SGB’s priorities for the academic year


Hannah Heisler | Senior Staff Photographer

SGB President Zechariah Brown.

By Emily Drzymalski, Staff Writer

As students begin their new semester of classes, the new and returning members of Pitt’s Student Government Board are settling into their new roles and are preparing for the upcoming semester. Last year, SGB accomplished some of its major goals, including reforming the election process. Here are some of their priorities for this academic year.

President Zechariah Brown

Zechariah Brown, a senior political science major, is working on initiatives concerning the recent tuition rise, increasing student participation in SGB and improving SGB’s transparency.

Brown is working with Provost Ann Cudd and Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner to look at ways to make Pitt more affordable for its students, though he said it’s still early in the process. In an email, Brown said they will be exploring ways to communicate to students exactly where their tuition dollars are going and how students can have greater input in the budgeting process.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox three times a week.

Brown and administrators are planning to hold events addressing students’ concerns throughout the year. In an email, Brown said there will be a town hall this fall to discuss students’ concerns about college debt and in the spring a town hall to focus on University budgets. Brown also said he’ll be releasing specific dates for the events in his President’s Report during the Sept. 9 Public Meeting.

Within SGB, Brown and other board members are hoping to increase student participation by creating dedicated social media accounts related to board work, as well as ensuring meeting minutes are accessible. 

Executive Vice President Anaïs Peterson

Anaïs Peterson, a senior urban studies major, presides over the Assembly — the lower branch of SGB consisting of student organizations that represent large groups of students on campus. As Executive Vice President, Peterson is first in the line of succession to replace President Zechariah Brown if he were to resign or leave his position.

Peterson said in an email that she intends to pursue many initiatives, including the creation of a public comment period at University Board of Trustees meetings, an idling ban for University buses and other affiliated vehicles to curb air pollution on campus, fossil fuel divestment, an LGBTQ+ student center, equally accessible and available gender neutral bathrooms, and sanctuary campus status for Pitt.

Peterson has been involved with Fossil Free Pitt Coalition, Free the Planet, Pitt Multiracial Student Association, Asian Student Alliance and the Pitt Band in the past.

“I’m hoping to work with a lot of already existing student campaigns and clubs to amplify their work to administration so that the student demands can move forward,” Peterson said in an email.

Vice President and Chief of Finance Ashima Agarwal

Ashima Agarwal, a junior biology and psychology major, has two long term goals for this year — getting composting bins into academic buildings and residence halls, and increasing mentorship at a peer and alumni level. Agarwal is currently researching different ways to implement these mentorship programs by researching schools with similar programs already in place.

The fundamental motivation behind it is allowing students to utilize the knowledge of their peers and successful alumni in their fields to navigate not only classes but the job landscape,” Agarwal said in an email. “Pitt has 19,000 students and even more alumni, so creating a stronger network for students to take advantage of would be really beneficial.”

Agarwal added that she has begun speaking to administration about her initiatives, and hopes to get other student organizations involved as well.

“With such large initiatives, it will be crucial to work with other student organizations in a collaborative manner,” Agarwal said in an email.

Vice President and Chief of Cabinet Caroline Unger

Caroline Unger, a junior political science and philosophy major, said she is working on a walking escort program that is currently in pilot. The program is designed to escort students who may feel unsafe traveling alone.

Two security officers are currently stationed on the ground floor of Hillman Library, available to walk students to residence halls on lower campus or wait with students until a shuttle can bring them to upper campus. A SafeRider van is also stationed outside the library for student use.

Unger is also working to connect Pitt’s two main alert lists, the Emergency Notification System and the Crime Alert list. Students are automatically enrolled in the ENS list, which deal with on-campus incidents, while the crime alert list, for off-campus incidents, is opt-in.

“So much of Pitt’s campus involves North and South Oakland,” Unger said. “There’s not just a single enclosed campus, so I think it’d be important to make sure we’re getting alerts about anything that is happening anywhere in Oakland.”

Dining on campus is also a concern for Unger— whether it be looking into issues of food insecurity or making changes to campus meal plans. Unger is working with Pitt Pantry and other board members to assess food insecurity on campus.

Unger is also looking at ways to change the current meal plans on campus. Currently, students can use Panther Funds, Dining Dollars and meal swipes to buy food on campus.

Panther Funds operate similar to cash, having the ability to be used at dining options not covered under a student meal plan. Panther Funds carry over from semester to semester. 

Dining Dollars and meal swipes, on the other hand, can only be used for on-campus dining. Meal swipes do not carry over from semester to semester, whereas dining dollars do but any unused dollars will be forfeited at the end of the spring semester.

Unger’s plan would be to consolidate Panther Funds, Dining Dollars and meal swipes into one  form of currency. 

Board Member Victoria Tappan

Victoria Tappan, a junior communications and urban studies major, plans to focus on Greek life this year — strengthening the relationship between organizations and the University administration — as well as working with Board Member Unger on food insecurity initiatives.

Tappan has already started work on her Greek life initiative, speaking with the presidents of the three major Greek life councils — the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Interfraternity Council and College Panhellenic Association.

“We are currently working to set a meeting in which we will [be] able to discuss our current concerns about Greek life and how it is seen in the eyes of the administration,” Tappan said in an email.

Tappan also said that she and Greek life will be able to share more details and concerns they have about how administration views them after their meeting, which still needs to be set up. 

Board Member Cedric Humphrey

Cedric Humphrey, a junior political science major in his first year on SGB, said in an email he plans to focus on enhancing student organizations participation in service through Pitt Serves.

Board Member Eric Macadangdang

Eric Macadangdang, a junior urban studies and history and philosophy of science major, said he plans to work on making menstrual product dispensers available on the main floor of the William Pitt Union.

Macadangdang has been working with the Student Office of Sustainability, Pitt Planned Parenthood, Student Health Services and Treasure Her to figure out the best way to make the products available. He said the dispensers should be going into pilot soon and the initiative is student-run, but is hopeful the University will eventually fund it.

Macadangdang is also looking to get students involved more with the Campus Master Plan, particularly the more physical planning aspects.

“We’re going to be alumni, we’re going to be people who want to be proud of the University we graduate from,” Macadangdang said. “So, making sure that the buildings and what we lay down as a foundation physically in Oakland is something we can look back and say, ‘yes, this is something I had a part in making.’”

Board Member Lynn Dang

Lynn Dang, an undeclared sophomore in the College of Business Administration, hopes to increase Pitt students’ financial literacy by hosting events exploring topics like controlling finances, credit cards and investing.

Dang also said in an email she’d like to strengthen the University Career Center. After switching from Dietrich to Pitt Business in Spring 2019, she witnessed firsthand the difference in resources available to students in each school.

Dang explained that her experience in the Pitt Business center in Sennott Square was more personalized, which is something she’d like to help the Career Center in WPU create.

“I plan to reach out to the staff at the Career Center and discuss my ideas, and learn about the logic behind how the Career Center operates to search for strong and weak areas,” Dang said.

Board Member Scott Glaser

Scott Glaser, a senior political science major, said in an email his main focus is on improving off-campus housing available to Pitt students. He wants to advocate for fair housing options and ensure that students are aware of their rights as tenants by working with the University Office of Off-Campus Living and the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation.

In the short term, Glaser said in an email he would like to assist with the upcoming Mental Health Awareness Month and Self-Care Fair in October. Glaser wants to reach out to student organizations and offices dealing with mental health to help with the initiatives.