“Grateful, thankful, overwhelmed”: Brown wins SGB presidency

Hannah Heisler | Staff Photographer

By Brian Gentry and Emily Wolfe

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Zechariah Brown will serve as president of Pitt’s Student Government Board during the 2019-20 school year, after winning 62 percent of the vote against Albert Tanjaya Tuesday.

Brown said he felt “grateful and thankful and overwhelmed” when Katie McLaughlin, chair of SGB’s Elections Committee, read the results at SGB’s Tuesday night meeting.

“I felt like this was so incredibly close. I didn’t know how it was going to go until I heard a name,” Brown said.

In total, 3,394 students, or about 18 percent of the undergraduate student body, voted in today’s election — nearly identical to last year’s total of 3,481, but a sharp decrease from 2017’s total of 5,177.

Brown, who ran on the Impact Slate, focused on expanding accessibility to SGB through new events titled “Bonding with the Board” during his campaign. He is also interested in continuing and advancing Pitt’s alcohol amnesty policy. He will be joined on the board by fellow slate members Caroline Unger, Scott Glaser and Ashima Agarwal.

Anaïs Peterson, Victoria Tappan and Eric Macadangdang from the Frontier Slate — the only other slate to field a presidential candidate — will join the board as well, along with Lynn Dang and Cedric Humphrey of the 19Forward Slate.

Neither Sean Steinle, who ran with Dang and Humphrey, or individual candidate Aman Reddy won enough votes to secure places on the board.

Each year, the board candidate who receives the most votes receives the title of executive vice president, a position held this year by Jahari Mercer. However, Peterson and Unger both received more votes than any other board candidate, at 1,154 each, so the position will remain unfilled until the current board and incoming board convene to nominate an executive vice president in a yet-to-be-determined process.

“When she said it, I thought, ‘What are the odds?’’’ Unger said. “That’s never happened before.”

Peterson was unable to attend the elections results announcement due to a class commitment, but her running mates, Macadangdang and Tappan, celebrated their wins while still acknowledging the pain of seeing Tanjaya lose.

“It hurt,” Macadangdang said. “Working with him the last few weeks, I’ve never seen someone work harder. But I know, whatever the result was tonight, that he’s going to do great things with his last year at Pitt.”

Tanjaya said the loss was “bittersweet,” but that he looked forward to seeing what Brown accomplishes during his presidency.

“I completely trust the future of SGB to Zech,” Tanjaya said. “We talked about this actually. We said that regardless who wins or loses, the future will be in good hands.”

Humphrey, along with his future fellow board members Peterson and Glaser, had no prior experience with SGB, and said he was glad that the results showed that SGB experience isn’t the only thing that qualifies a student to serve.

“The requirements for being on Student Government Board are having the right GPA and being a student in good academic standing,” Humphrey said. “Prior experience in SGB shouldn’t deter anybody from running for something they really want to do.”

Dang, who will be the only sophomore on next year’s board, said although she was excited to implement changes next year as a board member, she was disappointed that her slatemate Steinle was not elected.

“Even though I’m really happy because I know I can make a lot of changes next year, I am disappointed that one of my really good friends and running mates hasn’t made it,” Dang said. “I’m going to work really hard next year to not only implement my own ideas, but [also] a lot of his great ideas.”

Some candidates already look forward to implementing the policies they campaigned on. Tappan said she was looking forward to implementing her meal plan initiative, which would create a separate, cheaper meal plan for lower-income students, and Macadangdang, the current wellness chair for SGB, said he wanted “to get the ball rolling” with his mental health initiatives.

Brown received 62.4 percent of the vote to Tanjaya’s 37.6 percent. In last year’s SGB presidential election, current President Maggie Kennedy defeated her opponent, Saket Rajprohat, with 56 percent of the vote.

Kennedy adjourned the routine SGB meeting within three minutes, forgoing the usual allocations and announcements so McLaughlin could announce the results.

McLaughlin gave the names of the successful board candidates in ascending order by number of votes and finished by announcing Brown’s win.

Eight of the 10 SGB board member candidates won seats in the SGB election on Tuesday. Graphic by Anna Goetz | Staff Graphic Artist

After the announcement, the event quickly turned into a celebration, with candidates offering each other congratulations and consolation.

Kennedy said she was excited about the incoming board and that she would have been happy with a victory for either presidential candidate. Both Brown and Tanjaya currently serve with her on this year’s board.

“I felt like we had two amazing presidential candidates this year, and I respect them both so much,” she said. “Coming in tonight, I knew that SGB was going to thrive either way.”

The current board will meet regularly with the new board to help SGB through the transition process, Kennedy said.

Glaser said the campaign seemed so long that it felt odd for the election to be over, but that he had confidence in Brown and his slate during the campaign.

“We were running for so long for Zech. We knew he had the ability to do it. I’m happy for everybody on our slate, but ultimately the president is the one who makes the decisions,” Glaser said. “The fact that he’s president and we ran with him is amazing.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Tappan had no previous experience on SGB. She served on First Year Council and is currently the Vice Chair of the Community and Governmental Relations Committee.

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