Bank accounts, dining and more: SGB members talk plans for academic year

By Pamela Smith, Contributing Editor

As the fall semester begins, Pitt’s Student Government Board will start allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars from the student activities fee fund — which is financed through students’ tuition — to clubs. The Pitt News spoke with some board members to learn about their plans for this year.

President Danielle Floyd said the group hopes to launch a long-awaited program that will give student organizations a private bank account at PNC bank. This program, spearheaded by former board member Brennan Conway, would also allow student organizations to use Venmo and Cash App. Board member and Vice President of Operations Isabel Lam said her goal is to get the program off the ground by the spring semester. 

“We are currently in the process of writing a proposal to administration to see if they give the go ahead for our pilot program which may be introduced as early as spring semester,” Lam said. “Both SGB and [Student Organization Resource Center] are very excited to implement this program in the future.”

Floyd, a senior economics major, also wants to create a SGB task force that will work on inclusion initiatives, such as establishing a “Belonging and Inclusion Center” on the sixth floor of the William Pitt Union, and to collaborate more with other Pennsylvania state-related schools, such as Penn State and Temple Universities, through the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students

Students elected Floyd and eight board members last year. The group’s main job is allocating a portion of the $2.7 million from the student activities fee fund to student organizations. They also represent students in talks with the University and provide resources such as free 20 minute legal consultations, a free New York Times subscription and grants for student organizations related to diversity and inclusion.

One seat on the board is currently unfilled after Celeste Lintz resigned earlier this month due to “increased commitments.” Current board members will vote for a new board member, with applications currently open to students.

Lam, a junior political science and economics double major, said her top goal is ensuring “complete transparency and efficiency” in the allocations process. She, alongside Carson Hawk, chair of the allocations committee, plans to update “outdated” caps, which will allow clubs to request and receive more money. Lam also wants to implement cardless access in residence halls and other campus buildings not affected by the July removal of building access restrictions.

Floyd’s main priority is strengthening ties between the board and the student body, ensuring student opinions are heard by University administrators. She said she’ll accomplish this by updating the organization’s website and social media pages, hosting office hours as well as speaking at student organizations’ meetings. 

My overall goal this year is to ensure the SGB is approachable and accessible to all students, and to actively make sure that students know that they have allies and advocates whose sole focus is hearing their concerns and ensuring that action takes place,” Floyd said.

Board member Corbin Makar is pushing to diversify dietary options on campus through SGB’s Dining Task Force. He said more engaging survey options will help accomplish this goal. 

To receive constructive feedback from our peers, we need to develop more ways to connect to them personally,” Makar, a junior communication rhetoric major, said, “whether that be digitally, like direct email surveys, or in-person with planned food tastings. Rather than looking at a set of predetermined responses, we want to instead hear what students have to say.”

Through SGB’s LGBTQIA+ task force, Makar wants to advocate for a dedicated LGBTQ+ center on campus. Makar said progress on the center “stagnated,” although the group made progress in other areas, such as Pitt hiring a coordinator of belonging and inclusion, Ali Hoefnagel. 

One of board member Sophia Shapiro’s goals is implementing educational programs about tenant rights so students aren’t “taken advantage of by their landlords.” Shapiro, a junior urban studies major, also plans to work with religious groups to ensure they can observe holidays “without academic penalty.”

Some Jewish, Hindu and Muslim students have reported difficulties making arrangements with professors to accomodate religious celebrations. 

“We will work with the administration to communicate to professors dates of different holidays and the accommodations students will need,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro also plans to motivate Pitt students to be “civically engaged” through voter registration initiatives. She plans to work with Pitt Votes, Pitt Serves and student groups to get students to register to vote. Shapiro’s father, Josh Shapiro, is running for Pennsylvania governor. 

Non-board members also have a say in SGB. Chief of Staff Dominic Victoria advises elected members, and said he hopes to work on improving storage in the William Pitt Union and O’Hara Student Center along with improving student working conditions on campus alongside the board.

“I’m a big advocate for community collaboration, and I hope to connect board members with the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation as we continue the fight for equitable development, tenants’ rights and improved housing conditions, specifically in Central and South Oakland,” Victoria, a junior politics-philosophy major, said.