SGB board vacancy candidates discuss student representation


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Student Government Board at its weekly meeting in Nordy’s place Tuesday night.

By Pamela Smith, Contributing Editor

Student Government Board held its final interviews for the vacant board seat at Tuesday night’s meeting, where “listening to student input” was the core of both candidates’ platforms. 

SGB held its weekly meeting in Nordy’s Place to discuss and review initiatives and allocations. During the meeting, the board publicly interviewed Ryan Young and Vidya Surti, the final two candidates competing to fill the vacant board seat. The board took public input through a feedback form and public questions.

Young, a junior math, physics and astronomy major and current webmaster for SGB, said the role of board member to him means being the “chief advocate of the University.”

“I don’t think a lot of students get that opportunity,” Young said. “Using that platform to actually hear people out and also enact your own concerns and make sure that these things are seen by people actually making decisions people are usually isolated from, you know, students or student representation.”

Young said he believes one of the challenges as a SGB member is navigating big ideas in a “pre-existing institution.”

“I don’t think you should expect to be able to immediately and automatically get through everything that you want to do,” Young said. “I think it’s about making slow, incremental changes — you keep working on people, you keep reaching out to them, you work within their paradigm if they don’t want to do a certain different thing to still see your ends met as best as you can.”

Young said one aspect of SGB he would critique is how the organization is “unnecessarily stratified.”

“All the power is kind of held by eight board members, give or take,” Young said. “I’d love to see shifting power back to some organ like the assembly, or at least strengthening it so we hear those voices better, maybe some sort of broader student assembly where we have more people coming with ideas, just trying to get more people involved, specifically on the advocacy part of the organization. I think a lot of times we’re not carrying those voices.”

Vidya Surti, a junior English and anthropology major, said she believes being a board member requires being an “advocate,” especially for disabled students.

“I guess for me … it’s a bit different than a lot of you guys … I sort of see myself as an advocate for students who are disabled and who have diverse experiences, and who have more critiques and qualms with Student Health and Disability Services,” Surti said. “I want to make sure that systems and processes are improving.”

Surti said she believes that one of the challenges of being a board member is completing larger initiatives, and she plans to prioritize student feedback and research in these processes.

“Some of the initiatives that I want to implement are kind of big, I won’t lie — for example, the vending machine for contraceptive products,” Surti said. “However, not only would I want student feedback in that process, but I’d also want to partner with research centers, especially concerning health equity at the University.”

Surti also said one part of SGB she would critique is the board’s “accessibility” to students.

“I feel like you could do a lot more — not only having office hours, but actually going and meeting student leaders at their clubs and actually experiencing what it’s like to be a club member,” Surti said. “I think that’s another way that you could get a diverse array of student opinions.”


Chabad House, an organization that runs events for Jewish students, requested $6,599.94 to fund two new tents to host events. The board approved the request in full, with board member Sophia Shapiro abstaining from the vote.

Club golf requested $4,160 to register all of their members for an upcoming tournament. The board approved the request in full.

Chinese American Student Association, a cultural group advocating for Chinese culture, requested $6,000 to bring in author Abigail Hing Wen to speak at an event open to all Pitt students. The board approved the request in full, with board member Isabel Lam abstaining from the vote.

Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law coed fraternity, requested $1,077.88 to send two students to attend their organization’s national conference. The board approved the request in full, with board member Sophia Shapiro abstaining from the vote.