SGB hears student input on Corbett’s budget

By Marissa Meredyth

Student concerns over proposed state budget cuts dominated the Student Government Board meeting… Student concerns over proposed state budget cuts dominated the Student Government Board meeting last night in Nordy’s Place.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget, announced last week, calls for cuts that would eliminate almost $900 million in education spending. Pitt’s state appropriations would be reduced by more than half — from $185 million to $80.2 million dollars.

The budget still has to go through a series of hearings and amendments by the state legislature before it is passed. The deadline for passage is June 30.

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, during a news conference last week, said the cuts could ultimately result in tuition increases for students.

Board President Molly Stieber and governmental relations chair Kyle Miller publicized through Facebook that part of this week’s board meeting would be used as a forum for students to come and speak on the issue.

Stieber altered the structure of the meeting by beginning with allocations requests. The meeting was suspended at 9:17 p.m. after all 12 allocations requests were heard and resumed 40 minutes later after students spoke about the cuts, so the Board could hear committee reports. The meeting adjourned at 10:19 p.m.

Although the room wasn’t as full as Board member Ryan Gayman had hoped, most student leaders stayed after having their requests heard. Additionally, about 15 students strolled in after 9 p.m. and sat on the sides to listen to the discussion, bringing total attendance to about 35 students.

Hyla Wallis, an out-of-state senior at Pitt, brought up the issue of how to get students whose permanent residence isn’t in Pennsylvania involved in the campaign to show state legislators that cuts would be unacceptable. Out-of-state students pay significantly more than in-state students, about $24,000 compared to about $14,000 for Arts & Sciences students.

Stieber said Pitt students from all states should get involved, because cuts in Pennsylvania could affect other public education systems throughout the country.

“The country is really looking at us now,” Stieber said, suggesting that decisions to not fund higher education here could cascade across state lines.

“I’m not sure this is the type of trendsetting we want to show other states in the future,” she said.

Board member Alex Zimmerman added later in the discussion that the kind of cuts proposed would mean programs in the University would certainly be cut.

“If you’re associated with Pitt, this is an issue that will affect you,” Zimmerman said.

Two students in the Swanson School of Engineering came just for the state funding discussion.

Ben Zaczek, a senior biological and electrical engineering major who plans to graduate next year, suggested that efforts to curb the cuts need to be highly publicized. He added that students should create a plan to connect with local, state and national media.

“This is happening to us now, but you could be next,” Zaczek said.

Stieber and Seth Bush, a junior electrical engineering major, agreed with Zaczek. Stieber said that the media has a short attention span.

Bush mentioned that students generally do not turn out in large numbers to the polls, a fact that legislators are likely to consider when drafting controversial legislation.

“We need to show [Corbett] we will definitely vote in the next elections,” Bush said. “So watch out.”

Board member Matt Riehle and Stieber said that students’ efforts need to remain positive.

“I don’t want to go the angry route,” Stieber said. “I don’t think it ever accomplishes anything.”

Riehle encouraged students to use their “zealousness” and educate themselves. If legislators ask where to cut spending, students need to have something to say. He cited tax exemption status for gas drilling as an example.

Allocation Notes:

Pitt Students for a Democratic Society requested $2,994 to bring a concert and educational workshop tour by Evan Greer and Born In a Cent. The Board denied the request in full because the request was not in line with the group’s mission statement and it did not believe the estimated size of the event merited such substantial funding.

Circle K International requested $600 to pay for dues that would give the group national recognition. The Board approved the request in full.

Session: Middle East requested $2,555 to send four members to a convention. The Board approved $1,579 and denied $976 for an extra hotel room and delegate registration fees that were deemed an individualized cost.

Active Minds requested $2,900 to host a suicide awareness event. The Board approved $1,834 and denied $1,066.

Parliamentary Debate Club requested $611.28 to attend an annual competition at the College of William & Mary. The Board approved the request in full.

Secular Student Alliance requested $1105.48 to send four people to a conference. The Board approved the request in full.

Pitt Rugby Football Club requested $1,485 to buy 25 new jerseys. Allocations Chairman Mike Bane called the current ones “hazardous.” Dave Petrone, a team player and former Board member, mentioned the old ones were bloody, ripped or cut off of players by paramedics. The Board approved the request in full.

Panther Judo requested $1,531.34 for a tournament. The Board approved $900.32 and denied $631.02.

Panther Club Field Hockey requested $1,778.96 and $1,215.84 to attend two tournaments. The Board approved both requests in full.

Lady Panthers Lacrosse requested $1,150.10 to attend a tournament in Michigan. The Board approved $1,072.88 and denied $77.22 for tax.

Pittsburgh Fencing Association requested $1,280 and $960 to attend two tournaments. The Board approved both requests in full.

College Democrats requested $623 to attend a statewide conference in Philadelphia. The Board approved the request in full.