SGB candidates discuss sexual assault, mental health at public interviews


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

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

By James Paul, Staff Writer

The three candidates publicly interviewed for a vacant Student Government Board position at Tuesday’s meeting highlighted issues regarding sexual assault on campus and a lack of mental health resources.

SGB held these interviews at Nordy’s Place to fill the position left open by former board member Alison Linares Mendoza. Linares Mendoza resigned on Dec. 19 to study abroad. After another round of interviews next week, the newly appointed candidate will serve as the liaison to academic affairs. 

Katie Emmert

Katie Emmert, a sophomore political science and law, criminal justice and society double major, said if elected she wants to facilitate meetings with administrators. In those meetings, she said she would push for undergraduates to have more of a voice in Pitt administration’s decisions and address the University’s response to sexual misconduct on campus. 

Emmert said she is currently working with Planned Parenthood to bring better reproductive health and abortion resources to Student Health Services. Emmert said getting the board position will give her “more direct access to the administration.”

“Whenever [students] try to schedule meetings with the administration, it’s almost impossible or the administration just doesn’t answer them, which is really frustrating,” Emmert said. “And it’s not something that should be happening. I think the administration should be hearing from every single student on campus, not just the board, but the reality is that the board has this direct line of communication to the administration.”

Emmert said she would also take steps to address sexual violence on campus by talking to the administration about improving support for survivors and educational resources for students. Emmert said she would also look into making SafeRider more accessible, calling it “so inconvenient it doesn’t make any sense.”

“The University is not providing quality education that goes past the circle of surface level education,” Emmert said. 

Braydan Issermoyer

Braydan Issermoyer, a junior political science and psychology double major, said he would use the board position to connect with students to address their concerns on disability resources and sexual assault on campus.

Issermoyer said he would tackle discrepancies in disability resource services and academic advising. He also said not all professors adhere to accommodations, and that there is a lack of consistent information from advisers.

“The biggest things that I want to see changed in regards to academic affairs are an overhaul of the advising as well as the disability services at Pitt,” Issermoyer said. “I know it’s been a major issue with many students where they speak to one adviser, they tell them one thing, they speak to another adviser, they tell them something entirely different.”

He also emphasized the importance of confronting Pitt’s administration with sexual assault statistics, citing the fact that, according to a 2019 study, about one-fourth of female students reported experiencing sexual violence while students at Pitt.

“We can convey this information directly to the administration,” Issermoyer said. “Put pressure on them in another avenue besides just from the student organization, but also from the Student Government Board as well.”

Beyond just fielding the concerns of students, Issermoyer said he would use the board position to educate students on sexual assault.

“We need some kind of coherent course similar either to the academic Foundations Program or in a fashion similar to anti-black racism,” Issermoyer said. “Educating students on the resources available to them at Pitt on relationship violence, on any kind of bystander intervention. All these things are things that we definitely need to change on campus.”

Annika Agarwal

Annika Agarwal, a senior biology and anthropology double major, said the number one issue Pitt students face is a mental health crisis after the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said is worsened by anxieties surrounding safety on campus. She said she’d use the board position to make “people feel more safe.”

“There’s not one specific thing that you can do to tackle mental health, but I think it’s a combination of a lot,” Agarwal said. “A relatively more feasible way to at least make people feel safe would be addressing SafeRider to make it more seamless.”

Agarwal said she wanted to run for SGB following her own experiences of social isolation as a transfer student. She said she would use the board position to make the transition easier for other incoming students.

“Firstly, like the housing policy at that time, if you’re a transfer, you’re considered a non-guaranteed student, and because of that I’ve never actually lived on campus,” Agarwal said. “I was able to make friends in classes, but I found it kind of difficult, so I’m hoping to try to change some of those things.”

Agarwal said as a transfer student with no prior experience on SGB, she brings an “external perspective” to the issues that Pitt students face.

“Most of my connections aren’t through student government. They’re from the other clubs I’m involved with,” Agarwal said, “and also just like communities, I guess, that aren’t even affiliated and just local to Pittsburgh, and I think that could be a real boon to the board. I think just having an external view of what’s going on and maybe how to improve to cater to more students.”


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 cheer requested $1,589 for hotel accommodations for an upcoming showcase at the University of North Carolina. The board approved the request in full with no abstentions.

Club cheer requested an additional $6,531.45 for warm-up attire. The board approved the request in full with no abstentions.

The Majorette Dance Team requested $3,076.52 for four uniforms and travel expenses to fly in a speaker to talk about the discipline of majorette. The board approved the request in full with no abstentions. 

Club swim requested $2,300.16 for transportation and registration of 37 members to Penn State’s winter invitational swim meet. The board approved the request in full with no abstentions.

Club gymnastics requested $11,822 for registration, flights and accommodation for a competition in Memphis. The board approved the request in full with no abstentions.