SGB approves new Diversity and Inclusion chair

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Rachhana Baliga | Staff Photographer

SGB president Zechariah Brown discusses the appointment of Varsha Suresh as SGB’s new diversity and inclusion committee chair at Tuesday’s weekly meeting.

By Anushay Chaudhry, Staff Writer

Student Government Board kicked off their weekly meeting Tuesday night with an announcement from President Zechariah Brown approving the newly appointed SGB Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair Varsha Suresh.

Suresh is taking over for previous chair Ravi Gandhi, who resigned from the position late last week.

“We’re very sad to see Ravi go, but I’m incredibly elated to see Varsha take over [their] position,” Brown said. “I’m excited to see what the diversity and inclusion committee looks like and continues to look like under Varsha’s leadership.”

Suresh mentioned she was excited to take charge of several of Gandhi’s projects, including initiatives like absences for religious holidays and details finalizing an LGBTQ+ student center. 

“This transition is a little bit sudden and it’s towards the end of the year, but we definitely want to continue in the direction of all of Ravi’s initiatives and add a couple more,” Suresh said after the meeting.

During committee reports, Community and Governmental Relations Chair Tyler Viljaste reminded students that Pitt Day in Harrisburg will be taking place March 17, with buses leaving at 7 a.m. and expected to return by 7 p.m.

The annual event gives students, faculty and alumni the opportunity to meet with state legislators and advocate for budget increases — which Viljaste described as a solution to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget to keep the funding for state-funded schools “completely flat,” meaning that students may face tuition increases.

“State funding has been an issue every year,” Viljaste said after the meeting. “We always go to Pitt Day in Harrisburg to advocate for increased funding because we’re in a really interesting position as a state-related school.”

According to Viljaste, state-related schools, such as universities, get their funding through a different allocations process as opposed to public state schools.

“Our budget is somewhat like a political football,” Viljaste said. “There have been times where we have been able to get budget increases, and I think that has a lot to do with the advocacy we do at Pitt Day in Harrisburg.”

Brown announced that the March 17 SGB public meeting will be canceled due to concerns over the late arrival of students returning from Harrisburg.

In response to a student email, Wellness Chair Nina Duong announced that Forbes Street Market does not accept food stamps, but that this is a new issue that the Wellness Committee was working to solve. A member of the Wellness Committee has spoken to the manager of Forbes Street Market and said the grocery store is currently working on allowing students to use food stamps for payment.

In order for a store to be eligible to accept food stamps, Duong said, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program sets requirements for item inventory to meet basic student needs, including items like baby wipes which Forbes Street Market does not currently carry.

“Forbes Market is working to provide that right now so SNAP can approve of them to accept food stamps,” Duong said after the meeting.

When asked about the number of students affected by Forbes Street Market’s inability to accept food stamps, Duong said that information was not readily available, and personally believes that Pitt has not even looked into surveying that demographic of students.

“I think it would be interesting to send out a survey,” Duong said after the meeting. “This is an issue and I don’t think people have talked about it because we’ve never had a market like this.”

During board reports, board member Eric Macadangdang announced that there will be available positions for standing committee memberships and committee chairs due to the transition from the old board to the newly elected board. Applications for the open positions will be available from March 6 until March 20.

Board member Caroline Unger detailed different events SGB will be offering during Women’s Empowerment Week, which begins on March 23.

The list of initiatives that SGB is implementing during the week include events like a salary negotiation workshop, a civic engagement event centered around the 100th year anniversary of the 19th amendment and the groups of women who were not extended that right originally, a roundtable discussion on intersectionality and an end-of-week celebration honoring the work of women leaders on Pitt’s campus. Additionally, the Pitt Program Council will offer self-defense and fitness workshops.

The week will come to an end with a Women’s Empowerment march on April 3, which Unger hopes will serve as a segue between Women’s Empowerment Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“We want to showcase all of those perspectives just to show the different facets there are to being a woman, being this age, dealing with different parts of life, like mental health, finding a job and going to college,” Unger said after the meeting.

 

Club Requested allocations Approved allocations Purpose
Hindu Students Council $4,240.11 $999 HSC requested for purchases for its Holi event. The committee had concerns over policies relating to giveaways and non-reusable purchases. The committee recommended to deny in full, but the board approved with revisions.
Plant 2 Plate $1,264.95 $1,264.95 Plant 2 Plate requested for a greenhouse, which will extend the possible growing season and allow greater flexibility in planting. The committee recommended to approve in full.
Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Club $3,219.27 $3,219.27 Men’s Ultimate requested for ground transportation and lodging to attend the Smoky Mountain Invite competition. The committee recommended to approve in full.
Phi Beta Lambda $1,933.80 $1,475.52 PBL requested for ground transportation and lodging to attend the State Leadership Conference competition. The committee made cuts due to incorrect mileage rates.
Pitt Men’s Glee Club $5,913 $5,913 PMGC requested for a coach bus to the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York as the first leg of its planned international tour. The committee recommended to deny in full due to concerns over the high cost of the request compared to other modes of transportation. However, the board voted to approve in full.
National Student Speech Language Hearing Association $2,547.30 $339 NSSLHA requested for airfare and lodging to attend the American Academy of Audiology conference. The committee made cuts due to the conference cap.
Ya’baso Dance Team $3,795.68 $3,738.68 Ya’baso requested for purchases and services for its Annual Showcase event. The committee made cuts due to a math error.
Society of Astronautics and Rocketry $3,338.96 $3,338.96 SOAR requested for ground transportation and lodging to attend the NASA Student Launch National Competition. The committee recommended to approve in full.

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