SGB Presidential candidates face off in first debate

By Gwenn Barney

Only a handful of students gathered to hear SGB presidential hopefuls discuss how they would… Only a handful of students gathered to hear SGB presidential hopefuls discuss how they would spend $2.3 million of students’ money during a presidential debate last night.

Although the debate was broadcast over WPTS airwaves, fewer than 10 students showed up at Nordy’s Place, where the debate was held.

SGB presidential candidates Ben Vaccaro, Matt Weiss and Molly Stieber discussed issues ranging from allocations’ transparency to declining election participation.

The three juniors all brought distinct platforms to the debate. Vaccaro said he plans to bring kitchens into dormitories, as well as improve recycling efforts on campus.

Weiss, who has served on the SGB Allocations Committee, said he plans to help student organizations collect funds outside the allocations process and improve the Emergency Notification System on campus.

Stieber plans to continue her work with the eBook program and also implement Allocations 101 sessions that will teach students the SGB allocations process.

The allocations class caused a bit of a stir during the debate, with Weiss contesting that a similar class is already in place.

He drew comparisons to the advisory meetings SGB currently holds almost exclusively for business managers of student organizations.

Stieber used the exclusivity of the advisory meetings to underline the necessity of an allocations class.

She said that Allocations 101 would be different because it would be open to all undergraduate students and address topics beyond the allocations process, although she didn’t say what other topics would be addressed.

Stieber said her proposed class — which would be free and not for credit — would improve SGB’s visibility.

Vaccaro presented unofficial office hours — which would be an addition to regular office hours — as his own plan for improved visibility.

Candidates hope that increasing visibility will boost voter turnout.

Last year, only 13 percent of eligible students voted in the SGB elections, Weiss said.

He said he doesn’t believe this demonstrates student apathy toward the elections. Rather, he sees the low turn-out rate as evidence of a lack of knowledge.

“It’s about getting the word out there. A lot of students don’t know about it,” Weiss said.

Because almost 90 percent of eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot in last year’s election, the presidential hopefuls debated ways to improve student knowledge about elections. Vaccaro proposed making the process more prominent on by adding a pop-up to remind students to vote on election day.

Vaccaro did not mention who would implement this or how it would be done.

WPTS News Director Rich White, who moderated the event, had some questions of his own, specifically addressing a proposal introduced to SGB earlier this year.

The proposal details the creation of a Students’ Constituents Assembly — a body of students elected from residence halls who would check and balance SGB’s powers.

Stieber, who said she remembered the proposal’s original presentation, questioned whether the proposed governmental body would give more power to those who live in residents halls than those who live off-campus.

She said she would consider the idea, though, if students presented a strong voice for it.

“How I view this is I think it gives too much power to residence halls. There needs to be an outcry from students to have this,” she said.

Weiss agreed and said that he would need to see some sort of petition or referendum to approve the idea, and even then he would advocate for the delegates to represent the different schools in Pitt — not each residence hall.

Vaccaro, president of the Resident Student Association, said he would support the idea, but with representation from North and South Oakland in addition to the residence halls.

The next debate will be held today  at 8 p.m. in Nordy’s Place. Representatives from SGB will moderate the debate.