USG meets with Provost

Clubs discuss grievances with USG funding bylaws

Written By Mitchell Drake, USG Beat Writer

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The United Student Government (USG) met today to discuss issues with Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Provost John Pearson and Assistant Provost Jonas Prida in an unexpectedly long two-hour legislative body meeting.

Pearson opened the floor to answer various questions and complaints with his department.

Senator Alexa Lake pointed out a distinct lack of connection between Academic Affairs and the student body, as some students feel a noticeable distance between themselves and the department when reporting issues.

Pearson stood adamant that his door is always open to students, stating that his job is to keep “hands on backs” and make academics better. He stated that his department is constantly trying to improve academics departmentally, focusing on one department at a time for evaluation and review. Academic Affairs conducts these reviews every five years, which reportedly leads to greater experiences and comfort based on student feedback and instructor review.

“Half of what I do is like what a cheerleader does,” Pearson said.

Senator Jacob Berlin asked whether the department is more insistent on making decisions supported by mulled data analytics or on intuition and experience. Pearson gave a mixed response, commenting on how data has fueled key decisions yet still stating that he relies on his own sense of morality and intuition.

“Data gets us so far, but what decisions that would benefit the greatest amount of students are the most important,” Pearson said.

Senator Dennis McDermott addressed the concerns of first-semester students regarding the inconsistency in curriculum taught in different City-University Life courses. Recounting his own time in the course, he was disappointed and frustrated at how the course did not teach him anything about Pittsburgh or give any help on living in a downtown, vertical college environment.

Prida assured that a master syllabus (that will be applied to every section of the course) is being created to ensure that students are gaining what is to be originally required from the course. Pearson added that the hiring of multi-disciplined instructors to teach the courses was intended to lead to a more rounded experience for students, but it has become more of an inconvenience according to feedback.

Prida touted his department’s work on trying to make high-impact programs, such as the study-abroad program, to become more accessible to a wider range of students. As the study-abroad program can come with a hefty price tag, Academic Affairs is trying to adjust budgeting to make the program accessible to students that normally couldn’t afford to take part.

Prida also commented on his department’s strides toward making instructors use non-gender specific pronouns for students that require them to improve comfort and reduce awkwardness for non-gender binary students.

Conflict arose during the public comment of agenda items segment, where a group of Black Student Union (BSU) and Point Closet members expressed their frustration with a violation letter sent by USG.

According to the letter, read aloud by Lake, Point Closet had violated a bylaw that forbade clubs to use allocated funds from USG to buy supplies for fundraisers. Treasurer Kortney Lampel read that a receipt from Target had revealed that decorations and candy had been bought using $80 that was allocated by USG.

The letter explained that Point Closet was to be banned from applying for the next USG club allocation budget period until the $80 was paid back to the USG holdings budget.

President of Point Closet Monae Findley expressed anger at USG’s actions, criticizing  the harshness of the ban. According to Findley, no member of USG approached Point Closet about the violation before the ban.

Vice President of Point Closet and BSU Prim Green voiced her anger at the situation, stating that USG should not have made such a strong move on a bylaw that the club was unaware of. Lampel and both heads of Point Closet engaged in a back-and-forth argument on whether the funds came out of pocket or not.

President of BSU Brandon Rogers weighed in, stating that previous funding disparities do not allow for clubs to properly plan for future expenses, and that knowing the bylaws and rules upfront would benefit both parties.

The argument spanned from the opening of the legislative body meeting to the later open floor session.

Additionally, the communications committee approved a town-hall debate-style way of allowing the student body to further engage with candidates and become more involved in USG position races.

USG also recognized the new club, A Voice for the Innocent, a chapter of a larger cross-college program that allows victims of sexual assault to cope and thrive with musical and poetic projects.

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