Emotions run high at SGB meeting

By Lindsay Carroll

Emotional debate characterized last night’s Student Government Board meeting, when board member… Emotional debate characterized last night’s Student Government Board meeting, when board member Ryan Haddad questioned board member Nila Devanath’s initiative to organize a phone-banking drive. Pitt students involved with the drive would encourage Colorado voters to reject a referendum that would inhibit affirmative action in that state. Devanath planned the phone-banking drive, to be held later this month, in collaboration with the United States Student Association, a group that lobbies politicians for higher education concerns. ‘I would express concern that we are using SGB and student resources to try and affect something that’s happening in Colorado,’ Haddad said. ‘We are not a branch of USSA. I sort of see this as taking orders from USSA to do their garbage work.’ ‘Be that as it may, I commend board member Devanath. I think it’s a very noble cause,’ he added. Board members Devanath and Amanda Reed both serve as officials in USSA. Devanath is the Atlantic Region chair, and Reed is the vice chair for the multi/bi-racial caucus. SGB’s Academic Affairs vice chair Aster Teclay also serves as the vice chair of the Atlantic Region in USSA, and Devanath serves as liaison to SGB’s diversity committee. Ward Connerly, a California businessman, advocated to eliminate gender and race-based affirmative action in California, Washington and Michigan, beginning in 1996. The original proposal, which amended the California constitution, ‘prohibits the state, local governments, districts, public universities, colleges and schools and other government instrumentalities from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to any individual or group in public employment,’ said a summary presented by California’s attorney general. ‘I kind of regret that board member Haddad called it ‘garbage work,” said Devanath, who was moved to tears during the discussion. ‘I’m sorry, my heart is pounding at 100 beats per minute when I think of the students who couldn’t make it here without equal opportunity.’ She said she thought Connerly had a plan to come to Pennsylvania after Nevada and Colorado. ‘The glass ceiling issue will still be there. Racial issues will still be there,’ said Devanath, referring to the proposal’s consequences. ‘This is something that’s worth fighting for. Diversity is completely wiped out in those states. I feel like the last 40 years will just have gone to waste.’ Haddad said that as SGB members devoted time, the office, phone lines and the work of public relations chair Nikolai Condee-Padunov to draft e-mails about the referendum, SGB was not using its resources to represent students. ‘USSA is creeping into SGB,’ said Haddad. Devanath said that the only SGB resource that will be used is the meeting room, and that USSA will provide the other resources, including prepaid cell phones. She said that Condee-Padunov agreed to do the project on his own time. Board member Perry Servedio said he thought Condee-Padunov felt pressured to draft the e-mails. Although present at the meeting, Condee-Padunov said that the e-mail, which was about three paragraphs long and included history and facts about the referendum, was merely a time constraint. ‘It wasn’t really any pressure,’ he said. ‘Nila came to me as a friend to help with a project that she and board member Reed have regularly been working on.’ Haddad later conceded that using the term ‘garbage work’ to describe the phone-banking drive was wrong. ‘I, in no way, questioned the validity of the cause,’ said Haddad. ‘I think to assume that all students support what USSA is doing is a mistake.’ Haddad proposed that a resolution saying SGB supported the cause would be better than the phone drive, but the board reached no conclusion about whether Devanath should continue the project.