The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

Student Government Board, in their own words

Student+Government+Board%2C+in+their+own+words
Olga Tseytlin | Staff Illustrator

Ahead of the 2024-25 elections, The Pitt News spoke to multiple members of Student Government Board. When asked about SGB, President Ryan Young emphasized that he thinks its importance comes from the platform it gives students. 

“I think SGB is really cool because we are able to uplift student voices and provide a spot for students to work with each other and help better themselves,” Young said. 

Student Government Board has three main responsibilities — overseeing the student activity fee, developing services and programming and facilitating conversations between students and faculty. Members hold their positions for one year, beginning in a new academic year after running and being elected at the end of February. 

“The one that most people know is we oversee the activity fee,” Young said. “Student orgs come to SGB to get money. That is very important, and it is really cool students have that in the process. We work with partners to get funding.”

Student organization funding is overseen by the Allocations Committee and approved by the SGB board. Every student at Pitt pays a student activity fee that SGB helps allocate, but a Supreme Court precedent states the money must be given out neutrally to organizations. 

“We can’t make viewpoint judgments during allocations,” Young said. “That upholds free speech, but is also a student wellness concern. Ultimately, we are bound by the law, and it’s something that can be difficult.”

According to 2024-25 SGB presidential nominee Sarah Meyer, who is running unopposed, SGB is currently struggling to meet the demands for the amount of money allocated. 

The allocations committee gets about $900,000 each year from the funds,” Meyer said. “We are seeing about double the requests last year and that is not meeting these demands.”

As allocations are one of SGB’s top priorities, the board is looking to get a percentage of the student activity fee instead of a set amount. 

“I want to see us get a percentage of the student activity fee with a minimum of about $900,000,” Meyer said. “I think fiscal challenges shouldn’t be a challenge to pursue.”

In addition to managing the allocations fee, SGB also prides itself on student transparency. 

“We have our allocations open to the public. I think our communications director has done a great job at organizing our Instagram and keeping everything updated,” Meyer said.

Under the office of the vice president are the three conditional committees — judicial, election and allocations. 

The judicial committee is under the cabinet, which includes the conditional committees that are open. The vice president of initiatives is in charge of the cabinet along with the chief of staff, who also helps manage the first year council, a group of first-years who work on similar projects like SGB. 

Some board members first joined SGB and wanted to become more involved as a result of first-year council. 

“I found SGB on a whim,” Meyer said. “I was looking at student affairs services and stumbled in on accident and decided to throw my name in and was offered a spot. I was also involved with the academics affair committee, which is a conditional committee.”

Similarly, board member Katie Emmert said she joined SGB her first year with the community and governmental relations committee. 

The following summer, I volunteered with the crime victim center and learned about the effects of sexual assault,” Emmert said. “When the assault occurred in the Cathedral, I started to be more vocal and attended one of the town halls, so I decided to run for board my sophomore year.” 

Anyone involved in SGB can initiate a town hall meeting. Town halls are events SGB hosts for students to voice their opinions and improve student wellness. 

We advertise the town hall and students can come to give their opinion,” Young said. “Town hall is very loosely defined.” 

In addition to hosting town hall meetings, SGB hosts Senate Committee meetings, which are often educational and for campus utilization. 

We hear reports from different parts of the University, like Chancellor [Joan] Gabel, and we give a report on everything we’re doing so different people can hear about it,” Meyer said.

“There are also some policies that we vote on during those meetings. For instance, we voted on a new vaccine policy on campus,” Meyer said. “I think the main purpose is to hear reports and accomplishments and things we might want to improve on.”

SGB also has several different ad hoc committees and task forces that focus on more specific goals for campus, including the Disability Resources Ad-Hoc committee and the Renters First Ad-Hoc committee, which works to publicize data on who to rent from in Oakland. 

“I’m passionate about advocacy for renters off campus. We meet with local community officials to talk about how the renting landscape looks like in Oakland,” Emmert said. “There is also not much legislation to support the community, so we have been working on that legislation.”

SGB is also involved with Board of Trustees meetings, although they have a limited role. 

“We are not voting members or trustees. We are kind of there to listen to what is going on and can speak but can’t report on them, like putting in public reports. Something I hope to do is make students more involved with trustees.” Meyer said. 

Young said he thinks SGB has been on a trajectory that allows them to act more as student advocates than anything else. 

I think SGB has been in targeted advocacy efforts to make sure students have their voices heard, and I hope to see that continue as SGB continues to be a very fierce student advocate,” Young said. 

To continue making SGB student orientated, Meyer said she hopes to do an internal investigation of the organization to target areas that could be improved, including the assembly. 

“I manage the lower legislative branch of SGB, the assembly,” Meyer said. “I think in the past, we failed the assembly. It should be a space where we can all talk about issues, and I don’t think we’ve taken as much advantage of that as we could be. I think we could use that space to make more effective changes.”

Meyer said she thinks that SGB is such an inviting community of people and a great place when you want to initiate some type of change on campus. 

“Anything you want to accomplish, someone here has a tool,” Meyer said. “We have so many different committees, and I really think that this is the perfect place to get started.”

About the Contributor
Emma Hannan, Staff Writer