Board resolution supports change in email platform

Board resolution supports change in email platform

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

In a little more than a week, an online petition to change the University’s email service collected nearly 10,000 signatures from members of the Pitt community. 

Student Government Board President Gordon Louderback introduced the resolution — which lists Judicial Chairman Joe Kozak and all eight Board members as co-sponsors — last week, and the Board unanimously voted to urge the University to introduce Google’s Gmail platform to its email service. The Board — responsible for allocating the more than $2.3 million Student Activities Fund — does not have the authority to put this new system in place, but represents the student voice on campus in discussions with members of the administration.

The resolution, which was introduced last week, recommends that the University switch from the current email system, EnterpriseMail webmail, to Google’s Gmail platform by pursuing Google Apps for Education, a free package of various Google applications, including Google Drive and Google Calendar.

The Board argues that the use of Google applications, which allows for the sharing of documents, — will create an opportunity for more effective collaboration between students, faculty and staff.

The resolution claims that “Google Apps for Education is a more efficient, cost-effective and user-friendly option than the current University email platform.”

Currently, 72 of the top 100 U.S. universities ranked by the U.S. News and World Report utilize the service, according to a statement Google released after the magazine published this year’s rankings last week

The resolution has been a joint effort between SGB and Google Student Ambassador Zach Alcorn, a Pitt senior.

Alcorn operates as a liaison between Google, the University and its students. Alcorn contacted Louderback two weeks ago to initiate discussions about the switch to Google Apps for Education.

Louderback and Alcorn met before drafting an online petition to persuade the University to switch to the Google operating system. The petition began to collect signatures from students and faculty supporting the change after it was posted online Sept. 9.

Board member Mike Nites said that the switch will create more storage space for school email accounts. The current email system holds a maximum of 250 megabytes, while Google offers 15 gigabytes of shared space between Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos. 

“I think it’s a great step in a direction of modernizing how we send emails,” he said. “I always hit my quota, and it gets so frustrating because I don’t want to delete my emails.”

Louderback said that he has a meeting Monday scheduled to discuss the issue with Jinx Walton, chief information officer of Pitt’s Computing Services and Systems Development. Walton was unable to comment as she was out of office at the time of publication.

Louderback and Alcorn are not sure how long it will take the University to come to a decision, but Alcorn remains optimistic about the impact students could have on the process.

“If there’s a lot of excitement, it could go very quickly,” Alcorn said. “If not, it could take a lot longer, but with the excitement of the students and the desire of the students, I would be very surprised if it doesn’t happen eventually.”

Administrators have not yet made any final decisions regarding the SGB resolution, according to Pitt spokesman John Fedele.

“Gmail is one of several possibilities the University is considering, but we are not

prepared to compare and contrast all of our options at this time,” he said in an email Tuesday afternoon.

In other action

The Board finally approved the Elections Code revisions proposed by Elections Committee Chairman Aaron Gish.

The committee will permit individuals and student organizations to endorse five Board member candidates and one presidential candidate as a result of the approved revisions. The revisions also define campaign managers as full-time non-College of General Studies undergraduate students, who may not speak before a body of student organizations in place of the candidate they represent. 

While Gish was not able to eliminate the slate system, he said he believes the revisions will be successful in preventing slate systems from aligning and forming megaslates, in which six candidates unofficially campaign together as sister slates.

“It’s going to be pretty obvious to the candidates that even if they attempt, for example, to have matching slate names with another slate then that’s something, as a committee, that we can regulate,” Gish said. “If they do that, we are going to put a stop to it before it even happens.”

Nites cast the sole  vote against the revisions. Nites voted against the revisions because he disagreed with Section 207.03 and 207.04 of the provisions, which prohibit committee chairs and Allocations Committee members from endorsing candidates.

Nites said the revisions were preventing the chairmen and Allocations Committee members from voicing their opinions.

“What I don’t think is fair about it [is that] these are 20 people that have nothing to do with the election,” Nites said. “They were not told prior to being those chairs that they would not be able to support someone.”

Board member Amelia Brause asked whether Nites approached any of the committee chairs or members of the Allocations Committee to ask if they felt their voices were being silenced. 

Nites replied that he had spoken informally with the chairmen.

Louderback also questioned Nites’ disagreement, asking why Nites had not brought up his concerns earlier in the revision process.

Gish proposed his first set of Elections Code revisions in April, but the Board voted against the revisions unanimously. The initial revisions included the removal of the slate system, which allows groups of two or three Board or presidential candidates to run together. A removal of the slate system would have required students to run as individual candidates.

Gish’s second proposed code, which aimed to limit candidate endorsements to three Board member candidates and one presidential candidate, met opposition from Board members who said that the revisions would create confusion among students. Students can currently vote for five Board member candidates and one presidential candidate.

Despite Nites’ objection to Gish’s proposed revisions, Board members pushed to approve the changes to prevent reverting back to last year’s code. Tuesday night marked the last time the vote could be brought before the Board.


Panther Field Hockey requested $567.36 for 20 players to transfer money from the previously approved competition at Temple University to pay for transportation to attend a tournament in Lehigh. The Board approved the request in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

Women’s Panther Club Gymnastics requested $4,604.26 to cover transportation costs. The Board approved $2,794.18 and denied $1,810.08.

Engineers for a Sustainable World, Students for Sustainability and Take Back the Tap jointly requested $1,170 to cover costs for the registration of 18 members to go to the Powershift conference in Pittsburgh. The Board approved the request in full. 

Pitt Cross Country requested $900 to cover the costs of registration and transportation to attend the Lock Haven Invitational Tournament. The Board approved the request in full in line with the Allocations recommendation.

Parliamentary Debate requested $730 to cover registration fees and ground transportation for 10 members to attend the Swarthmore College Novice Tournament. The Board approved the request in full.

The Pittiful News requested $1,100 for the semester to cover the costs of printing three of their monthly issues. The Board approved the request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

The club tennis team requested $2,258.69 for registration, lodging and transportation to attend three tournaments. 

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers requested $1,326.20  for registration, lodging and transportation for two members to attend the student conference in San Francisco, Calif. The Board approved the request in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

Strong Women Strong Girls requested $2,232.50 for supplies and transportation. The Board approved the request in full.

Model United Nations requested $3,902.28 to cover transportation and lodging security conferences. The Board approved the request in full with line with the allocations recommendation.

The Board has allocated $30,770.16 so far this semester.