Many SGB members decide not to run again after year of ‘nasty comments’


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Student Government Board at its weekly meeting in Nordy’s Place on Sept. 21, 2021.

By Kendall Swift, Staff Writer

With the upcoming Student Government Board elections on March 1, many current members are out campaigning for reelection. But this year, some SGB members chose not to run again due to what they described as extreme criticism from fellow students.

Criticism is expected in public positions. But following the Vision slate’s disqualification during last spring’s elections, SGB members and candidates began receiving even harsher criticism. The events caused an online conflict between the Vision slate and the Brightside Slate. While a member of Brightside filed the complaints that led to the disqualification, both slates came under fire online, through platforms such as Reddit and Instagram. Candidates were called many names, such as “snitches” and “playschool candidate.” The board itself was called “corrupt,” “cultist” and “full authoritarian” on one Reddit thread.

Caroline Goodwin, a junior biological sciences major, is currently a board member. She started as a first-year student on the allocations committee, and took a year off before running for and winning election as an SGB board member. Goodwin is unable to run in this year’s election because she is transferring to Pitt’s College of General Studies, which has its own student government.

She said she isn’t sure if she would rerun even if she was eligible. Goodwin said last year’s election was a breaking point that led to her receiving harsher criticism on social media.

“I was genuinely concerned by the actions of our student body and even after the election, people continue to be nasty,” Goodwin, the liaison to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said.

Ryan Murphy, a junior political science and history double major and current board member, said while he is open to constructive criticism, there has to be a line between criticism and “expressing disapproval.” Murphy is also not running for reelection, as he plans to graduate in winter 2022, meaning that he would be unable to serve a full term.

“I definitely want to welcome criticism of SGB … but there definitely needs to be a line between constructive criticism and expressing disapproval, and reaching a point where you’re making someone feel unsafe or just attacking them for elements of their character that have nothing to do with the job,” Murphy, who has been part of SGB for his three years at Pitt, said.

Current board members Nikhita Chakraborty and Matt Moore are eligible to run again, but are not running for re-election. Both declined to speak about their decision with The Pitt News.

Fellow board member Daniel Temmallo disagreed with Murphy and Goodwin.

Temmallo, a sophomore political science and public and professional writing major, is running again as a board candidate with the Steel City Slate. He believes that an SGB board member receiving criticism should be expected.

“You shouldn’t take a position to represent the student body without expecting criticism from the student body,” Temmallo, the liaison to the Wellness Committee, said, “If you’re not doing as much as possible, then I think those criticisms are warranted.”

Temmallo said he didn’t receive much hate, either during the previous year’s election or since then. But he said he did receive criticism for a failed vote on supporting faculty unionization, on which Temmallo voted in favor.

“Obviously the faculty have already unionized but the staff are planning to and I’d like to support that,” Temmallo said, “I’d like to make SGB supportive of other unions. But I don’t necessarily know if criticisms lobbed at that vote are unwarranted.”

Goodwin and Murphy said they did not want to be subjected to this kind of scrutiny for another year.

“We’re all just people and I would not choose to subject myself to that level of scrutiny again even if that was an option,” Goodwin said, “I think that criticism of [SGB] is important but making nasty comments that have nothing to do with our job is just inappropriate and not very kind.”

Goodwin said she is proud of her work at SGB, despite difficulties she said she has faced.

“I was really just proud of myself for getting on the board in general,” Goodwin said, “That was a really big feat, but then being able to make changes that I’m actually seeing happen on our campus is really cool.”

Despite their own criticism of SGB, Goodwin and Murphy said they do not want to deter anyone who may be interested from becoming involved. In fact, they encouraged new people to get involved in order to bring fresh perspectives.

“[Murphy not running] is a really great opportunity for new leaders to come into SGB, and fresh perspective, I think, is really important,” Murphy said, “So I’m excited to see new people come in and give them some space to deal with the initiatives they care about.”