The 2018 candidates for Student Government Board gathered Wednesday to discuss their platforms and answer questions presented to them by “Pitt Tonight” host Andrew Dow. UPTV broadcasted the event from William Pitt Union Dining Room A.
Dow, a sophomore sociology and communication major, asked the slates — groups of two or more people running for a position on SGB — questions about what made them different from their opponents, their potential initiatives and how they came up with their identifying slate names.
Current SGB Wellness Chair Maggie Kennedy, who is also a resident assistant in Tower A and a peer educator with the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Office, is the presidential candidate for this slate. She is accompanied by three board member candidates — current SGB Allocations Chair Cory Stillman, current SGB Community and Governmental Relations Chair Jessica Chong and junior economics and political science major Rajaab Nadeem, a resident assistant in Panther Hall and the executive chair of donations and finance at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh Food Pantry in Oakland.
When Dow asked her what era of Lady Gaga best represented the slate as a whole, Kennedy said when Lady Gaga wrote “Til It Happens To You,” a song focusing on campus sexual assault awareness. Kennedy expressed a strong desire to educate and help prevent sexual assault on campus.
“When we’re having that conversation about sexual assault, I think too often we focus on bystander intervention, which rests on the assumption that this negative behavior is going to happen in the first place,” Kennedy said. “And I don’t think this is the best way to solve this problem.”
The slate chose the name “Horizon” because, as Kennedy said, they are looking toward the future and how to change it for the better. Chong added that looking toward the future meant including student input.
“We’re always looking for feedback. We always want to hear everyone else’s opinions,” Chong said. “We want student feedback, and we’re always looking to improve and we’re always looking towards the future, towards the horizon, head right to the horizon.”
Saket Rajprohat, a junior marketing major who unsuccessfully ran for SGB in 2017, is also running for president alongside board candidates Pooja Humar, a junior biology major on a premed track, Cole Dunn, a sophomore finance and accounting major and vice president of finance for Phi Beta Lambda, and Jahari Mercer, a junior industrial engineering major, National Society of Black Engineers corporate liaison chair and president of the Students for Social Justice Organization.
Rajprohat advocated for gender-neutral bathrooms, increased sustainability on campus and free feminine and masculine hygiene products. He also criticized the current Campus Master Plan — a plan for what campus will look like in the next 30 years — and called SGB’s “Build Pitt: The Future of Our Campus” presentation Tuesday night a “master problem” instead. He said it highlighted problems on campus and included few solutions.
“I think that there [are] some small things that we can do here on campus to actually make a difference with our environment, like not wasting so much Market food, making our hand dryers more efficient, more energy efficient,” Rajprohat said.
The slate said they got the name “Neighbors” from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which was filmed in Pittsburgh. At the end of each candidates’ post on their “Vote Neighbors” Facebook page, it asks, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
“I think we can all vote on this because I didn’t come up with the name, one of our campaign staff members came up with the name,” Rajprohat said. “We want to make some initiatives and make some plans for Pitt to help the Pitt community feel more like a neighborhood.”
This board member slate, with no presidential candidate, consists of sophomores Nick Bibby, a political science major and secretary for the Pitt Political Science Student Association, Zechariah Brown, an economics and political science major and vice president of the PSSA, and Albert Tanjaya, a computer science major, Asian Students Alliance advocacy chair, Phi Gamma Delta recording secretary, Humans of Pitt logistic coordinator, OCC Honors Society and OCC brand ambassador and the recording secretary and delegate for SGB’s Assembly. Brown said the different race each member belongs to as well as the different organizations they are each involved in gave their slate a diverse perspective.
“I think that’s really helping us in terms of shaping our policy and the way we want to enact that,” Brown said.
This slate emphasized the desire to improve the Wi-Fi system at Pitt along with getting student organizations more involved in campus-wide programs such as Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Their name references student organizations’ involvement in connecting University students, staff and faculty.
“We believe that each and every student organization acts like a bridge to the overall Pitt community,” Tanjaya said.
This duo slate is made up of sophomores Matt Jones, a finance and global management major as well as a liaison for SGB’s Allocation Committee, and Noah Rubin, a political science major. Neither candidate is going for the presidential position. Jones said he was inspired to run because of his work on SGB’s first-year council, where he was impressed by the amount of change he saw SGB could make.
“In high school, student government wasn’t a thing that I was able to actually make real positive change on, and I see here at Pitt that that’s totally not the case,” Jones said. “I really want to make my mark on here and make my legacy.”
Rubin mentioned that Pitt’s national recognition and academics were great and that to continue that, SGB needs to focus on initiatives beneficial to students. This includes having faculty, alumni and students work together to increase campus health and wellness. Rubin and Jones chose “Legacy” as their slate name as a reference to Pitt’s legacy and their desire to create their own legacy at Pitt.
“We’re just trying to be the part of that group that tries to build on that legacy and try to cement our performance and our progress here,” Rubin said.
No slate that ran without a presidential candidate made it on the board in the 2017 election. Only one person who ran with a presidential candidate did not make it on the board last year, since there were eight positions for the board and nine board member candidates attached to a presidential candidate.