Board seeks student opinion on yearbook

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

The student body has one more week to voice its opinion on the fate of Panther Prints, the University’s yearbook.

The Student Government Board will offer its survey to assess the student body’s opinion on Panther Prints for one additional week. The survey is designed to determine whether students knew the the yearbook existed, how likely they are to purchase the yearbook and if they think it is a good use of the Student Activities Fund. Each student contributes $80 to the fund per semester through the Student Activities Fee, and the annual yearbook cost roughly $41,000 from the fund to produce.

In a final effort, SGB President Gordon Louderback sent an email to the roughly 600 students who had expressed interest in SGB at the Student Activities Fair at the end of August. By the meeting at 8:45 p.m, the number of responses had risen to about 200. Board member Dave Rosenthal and Louderback previously told The Pitt News at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday that the Board would release the survey results at the public meeting, but decided to extend the survey to acquire more responses. 

The survey responses are expected to influence the Board’s decision on whether or not to support the elimination of Panther Prints by the Office of Student Affairs. Student Affairs is working to replace the yearbook with an interactive digital photo album that will include staff photos along with students’ uploaded submissions. 

Louderback explained that the Board does not have a final say on the decision to switch to the digital photo album and that the vote represents the opinion of the student body.

Rosenthal told The Pitt News that he believes the Board began to distribute the survey about 2 1/2 weeks ago using Facebook University groups. According to SGB’s Facebook, the survey was posted for the first time eight days ago and posted for the first time on Twitter one week ago. 

The survey was also distributed during last week’s public meeting.

Louderback said that the deadline extension was made after he talked to Nuwan Perera, Academics Affairs Committee chairman, about a petition that was released that garnered more than 500 student responses. Perera worked with Board member Thomas Jabro on the survey regarding the publication of OMET scores and released the survey in early October.

The Board members, according to Louderback, would feel more comfortable about their decision’s reflection of the student body if they had more responses to the survey. 

Rosenthal said none of the Board members completed the survey, but he posted the survey on the Facebook pages of each of SGB’s eight committees.

Rosenthal shared the results of the survey with The Pitt News at 4:30 p.m., when about 60 students had responded. According to the survey, 61 percent of students said they did not know the yearbook existed nor did they think it was a good use of the Student Activities Fund, 25 percent thought it was a good use of the fund, and 14 percent had no opinion.

Shawn Ahearn, director of communications for the Office of Student Affairs, and Janine Fisher, communications manager for Student Affairs, initially approached the Board in September to discuss the lack of student interest in the yearbook. 

“While we wanted to get the opinion of the student body, we have been the ones working with [the Office of Student Affairs] and have the most knowledge,” Rosenthal said. “It’s the Board’s decision in terms of figuring out if [the yearbook] is obsolete.” 

Board member C.J. Bonge said in an interview Oct. 4 that his biggest concern was hurting a tradition that students feel is valuable on campus, but based on the number of students who purchased the yearbook, the Board does not see a sufficient demand.

Bonge estimated that the online photo album production will cost about $10,000. According to Bonge, a portion of the remaining $31,000 will possibly go toward producing a Traditions book, or a book detailing campus life and traditions that first-year students would receive at Freshman Convocation. The rest would revert back to the Student Activities Fund.

According to the survey, students commented that they felt the yearbook should have been better marketed. 

Ahearn defended his group’s advertising techniques.

He said the yearbook was advertised through email, letters sent to students’ homes, flyers on campus, social media platforms and newspaper advertisements. He said that increased advertising would not increase demand for the yearbook.

According to Ahearn, 114 seniors registered to receive a free online copy of Panther Prints last year, and only 40 seniors purchased a hard copy for $50.

Rosenthal said the Board had expected the feedback to support the elimination of Panther Prints because of the students’ reactions at the Board’s public meeting Oct. 1. During the open floor, students told the Board that it was the first time they had ever heard of the University’s yearbook. 

Rosenthal said he could not answer how the Board would have reacted if the survey results indicated that students were interested in preserving the yearbook because it is too much of a “hypothetical situation.”

Louderback said that if the surveys showed that students were interested in preserving Panther Prints, the Board would sit down with Ahearn and Fisher for further discussion. 

He added that the Board would have done what it could to save the yearbook, but still would have cut back the costs.

Louderback said that based on the current number of students who benefit from the yearbook, the Board members do not believe Panther Prints is a responsible use of allocations. 

Rosenthal also said that through the survey, students commented on the fact that they weren’t interested in Panther Prints because they thought they would not have a connection to the majority of the students in the book.

“It’s not like high school where you graduated with a class of 400 people, and you knew everybody,” Rosenthal said. “[At Pitt,] you have your group of friends, and that might be a group of 100 people, not a group of 4,000.” 

In other action:

Louderback said 20 to 30 years of data from SGB projects were submitted by Bryce Custer, SGB historian, to a database as of last night in an effort to keep an organized history of SGB’s efforts. Louderback said the information will be available next week on the Board’s website. 

Board member Mike Nites and Lauren Barney, a candidate for Board, met with a representative from the business school to discuss the reasoning behind scheduling final exams as a coordinated department final versus an in-class final. Nites said the department coordinators told him that the decision is up to professors who teach different sections of the same class within a department.

Nites and Barney will post a PowerPoint of the information they gathered to SGB’s website. They will also meet again with Kathy Humphrey, vice provost and dean of students.

Bonge said he is working with Abigail Zurschmit, Transportation and Safety Committee chairwoman, on the safety seminar. 

Before the meeting, Jabro said he is working with Terrence Milani, associate director of student life and Allocations Committee adviser, to clarify information in the Allocations Committee’s documents. Jabro said the adjustments will provide a stronger reference point for interpreting the allocations manual for the incoming Board and committee. Jabro also said before the meeting that there will be a public food committee meeting Nov. 15 in room 548 of the William Pitt Union at 1 p.m.

He added that he and Perera, Academics Affairs Committee Chairman, are still circulating a survey and a petition to push for the publication of OMET scores.  According to Jabro, he and Perera are drafting a proposal for the incoming Board, so future Board members can continue their work on OMET publication.

Board member Sarah Winston said she is continuing to work with Erin Worbs, Fundraising and Advertising Committee chairwoman, and Perera on Textbook Friend. 

Winston, Louderback, Board member John Cordier, Mizane Johnson-Bowman, Environmental Committee chairwoman and Isaac Freedman, Green Fund Advisory Board coordinator, met with Humphrey and Kenyon Bonner, associate dean and director of student life, to discuss a revised proposal for the Office of Sustainability.

Board member Sowmya Sanapala said she is working with Brandon Benjamin, president of Rainbow Alliance and Board candidate; Natalie Rothenberger, former Board member; and Sherdina Harper, coordinator of cross cultural and leadership development programming, to assemble a diversity symposium to take place Nov. 17. The event is open to the public and will include discussions between students on topics such as women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.

Rosenthal announced that the cooking classes will take place this Saturday, Nov. 16, at 11 a.m. Rosenthal said he started to advertise for the off-campus living seminars on Nov. 18 and Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Union. 

Board member Amelia Brause announced that a campuswide fundraising week is set for January and will include daily fundraising events to raise money for Greek Life’s pledge for cystic fibrosis.

Brause said she is about to release a survey about the Princeton Review.

Jabro and Cordier were absent and excused from the meeting.


Pitt women’s water polo requested $2,252.76 for 12 players to attend the Wahoo Invitational tournament in Virginia. The request was denied in full in line with the allocations recommendation. 

Women’s club gymnastics requested $600,000 for 10 athletes to attend the Hokie Classic meet. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

Pittsburgh club baseball requested $1876.24 for 24 players to attend the Cornell Conference Series. The Board voted to postpone the request until next weekend. 

The Pitt club golf team requested $4,624 for eight members to attend the NCCGA National Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

The American Chemical Society requested $1,800 for six members to attend the PittCON 2014 conference in Chicago. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

The Pitt ballet club requested $881.72 for costumes for its annual Nutcracker show. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

The Pitt sailing club requested $740 to store six boats. The request was approved in full.

The National Society of Leadership and Success requested $907 for two members to attend the Regional Leadership Retreat in Charlotte, N.C. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

Panther men’s rugby requested $600 for field costs associated with its home games. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

Pitt Dance Ensemble requested in their budget $1,500 for costumes for their spring show. The request was denied in full in line with the Allocations recommendation.