SGB creates new social media rules for 2022 election

Arjun Manjunath, SGB presidential candidate.

Image courtesy the University of Pittsburgh

Arjun Manjunath, SGB presidential candidate.

By Kendall Swift and Donata Massimiani

With the Student Government Board election less than a week away, this year’s candidates have to comply with a few new rules. 

SGB’s elections committee revised the existing code following last year’s controversial election, which led to a high level of scrutiny for board members and a feeling of distrust among students. Marcus Edelstein, the chair of the elections committee, said the updated code allows the committee to create and enforce rules that are not listed in the elections code and address issues specific to that year’s election. 

One of these new rules addresses concerns surrounding presidential candidate Arjun Manjunath. Manjunath is a Pitt social media intern and is frequently featured on Pitt’s Instagram page, “@PittOfficial.”

The new rule listed on SGB’s 2022 elections information page says “candidates are not allowed to utilize University owned social media, department and resources to promote people to vote for them in the Election.”

Pitt spokesperson David Seldin said social media interns help the University share information and give glimpses into student life. Manjunath is frequently seen on Instagram stories on the account, which has around 46,400 followers. Manjunath declined a request to comment from the Pitt News. 

Edelstein said Manjunath approached him before campaigning began and informed him of his position. The updated code allowed for the committee to tackle this issue as soon as it presented itself. 

“We know he’s on PittOfficial’s Facebook, Instagram, whatever you want to call it, and we wrote a rule saying, ‘if you or any of the candidates are affiliated with any University platform, AKA PittOfficial, you can’t promote yourself by saying I’m running for student president or I’m running for board, vote for me on March 1,’” Edelstein said. 

Edelstein said Manjunath has not violated this rule and everything has “been going perfectly.” 

 “We took this into consideration a while ago, and we understood Arjun can still cooperate with his internship. He just can’t promote himself during the election,” Edelstein said. 

Seldin said Pitt is also working to ensure that social media privilege is not being abused, and that they take measures to prevent misuse of the platform. 

“Interns work with the social media staff in a structured way, in part to ensure that no one uses the platform to advance a personal or political agenda,” Seldin said. “They do not have the ability to post content to University channels independently.”

Danielle Floyd, the other presidential candidate and SGB’s current vice president of initiatives, said both presidential candidates want the election to be as fair and straightforward as possible. She said she thinks the elections committee handled the situation with Manjunath’s Pitt position well. 

“[The new rule] keeps everything on a fair playing field,” Floyd said. “I know that’s something they’re actively moderating and making sure that it’s being held to that standard.”

A few of the rules for SGB campaigning on social media are that all posts made for the purpose of campaigning must list the date of the election and web address to vote, follow any University or website rules or regulations and any Federal, State or local statutes, and that it must not be used by candidates, campaign managers or campaign staff as a means of defaming or promoting any other candidate or slate. 

Floyd said social media can be a great asset when campaigning, but going out to meet new people and forming new relationships is equally as beneficial. 

“Social media is such a great and powerful tool to utilize and it’s really important for us to keep up with that, especially because I know most students use Instagram,” Floyd said. “But, I think nothing replaces getting out there, talking to students, attending their GBMs and hearing those concerns. I’m hoping to utilize both of those different approaches overall in my campaign.” 

Edelstein said this year’s campaigning efforts have been in compliance so far, and that he hopes the events that took place last election do not result in a hesitation to vote this year. Edelstein said the biggest message he is trying to relay to voters is that “your vote actually means a lot.” 

“We want people to participate in this democracy, and I don’t care who anyone is, what they look like, what their beliefs are, I just want them to vote because SGB does a lot of things that directly impact the University of Pittsburgh, like controlling a $900,000 budget or implementing bills that could change things like student health services or study spaces,” Edelstein said. 

The SGB election will be held on March 1 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Students can vote by visiting and more information about the election can be found on the SGB website