It appears as though Student Government Board members have realized that capturing the student body’s voice takes more than mere “likes.”
Last night, the Board decided to extend the deadline for students to fill out a survey regarding their sentiments toward Panther Prints, Pitt’s yearbook that the Office of Student Affairs publishes. Shawn Ahearn, director of communications for the Office of Student Affairs, and Janine Fisher, communications manager for Student Affairs, recommended defunding the yearbook in September, citing declining student interest as well as declining sales.
As a replacement, Ahearn and Fisher have proposed a move toward a digital online photo album that would function similarly to that of a hard-copy yearbook, but would also include a digital feature allowing students to upload personal photographs.
SGB released a survey using a Google Drive document that asked a number of subjective questions about the yearbook and students’ opinions of it. The Board publicized the survey primarily through Facebook as well as through Twitter and at their weekly public meetings.
The survey was conducted over the course of the last 2 1/2 weeks, according to Board member Dave Rosenthal, and garnered about 200 responses out of roughly 18,000 possible undergraduate responses, or 1.1 percent of undergraduate Pitt students.
The first tweet, however, which outlined the survey on the SGB Twitter account, was published seven days ago on Oct. 30. The survey link was also published on SGB’s Facebook page seven days ago on Oct. 30 as well as again yesterday. The survey link was published across several Pitt student-related Facebook pages within the last week.
Up to this point, the Board has failed to utilize the number of resources made available to it by the Pitt administration and to do so in a timely manner. Unfortunately, these outlets only reach a limited number of students, many of whom were tangentially connected to SGB.
In the past, the Board has utilized the video boards in campus buildings as well as the Pitt email system as means to reach students. These outlets have the ability to reach a larger, more diverse group of Pitt students and would have had the potential to garner a more representative sample. We urge the Board to proactively seek a full representation of the student body’s voice.
SGB should continue to ask students to respond to the survey, communicate clearly what Panther Prints is and explain why the organization wants to eliminate the yearbook. This will allow students to provide suggestions for the new online edition of Panther Prints, and thereby enable the Board to truly represent the student voice in regard to the elimination of the hard-copy version.
While it might be true that student interest in Panther Prints has declined significantly, it’s still imperative that the Board, if it plans to say it represents the student voice, provides all students with the opportunity to share their opinion on what could very well be the end of a time-honored tradition on college campuses nationwide.