Editorial: For SGB, criticism just part of the job

By Staff Editorial

This year’s SGB election could be one for the history books — but might not be the most… This year’s SGB election could be one for the history books — but might not be the most memorable. So far, current SGB board member Charlie Shull is the only candidate running for president — a situation that hasn’t happened on Pitt’s campus since 1992, SGB adviser Joyce Giangarlo said.

And what about those eight vacancies for board members? Well, there are exactly eight students running for board member positions. It appears that Pitt students will have to leave their trust — and, as a portion of every student’s semesterly fees goes toward the SGB regulated student activities fee, their money — with these nine individuals.

On part of the election system and Pitt’s student body, however, it’s too bad that only the minimum of candidates plan on running. Current SGB board member Nila Devanath told The Pitt News that she suspects the low candidate rate is a result of the heavy criticisms SGB members constantly face, which assuredly is a significant deterrent.

Most recently, in the aftermath of the chaotic G-20 Summit, SGB dealt with student criticism in its handling of working with students who said they were wrongly arrested. Historically, The Pitt News has been vocal when it comes to condemning SGB’s actions, or in many cases, inaction, and we recently wrote an editorial criticizing SGB’s response in dealing with G-20 Summit arrestees. There’s no doubt about it, potential SGB members had better be ready for some heat. At the same time, we never hesitate to commend members of the Pitt community when we feel they deserve some public recognition. For example, we also ran an editorial discussing how the Pitt police stepped up during the chaos of the G-20.

While a reasonable deterrent, criticism helps to circulate prevalent issues within the student body. The candidates’ platforms bring attention to a variety of issues at Pitt from the operation of SafeRider, to the workings of our dining services, to the functioning of student groups. Part of SGB’s job is to instigate change within the University, and, through criticism, it’s able to recognize and shape those changes. If students and organizations didn’t raise concerns, there’d be no measure to ensure issues ­— whether part of a member’s platform or not — receive adequate attention.

Politicians face scathing feedback in their professions every day, and campus politics should be no different. And, as all of the SGB members are leaders among the student body, part of being a leader is learning to face, cope and learn from criticism.

SGB handles a significant amount of student money, and they’re not getting much coverage from the Post-Gazette these days. So if The Pitt News doesn’t hold it accountable, who will?

Students can still file to run for an SGB position until Nov. 11. Pitt never flaunts high numbers when it comes to voter turnout for SGB elections, with about 4,000 students voting in last year’s election. We hope that more students will plan to run, as an already overtly apathetic student body should have more reason to vote — and invariably attune themselves to issues on campus — if there are more than just shoe-in candidates on the ballots.