Stamatakis: The importance of the SGB Presidential election

By Nick Stamatakis

I’m surprised you’re even reading this right now — I thought the excitement of Student… I’m surprised you’re even reading this right now — I thought the excitement of Student Government Board elections would preoccupy students for the day.

Given that 18 candidates are campaigning on at least three proposals each, there’s certainly a lot to be excited about. All you need to do is rank the platforms by preference, then choose the six candidates whose ideas best match yours. Then, just sit back and let democracy make everything better.

I’m pretty sure nobody’s doing this.

I suspect that, to many, SGB is just a glorified high school student council. We hold elections, people win and then the victors sit in a special room a few times a week. It seems like nothing ever happens because the Board members wield no real power. Even if we agree on the ideas candidates are circulating — this year we have green roofs, South Oakland lighting and expanded Safe Rider routes, among others — there seems to be little reason to get excited because nothing ever happens.

In actuality, depending on how you define success, the outgoing Board kept anywhere from one-third to half of its promises. This year’s two presidential candidates, John Hasley and James Landreneau, each accomplished something concrete: a Blackboard smart phone app and a swipe-in system at Towers, respectively. For what it’s worth, estimates that President Barack Obama has kept or compromised on roughly a third of his promises, although he still has a year to go. Make of it what you will that Obama and SGB have comparable success rates.

It probably wasn’t ineffective leadership or laziness that precluded widespread change. It’s more likely that the popular conception of SGB isn’t far off the mark — there isn’t a lot of practical power inherent in Board’s positions. And because many of the Board’s funding decisions would probably not change much regardless of who’s on top, voting for candidates at this level is arguably not that critical.

This isn’t the case with the president, however. Molly Stieber, who currently holds the position, has actually achieved all three of her campaign proposals. Stieber oversaw the inclusion of more electronic books at The Book Center, served as a clear student voice in communicating with the city and state and created the promised SGB-sponsored Allocations 101 sessions earlier this year to help clubs understand the often confusing process.

Does Stieber’s success mean she’s simply more competent than everybody else? I hardly find this explanation satisfying. Although the Board itself does resemble a high school student council — a sort of vague liaison between administrators and students — the president position does have some leverage. Perhaps this power is not derived from any legislative mechanism, but rather the prestige of the position.

So although apathy toward the Board is understandable, everybody should take keen interest at least in the presidential race between Landreneau and Hasley. Whoever wins this race will impact your life as a Pitt student.

Landreneau’s three primary campaign goals are establishing SGB liaisons for specific campus groups, creating a Student Leader Summit and holding monthly open forums in which students can pose questions to Board members. John Hasley wants to allow SGB members to meet with student organizations, ensure that only non-College of General Studies students have access to the The New York Times and USA Today newspapers provided to students through the readership program, and institute public office hours in places like Towers Lobby or the Union.

So, for the 81 percent of you who didn’t vote in last year’s elections: One of these two people will win, and one of these two different series of initiatives will take effect. Landreneau’s focus is on creating institutions that connect student groups to SGB. Hasley’s focus is similar, but centers more on preventing freeloading by making it impossible for non-students to get free newspapers.

Of course, this isn’t a United States presidential race: A vote for Landreneau’s openness platform isn’t a vote against Hasley’s anti-freeloading platform. But because the student presidential vote matters, and because the president’s power comes from his or her passion about specific issues, it’s up to the campus to decide which one of these visions we prefer.

Is the biggest problem with SGB, and Pitt in general, the miscommunication between student groups? If so, vote for Landreneau. Or do you agree with Hasley and think that the problem with SGB and Pitt is the misallocation of student resources and the abuse of the readership program?

Go to and decide. The state of campus next year depends on who you choose.