Board implements fund to aid in housing emergencies

By Abbey Reighard / Staff Writer

After weeks of planning and reviewing, the Student Government Board has ensured that students facing crises will have support . 

Since last Tuesday, the Board made changes to the Crisis Relief Fund bill, which will create a financial resource for students who experience housing crises. 

Board members voted on the pilot program last night at their weekly 8:45 p.m. meeting in front of about 12 students gathered in Nordy’s Place of the William Pitt Union. The Board introduced the fund at its weekly meeting two weeks ago, but postponed an official vote on the bill in order to make changes.

Much of the bill for the Crisis Relief Fund remained the same since its introduction two weeks ago. The fund will still be comprised of $2,000 reserved from the SGB budget, and if unused, will roll back into the Student Activity Fund at the end of the fiscal year. Individual students who have experienced a housing crisis can receive up to $250.

Board member Graeme Meyer, who also serves as the Wellness Committee liaison, initially proposed that the Board distribute the fund through an application process. The Board has since decided that it will instead contact students who the University reports were affected by housing crises rather than use an application process. 

“We made it a process where we reach out to students to make sure that we can help them as soon as possible,” Meyer said. 

Meyer said the program would address housing crises such as the fire that occurred on Zulema Street last spring, which displaced 13 students, and the Dawson Street house explosion last fall, which displaced four students.

The Board had also initially considered requiring students to submit a fire or police report with their application for the fund, but changed the rules to allow students to submit such documentation after receiving the funding. Documentation would include a fire or police report, a signed lease or renter’s or owner’s insurance policy, and the Board would keep a record of the incident through the required documents.

“Police or fire reports might take a long time. We want to help students immediately,” Board President Mike Nites said. 

Alexa Becker lived in the two-story house at 3376 Dawson St. that exploded last November. 

Becker, a senior majoring in anthropology, French and preoptometry, said she supports the Board’s decision to switch the fund from an application process to a system through which the Board reaches out to students. 

“Students who go through a housing crisis already have so much on their plate that having to fill out an application would just become one more thing the individual would have to worry about,” Becker said. 

Meyer said the Crisis Relief Fund is a pilot program, which means the Board may alter it in the future.

“This is a pilot program we decided to implement to test its effectiveness and plausibility,” Meyer said.

Nites said having the program as a precaution will be a comfort to students, even if they do not have to use the fund.

“The program will let students know that if there is a problem, SGB is here to help,” Nites said. “It will let students know that we have their back, and we can offer some of the financial support that they would need to get through the semester.”

The Board also voted in members of the Judicial and Elections committees. 

Audrey Winn, Judicial Committee chairwoman, said she selected the nine committee members through a “competitive interview process.”

“I was really looking for people who were self-motivated and good at working with others,” Winn said. “The Judicial Committee has always been a committee that depends heavily on teamwork, so I wanted to make sure that [the] people I chose would be able to work together efficiently and form friendships along the way.” 

Winn said that some upcoming projects for the Judicial Committee include reviewing bylaws and working on making the Code of Ethics more specific. 

Lauren Barney, Elections Committee chairwoman, said she was looking to diversify the Elections Committee while conducting interviews for the seven committee member positions.

“I was looking for someone who is committed, who shows ingenuity and who is willing to come up with different ideas,” Barney said.

Barney said that she was also interested in students who were not previously involved with SGB so that they “can get their feet wet” with the committee. 

Barney said that an upcoming project within the committee will be to create a vice chair of publications position. 

The vice chair would be in charge of publications such as the voting guide and a new information packet that would help students who want to run for SGB positions.

In other action:

Nites has been working to add more racks to distribute publications, such as The Pittiful News and The Original Magazine, around campus.

Nites said he and the Board are still developing the project and are currently thinking about locations for the racks. 

Nites said the Board would manage a small number of racks in campus locations such as the William Pitt Union, O’Hara Student Center and the Litchfield Towers. Each rack would have about five slots for five campus publications. 

“I’m not sure how we would handle [the situation] if the number of publications exceeds five, but that’s why we are in the brainstorming phases right now,” Nites said. 

SGB will assign the slots to different publications, and then those selected publications will be in charge of distribution. 

Nites said that he hopes to further develop the project within the next few weeks. 

Lindsay Hagerty, editor-in-chief of the Pittiful News, said she thinks the racks would help The Pittiful News “reach out to readers.”

“The racks will open up the time that the paper is available, and hopefully circulate it more since people who are interested can stop, grab one and tell their friends who can also go pick one up,” Hagerty, a senior majoring in environmental studies, said. 

Allocations Committee Chairwoman Nasreen Harun and Nites hosted an Allocations 101 session Saturday to help students submit online allocations requests.

About seven students attended the informations session, which was held in room 837 of the William Pitt Union.

The gathering marked the third information session focused on the transition from paper allocation requests to online requests. 

Nites attributed the session’s small number of attendees to the success of the previous two information sessions. 

“The small number of students must mean that people are getting the hang of the online applications,” Nites said. 

Harun presented information on the types of requests that the Allocations Committee usually approve, versus requests the committee members would likely deny.

Nites concluded the session with instructions on how to navigate the online allocation request forms. 

Board member Ellie Tsatsos has submitted proposals for her student-friendly quad initiative to Pitt officials.

Board member Mona Kazour said she has been looking to install a Pitt self-service printer in Clapp Hall or Langley Hall. 

Board member Sara Klein met with Commander Shawn Ellies from the Pitt police to discuss campus safety.


The Student Government Board requested a budget modification of $2,000 for the Crisis Relief Fund. The Board approved in full in line with the Allocations recommendation.

The Student Government Board requested a budget modification of $731.98 to send four members to Pitt Day in Harrisburg. The Board approved $365.99 and denied $365.99 in line with the Allocations recommendation. 

Pitt women’s water polo requested $2,354 for league dues. The Board approved the request in full in line with the Allocations recommendation. 

Black Action Society requested a budget modification of $5,000 to bring rapper Common to campus. The Board denied the modification in full in line with the Allocations recommendation. 

Strong Women, Strong Girls requested $1,038.40 for supplies for service projects. The Board approved $640.64 and denied $397.76. 

HeroiKs requested $642 for supplies and advertisement fees for their fourth annual Super Stroll. The board approved $498.01 and denied $143.99.

The Board has allocated $100,497.23 this year.