Destin Mann, President of the Black Action Society, said that because Pitt is a predominantly white institution, it is important for BAS to help bring black students together.
“Being part of a marginalized group in a PWI is very difficult, but when we take into consideration everything that happened with the Black Lives Matter movement last year and other factors, it’s really difficult to being Black in college and not having that solidarity with other black students, ”Mann said.
Pitt’s Black Action Society is a student organization that advocates for black issues and concerns and provides a sense of community to black students on campus. Mann said BAS’s overall goal is to make sure black students at Pitt feel welcome on campus, know that their voices are heard, and that all of their political, educational and social needs are taken care of.
“We just want to make sure that we have the events and programs that are necessary to make sure that black students meet, fellowship and just bond for life,” Mann said.
Mann said engaging with students on Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, which is why the group is hoping to host some fun in-person events this year. Among these events are their Indaba Week and Neighborhood party for reunion.
BAS vice president Jalen Edwards said she hopes BAS will be able to restore a strong community for black students in Pitt with more in-person events.
“I’m thinking specifically for this year after coming out of a pandemic, we’re really focused on recovering and getting back to the sense of community we had before the pandemic,” Edwards said.
Edwards said she hopes BAS can help the mental health of black students heal from the pressure of the pandemic, such as isolation and loss, as well as return to activism.
“One of the issues we really face is recovering and allowing ourselves to transition and be kind to ourselves, but also to come back to activism and not stay true to our values in as black students, ”Edwards said. “I think it’s definitely a little harder because we’re tired of COVID. But I think strengthening each other, supporting each other and staying united will certainly be important for that. “
The Black Action Society, along with 17 other black student organizations, published a set of requests last year at Pitt to make the University more diverse and inclusive. Some of the demands included increasing the number of black students and faculty on campus, as well as greater transparency from Pitt Police.
Since the publication of the claims, Pitt has been in Communication with black student leaders to answer them. BAS and Black Senate leaders have repeatedly communicated with university administrators Last yearMann said, but she’s hoping to have more dialogue this year.
“The problems are still there. So we’re going to make sure that we get that communication with the administration and that these working groups that were created as a result of the requests are still doing the job they’re supposed to be doing, ”Mann said. . “And just make sure that the University lives up to its commitment to be diverse, equitable and inclusive.”
Danielle Floyd, a member of the Student Government Board and its vice president for initiatives, is helping to keep communication between SGB, the Black Senate, and the Pitt Police Force this year. Floyd said she believes it is important to continue to “fight” against injustices in the police.
“When you do this job, it’s really important to fearlessly tackle issues of racism, discrimination and disparities, but to continue to exist in our policing system,” said Floyd. “I think it’s really important that we continue to build on the momentum we started last year and continue to have these difficult conversations in order to water the seeds of change, to create meaningful progress and lasting effects on police reform and make Pitt a safe place. place where all students can attend.
The Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Public Safety established the Student-Centered Public Safety Concerns Committee at the end of the spring semester to further improve communication and transparency with Pitt Police.
Floyd said the committee provides “a direct line of communication” between the students and the administration around public safety concerns and the actions of Pitt’s police.
“The other side of the committee is to make sure that the committee is accountable and serves as a sort of bridge between the student body on the Pitt campus, especially those who are minorities, marginalized communities and other communities. targeted, ”Floyd said. “And continue to press the Pitt Police to be as transparent, accountable and responsive as possible in their hiring, training and disciplinary practices.”
Floyd said she hoped this committee and the partnership between the Black Senate and SGB could help improve Pitt’s policing and make the campus a safe place for everyone.
“Making sure that when we spoke with the Pitt police, we were very courageous and honest, in our conversations with them and that we didn’t hold back and work on building a bridge,” Floyd said.
Another claim that BAS hopes to continue to push the University is increasing the population of black students, faculty, and staff. Mann said in order for this to be done, the University needs to put in the time and effort to engage with the Pittsburgh community. Black students made up 5.26% of undergraduates in 2019 – the latest in a downward trend of the past 40 years.
“The way the requests are listed forces the University to support some of these initiatives with money and actions. So in order for them to recruit more black professors and staff, the city itself has to be a place where black people want to live, ”Mann said. “And since the university has such a big influence on the city, I think it’s up to them too to make sure they engage with the community, making sure they help marginalized groups,” especially groups that have been negatively impacted by the place of residence of the University.
University rejected the request of the Black Senate to create three scholarships of $ 10,000 for black freshmen and 48 scholarships of $ 5,000 for black students in memory of Antoine Rose II. Mann said that despite the rejection of this request, it is important for the University to prioritize financial support for black students, especially when aiming to increase the black student body.
“People are in positions where they can’t afford a university that constantly raises tuition fees, and financial aid needs to be a priority,” Mann said. “You can’t be inclusive if it’s not accessible to a large population. “
Mann added that she hopes black student leaders can continue to communicate with the Admissions and Financial Aid Office this year, despite the University’s refusal of scholarships.
Mann said BAS wants to be a community that black students in Pitt can turn to, as well as a resource for others on campus to learn more about the hardships black students face.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure that we hold this university accountable,” Mann said. “We are doing everything we can to make this experience a fun experience for black students on campus and also educate the community at large to make sure they know that is what it is to be black.” and in a PWI, and these are the issues that need to be resolved.