the Quad. Hufnagel said he is currently putting together a survey to see how students currently use the Quad and what changes students want to see in the Quad in the future. 

Hufnagel added that he spoke with Facilities and Transportation Chair Ellie Kerr to discuss how changes the Board makes to the Quad would affect parking in the Quad. 

Kazour said she spoke to Sodexo about “utiliz[ing] resources and manag[ing] waste” by using excess food to provide meals for the homeless, among other waste management plans.

Board member Sara Klein said she spoke to Student Government representatives from the University of Syracuse and Board members of Pitt’s Graduate Student Government Board to discuss effective methods to govern on a university-level. 

Klein also spoke to Juliann Sheldon, a safety press officer from the PA Department of Transportation, to discuss bicycle safety on campus. 

Board member Graeme Meyer said he completed his survey on student tobacco use. The survey is available on the SGB website and the SGB Facebook page. Meyer met with Ian Driver from USA Today to finalize plans for next year’s Collegiate Readership Program. 

Board member Ryan Orr said he met with Robert Sica, chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee and Humphrey to discuss how to increase the number of University scholarships available to students. 

Board member Ben West said he met with Humphrey to discuss programs to help students transition from on-campus to off-campus housing and to discuss a calendar West intends to create over the summer that would feature on-campus and off-campus events happening in Pittsburgh.

Allocations:

Pittsburgh Club Baseball requested $1,700 for NCBA league dues. The Board approved the request in full in line with the Allocations recommendation.

Men’s Ultimate Frisbee requested $1,689.96 for a reimbursement for funds that the previous Board allocated to the club that the Student Organization Resource Center had deducted from the club’s private fund because of a processing error. The Board approved the request in full in line with the Allocations recommendation. 

Phi Sigma Rho requested $956.80 to send four people to the Phi Sigma Rho National Conference in Louisville, Ky. The Board approved the request in full in line with the Allocations Recommendation. 

Club Golf Team requested $3,183.28 to send eight players to Nationals. The Board approved $2,440 and denied $743.28 of the request in line with the Allocation recommendation.  

Chinese American Student Association requested $12,255.32 for Honorarium for the group’s Golden Dragon Acrobats program. The Board approved $8,000 and denied $4,255.32 of the request. 

Project HEAL requested $1,952.77 to send four people to the Project HEAL Gala in New York City. The Board denied the request in full in line with the Allocation recommendation.

Lady Panther Lacrosse requested $8,665.23 to send 28 players to compete in Nationals at Virginia Beach, Va. The Board approved $7,970.23 and denied $695 of the request in line with the Allocations recommendation.

Total allocated this year: $193,424.33 

Budget Modifications:

Black Action Society requested a budget modification of $4,590 for catering costs for the club’s senior recognition dinner. The Board approved $1,500 and denied $3,090 because the Board said the event is open to all students. 

Budget Appeals:

Eye to Eye requested $2,400 for to attend the Eye to Eye Organizing Institute conference at Brown University, training and evaluations for group members. The Board approved $2,000 and denied $400 of the request so that the group could attend the Eye to Eye Institute conference.

Nursing Student Association requested $4,741 for the group to send 20 people to the 2014 Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania Convention. The Board approved $2,844.60 and denied $1,896.40 in line with the Allocations recommendation. 

Forge requested $700 for background clearances. The Board deferred the request in full, because the Board does not have an official policy for requests on background clearances for students organizations. 

Meyer said they deferred the cost so that Forge could make a supplemental request in the fall after the Board has created a policy regarding requested for background clearances. 

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Board plants idea to grow environmental office