SGB 2016-17 year in review

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SGB 2016-17 year in review

President Natalie Call and her Board will step down within the week. Stephen Caruso | Assistant Visual Editor

President Natalie Call and her Board will step down within the week. Stephen Caruso | Assistant Visual Editor

President Natalie Call and her Board will step down within the week. Stephen Caruso | Assistant Visual Editor

President Natalie Call and her Board will step down within the week. Stephen Caruso | Assistant Visual Editor

By Ashwini Sivaganesh / News Editor

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After initiation this Friday, the current Student Government Board will step down to make way for its successors.

Since the fall semester, the organization kept up with efforts to engage with the student body through events, such as Panthers in Politics and Women’s Empowerment Week, and outreach, but passed only a few bills and resolutions. So far this year, the Board passed two resolutions and three bills, and will vote on another four bills at their weekly meeting Tuesday night.

One of the biggest changes for SGB was the 28.76 percent voter turnout increase from last year in the 2017 election. The 5,177 students who voted elected Max Kneis, a junior economics and finance major, as the next SGB president.  

However, the increased voter turnout did not translate to attendance at weekly meetings, which remained mostly an affair for members and student groups seeking allocation funds.

SGB hosted its first town hall style meeting Jan. 31, to encourage students who don’t have a lot of free time to come and share their concerns with the Board. The Board hosts these town halls once a month, encouraging students and student groups to bring concerns and questions to it during the extended open floors. The Board skips over the normal segment where Board members share their agendas and remarks. The Board was able to hold three at the end of the spring semester, all of which had low attendance.

I think some areas where we can still improve are increasing our collaboration with other student groups and advertising all of the initiatives we are working on more effectively,” SGB president Natalie Dall said in an email.

While attendance at meetings is low, the allocations committee is reaching more student groups with their funding. This year, the committee minimized the amount of money set aside for student groups that was leftover at the end of the year, according to Allocations Committee Chair Maddie Guido. At the end of last year, Guido said there were funds that didn’t get allocated, but this year the group is “on target” to distributing most of that money. Of the $850,000 in allocation funds — which full-time students contribute $80 to each semester as part of the student activities fees — SGB distributed about $654,295.84 over the course of the fall and spring semester, according to SGB’s website.

“After last year’s surplus, our goal was to reach out to as many organizations as possible in order to educate them about the allocations process and hopefully reach our target number,” Guido said in an email.

While there weren’t many bills or resolutions passed this academic school year, Dall said the organization’s initiatives, ranging from the Safety Fairs to installing 32 new street lights in Oakland, speak more to what they accomplished for the student body.

“I would argue that the number of bills and resolutions we introduce is not reflective of all of the work we do,” Dall said in an email. “Almost all of our initiatives this year pertained directly to the interests of undergraduate students at Pitt … Not every initiative requires a resolution to drive it, and it is up to each Board [member] to decide how many they want to write.”

Kneis said, for the upcoming year, he is looking forward to continuing to maintain and improve initiatives from this year, such as mental health awareness and sexual assault awareness, but is also focused on being a facilitator between students and the administration.

“My incoming Board members have some great initiatives they ran on, and one of my biggest goals will be supporting them to get these accomplished next year,” Kneis said in an email. “The president’s main job is to facilitate the many moving parts between Board members, committees and other stakeholders within SGB.”

Resolutions Passed

BR 2016.04 is a resolution in support of a Pennsylvania House of Representatives bill HB 218 improving on hate crime legislation to include ethnic intimidation.

BR 2017.01 is a resolution that allowed SGB to apply for a grant given by the American Cancer Society and CVS Health to universities so they can educate and advocate for tobacco-free and campus-free smoking habits on campus.

Bills Passed

BB 39 corrected several grammatical errors and changed the language of the Board’s governing code to make it more inclusive. Specifically, SGB switched from using pronouns to using the title of the appropriate committee the code is referring to instead. The original documents used all male pronouns.

BB 40 states Allocations Committee members are no longer allowed to submit or defend allocations requests. Previously, there was no rule barring members from presenting allocations requests that would benefit themselves or their colleagues.

BB 41 corrected several grammatical errors and changed the language of the Board’s election code to make it more inclusive. Specifically, SGB changed from referring to male and female pronouns to using they, their and its.

Bills to be voted on this Tuesday

BB 42 will allow students to get a free online subscription to The New York Times. This will replace the current system which provides 250 print copies of The New York Times and 250 copies of USA Today in newsstands around campus — accessible with an active student ID. The changes would be implemented immediately following the Board’s vote.

BB 43 will officially add the First Year Council — a group of first-year students who work with SGB members — to the governing code. The group has been in place since the start of the semester as a way to get more first-year students involved in SGB.

BB 44 will officially add the communications director and communications committee — a group within SGB that handles advertising and marketing for the organization — to the governing code.

BB 45 will add an additional open floor segment at the beginning of public meetings after the president’s report. Currently there are two open floors near the end of the meetings, and this change will be implemented immediately after the bill is passed.

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