SGB presidential candidates debate on WPTS

By Erin Block

SGB presidential candidates Justin Romeo and Charlie Shull met formally for the first time last… SGB presidential candidates Justin Romeo and Charlie Shull met formally for the first time last night on a radio show to discuss their platforms and answer student questions.

Members of student news organizations asked the candidates questions regarding campus issues.

The candidates were given one minute to respond to each question, as well as a period for rebuttal during the debate, which was held at the WPTS radio station in the William Pitt Union.

WPTS listeners asked the candidates questions through instant messages and phone calls.

Many of the questions asked during the media roundtable, mediated by WPTS news staffer Richard White, surrounded the interactions between student organizations and Student Government Board.

Nate Hanson, the engineering director for WPTS, questioned SGB’s legitimacy as an intermediary for students on campus and its loyalties to the administration.

He asked the candidates if SGB’s only purpose is allocating funds and why the administration doesn’t handle it.

Shull said it is impossible for SGB to be an extension of the administration because students elect the board members. He said the board functions as an advocate for student groups and that its purpose is not just to allocate funds.

“I see [SGB] as an outlet for students,” Shull said, “because we are students.”

Romeo said it’s a privilege for the board to allocate funds, and the responsibility gives SGB legitimacy.

Shull said that as a board member, he’s working on organizing a new student management program with a software development company, Symplicity. The system would allow organizations to work with their allocations requests online to increase efficiency and transparency.

When the program is implemented, he said, it will tell student organizations in “real time” where they stand with their allocations. The program will allow students to create rosters and keep track of membership in their own organization, he said.

Romeo had a different approach to increasing transparency in SGB.

“The best way to have transparency is to allow more students to be involved in Student Government Board,” Romeo said.

Romeo said the removal of some committees and budget reductions restricted the amount of students that could participate in SGB.

He later said his platform includes a proposal to create a council of presidents from all student organizations.

He said he wants them to come together for a formal setting multiple times during a semester.

Romeo discussed his role as a student manager at Sodexo, the food services company hired by Pitt. He said his leadership experience would help him connect student organizations and SGB.

Shull said that unlike Sodexo, SGB purely represents the students and does not work for the administration.

The candidates also discussed Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s fair share tax.

Romeo said it is important that students vote in elections and that they battle in court to denounce the tax.

Shull said the government relations committee talks to city council members to lobby against the tax.

“Council members need to know what our concerns are and what the tax will do to students,” he said.

James Lomuscio, the station’s news director, said this was the first time he could remember WPTS hosting an SGB presidential debate.