SGB, board candidates reflect on appointment process


Patrick Cavanagh | Senior Staff Photographer

Student Government Board at its first meeting of the semester at Nordy’s Place on Sept. 6.

By Pamela Smith, Contributing Editor

Following the resignation of board member Celeste Lintz in August, Student Government Board had to deal with an uncommon situation — how to replace her. 

“First and foremost, [we were] looking for someone who would be a good representative of the student body and represents diversity and feels comfortable representing the diversity of our students’ needs and interests,” said SGB President Danielle Floyd. 

She noted that passion was also a necessary component from the candidates.

“We were looking for someone who is passionate about whatever they’re passionate about,” Floyd said. “That way when they’re working in their different initiatives, they’re able to bring that passion and the energy to really advancing progress.”

SGB opened applications for the position to the public until Sept. 9. Applications required a meeting with elections committee chair Ciara Markowski, 150 non-College of General Studies undergraduate signatures, a short biography, resume and letter of recommendation from a student leader.

The vacant position also serves as the liaison between the board and SGB’s Diversity and Inclusion committee. Floyd said although she appreciates the candidates thoughts on diversity and inclusion initiatives, serving as the liaison comes “second” to serving on the board.

“It’s nice if their interests align with the liaison to that committee, but it’s not required,” Floyd said. “I appreciate the fact that we had a lot of candidates speak to how they would like to work as being the DNI liaison…I really appreciate the fact that candidates went out of their way to speak to those factors.”

Four candidates were chosen to participate in the first round of public interviews, with two final candidates selected by the board for a final round of public interviews. Derek Dressler, board member and vice president of governance, said public feedback was “integral” to the appointment process.

“When we get elected, we have the opportunity to campaign and we have the opportunity that our measure of representation is based off of student voting,” Dressler said. “When we have to appoint a board member, that same democratic process unfortunately doesn’t get to apply, and so public feedback plays an incredibly important role…we get an unbiased outside opinion on how successful this candidate is going to be.”

The appointment process for a board member vacancy is determined by SGB’s Governing Code, in Title 1, Chapter 4, Article 4, Item 4. The Governing Code states that board member vacancies are filled by a majority vote of current board members. The vacancy must be advertised and public interviews and space for public comment must also be held. However, board deliberations must be private.

“Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to view it, it can’t be changed and we adhere to that strictly,” Dressler said. 

Vidya Surti, a junior English and anthropology major and the losing candidate for the board vacancy position, said the process was “productive” in evaluating the candidates.

“There was a lot of input from the student body in the preliminary parts of the applications, and the public interviews had really targeted questions, which was good and so it really made you think about your role as a board member,” Surti said. 

However, Surti said the process could be improved to increase public participation. 

“I think there was a lot of sentiment, especially coming from the second public meeting where it’s like, why isn’t this being voted on by the student body?” Surti said. “They tried to do what they could to implement ways for students to provide their feedback… I always prioritize or try  to think about [how] everything can be changed and optimized and made better, every process.”

Surti said the engagement between SGB and the student body isn’t “ideal.” 

“I think in general that’s something SGB has to work on as a whole, just connecting to the student body,” Surti said. 

Ryan Young, a junior majoring in math, physics and astronomy, believes public feedback was gathered in a way that made sense “logistically” for the time of year. Young was chosen to fill the board vacancy and formally appointed to the board at SGB’s public meeting on Sept. 28.

“Obviously in an ideal world, everybody’s voting on everything, everyone’s coming to the public interviews, everyone’s super engaged,” Young said. “But I do think that logistically, especially when you have a vacancy that opened up relatively recently…that to have this quick of a turnaround so that they can actually get back to business, doing student governance, I think is pretty important.” 

Young said he is looking forward to advocating for student concerns on the board.

“Certain things being very inaccessible, certain bad interactions with Pitt Police during incidents, I’d just love to have more of a platform to actually advocate on these things…” Young said. “And doing the best we can with the students in the institution as it exists, but also the other end of it, actually trying to improve it for future students”

In light of Young’s recent appointment to the board, Floyd said she believes Young will be a good fit for SGB. 

“I would like to congratulate Ryan on his appointment to the board. He is qualified and extremely capable, and I look forward to working with him this year,” Floyd said in a Sept. 20 press release.