SGB candidates debate key issues for presidency

Student+Government+Board+Presidential+candidates+Arjun+Manjunath+%28far+right%29+and+Danielle+Floyd+%28middle+right%29+are+questioned+by+Jon+Moss%2C+Editor-in-Chief+of+The+Pitt+News+%28middle+left%29+and+Sam+Bliss%2C+news+director+of+WPTS.

Amaya Lobato | For The Pitt News

Student Government Board Presidential candidates Arjun Manjunath (far right) and Danielle Floyd (middle right) are questioned by Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief of The Pitt News (middle left) and Sam Bliss, news director of WPTS.

By Kendall Swift, Staff Writer

The two Student Government Board presidential candidates debated Monday evening in Nordy’s Place about their most important initiatives for the coming academic year.

Candidates for board and president introduced themselves and spoke briefly before the debate began. The Dream, Steel City, For You Panthers and Reform slates all spoke, along with independent candidate Corbin Makar. Slates are groups of candidates with similar goals, like political parties.

During the debate, Danielle Floyd and Arjun Manjunath touched on key issues, such as transparency, campus safety, flexibility and accessibility.

This year’s SGB election will take place on March 1 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and students can vote at pi.tt/sgbelections. Jon Moss, editor-in-chief of The Pitt News, and Sam Bliss, news director at WPTS Radio, moderated the debate.

Floyd, a junior economics major, is running on the Dream slate along with board candidates Isabel Lam, a sophomore political science and economics double major, Alison Linares, a sophomore industrial engineering major, and Derek Dressler, a sophomore political science and psychology double major.

Floyd said one of her strengths is her three years of experience with SGB, during which she has held a variety of positions, and is currently vice president of initiatives.

“I say all this to say that I have experience when it comes to instituting and working with some of the biggest initiatives,” Floyd said.

Arjun Manjunath, a first-year marketing major, is running on the For You Panthers slate, along with board candidates Sophia Shapiro, a sophomore urban studies major, Celeste Lintz, a junior bioengineering major, and Bhuvitha Chagantipati, a junior music and cultural history and biological sciences double major.

Manjunath said one of his strengths is that he is a first-year student and has three years left at Pitt to work on implementing his initiatives. He added that he does not have much coursework as a marketing major.

“I have the time to be able to follow through,” Manjunath, a current First-Year Council member, said.

Manjunath said his top priorities included increased campus engagement and transparency between Pitt students, SGB and administration. Some of his ideas include academic mixers and friendly meetings between different schools on campus. He also plans to be present at meetings held by administrators as SGB president.

“SGB is the student representation at [administration] meetings, so I actually want to be at those meetings and be sure that the student voice is truly represented,” Manjunath said.

Floyd said her top priorities are becoming more visible to students and understanding student experiences. She plans to do this using “traveling office hours,” which would happen a few times each week around campus to discuss student concerns.

“A board member and myself would be in popular areas on campus, meeting, getting out there and talking to students — really getting an idea of what the issues are,” Floyd said. “That way, [SGB is] getting a more diverse range of perspectives and implementing that directly to the spaces [SGB is] representing.”

Despite running against each other, both candidates have similar positions. They both want to encourage unionization, improve campus safety, support minority students and make SGB more visible. Both said they are in favor of hybrid learning options for students. They said they plan to do this by making recorded lectures both widely available and accessible.

Floyd plans to use existing Pitt technology, purchased while the University used its [email protected] teaching model, to make hybrid learning easier for students and professors.

“It’s not on the faculty members to teach the class, be the producer and play all these different roles. So I really want to see if we can get some of the equipment from [email protected] back that was originally here throughout the pandemic,” Floyd said.

Both candidates said there should be additional safety measures both on and off campus. They said they plan to make students more aware of on-campus safety options, such as the SafeRider program and walking escort programs. Manjunath recalled his own disappointing experience with the current on-campus safety options.

“Honestly, if you’re in an emergency, it’s not very reliable,” Manjunath said, “So I really do want to work on that program and get Pitt admin involved.”

The two candidates differed on what they planned to be their first initiative if elected.

Floyd said she plans to first alter SGB’s organization if elected to make it more reflective of students’ wishes. She said she would talk with Pitt students in order “to understand their engagement with SGB so far and also to understand what parties that they want us to focus on as a board.”

Manjunath said his first initiative would be to host another student activities fair at a time that would be more “convenient” for students. He also would plan to introduce himself to attendees and learn student perspectives first-hand and in person, rather than over email.

“An email survey asking them what they want isn’t going to work. […] I want to make sure that the student voice is heard personally,” Manjunath said.

In her closing remarks, Floyd also said email isn’t enough and she plans to personally engage with students.

“I really want to make sure that we as an institution are hearing your voice and are being approachable and visible,” Floyd said.