Get to Know Your Government: Introducing SGB


(Pictured left to right) SGB President Maggie Kennedy, Rajaab Nadeem, Jessa Chong and Cory Stillman. (Photo courtesy of Horizon)

By Madeline Gavatorta | Staff Writer

Most students can’t speak one-on-one with administration to discuss issues most important to them or muster up enough support from the student body to get administration’s attention. This is where the Student Government Board comes in to help.

From pressuring Pennsylvania’s elected officials to pass a state budget to garnering up administrative backing to reduce textbooks costs, last year’s board showed what student representatives can do when they band together.

The Student Government Board — or, SGB — is the student government at Pitt that aims to “promote the concerns, interests, needs, and welfare of the student body of the University of Pittsburgh,” according to its website. SGB is led by a board of nine elected members each year, including one president and eight board members. The president is decided in an annual campus-wide election while the board members campaign in a separate election for their positions. The board member who receives the most votes in the SGB election automatically becomes the executive vice president while the president then appoints two of the remaining board members as vice presidents — one of whom will also serve as chief of finance and the other as chief of cabinet.

SGB has direct power over allocating a portion of the student activity fund, which comes from the $80 student activity fee per semester, to student organizations and club sports. SGB can also pass bills editing their own code and procedures. Indirectly, SGB can pass resolutions urging University or government officials to take action in a certain direction at their public meetings every Tuesday at 8:45 p.m. in Nordy’s Place, located on the ground floor of the William Pitt Union.

Apart from the board, SGB is made up of three standing — or permanent — committees, including the Election Committee, the Judicial Committee and the Allocations Committee. The Cabinet of Committees is the SGB body that oversees a number of other committees, including the Wellness Committee, the Academic Affairs Committee, the Community and Governmental Relations Committee, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Facilities, Technology and Transportation Committee.

The executive vice president also is the speaker of SGB’s lower legislative body, The assembly, made up of one representative from each of the 15 student-affairs-affiliated organizations at Pitt. The assembly presents an opportunity for student leaders to have an open dialogue with SGB the first and third Wednesday of each month at 8 p.m.

SGB also runs a First Year Council to which first-semester students can apply. Selected students, “who demonstrate early potential for campus leadership,” will help the board by researching for ongoing projects.

After the spring elections concluded — with Maggie Kennedy as next year’s SGB president — the Board started planning for the upcoming year. Here are some of next year’s new SGB members and what they have in store for their terms.

Executive Vice President Jahari Mercer

Mercer is a senior industrial engineering major and was the president for the Pitt Students for Social Justice last year. He was also the Pitt National Society of Black Engineers corporate liaison chair and ran for an SGB board position on the Neighbors slate.

He campaigned on expanding student’s ability to use their meal plans, adding diversity and inclusion to the new student orientation and helping departments find ways to help their students de-stress.

My biggest goals for the upcoming semester include to give students more freedom with their meal plan so that they can have more options of what to eat with their swipes, continue to stress and promote the need for diversity and inclusion on campus and to make SGB an organization that students feel comfortable communicating with and can use as a resource here on campus,” Mercer said.

Vice President and Chief of Finance Cory Stillman

Stillman is a junior film studies major who was the allocations chair last year. He is involved with WPTS Radio and is a member of the Beta Theta Phi fraternity. He ran as and SGB board candidate on the Horizon slate.

He campaigned on helping students better understand the allocations process, allowing non-sport competitive clubs to get more funding in return for their fundraising successes, an initiative to expand the Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance for creative arts students and creating an on-campus LGBTQ+ center.

“[Diversity] is educational, it will teach you just as much as you learn in the classroom,” Stillman said. “So to enter the world after college and take it head on, experience with diversity is really invaluable for any student here at Pitt.”

Board Member Albert Tanjaya

Tanjaya is a junior computer science major and was previously the recording secretary for the SGB assembly. He was the Asian Student Alliance advocacy chair, involved with Jumpstart and ran his candidacy on the 582 Bridges slate.

He campaigned on expanding the electronic room booking service to include more buildings and floors on campus, adding more trash and recycling bins and finding a better way for students to track the status of SGB projects.

“Without student government, there would be such an overhaul of chaos and communication going back and forth [between administration and students] whereas student government is a centralized place for all of these communications,” Tanjaya said.

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