Debates continue at SGB meeting

By Lindsay Carroll

Student Government Board experienced more controversy at last night’s meeting, as board members… Student Government Board experienced more controversy at last night’s meeting, as board members and committee chairs were divided on the board’s involvement with the United States Student Association. The meeting, which lasted more than two hours, was the third in a series of unusually long and debate-filled meetings. At SGB’s Oct. 7 meeting, board member Ryan Haddad said he thought the board was doing too much work for USSA, a national organization that advocates for student issues. Haddad’s concerns sparked a discussion among students and board members on the validity of SGB’s involvement, if the Student Activities Fund should be used to pay the 25 cents-per-student fee ‘mdash; which it currently is ‘mdash; and whether USSA is truly nonpartisan. USSA vice president Gregory Cendana attended the meeting to address Pitt’s concerns about the organization, which have surfaced periodically in past years, when boards debated SGB funding for membership dues and conferences. Cendana presented a PowerPoint slideshow highlighting the organization’s history and accomplishments. Cendana said that Pitt has been a member of USSA for 25 years, although Pitt has not paid the membership fee for all of those years. ‘We recognize that, for 25 years, the University of Pittsburgh has been a member, and there were some years that they haven’t paid, they didn’t pay a membership or they decided not to continue for a year,’ said Cendana. ‘But for the most part, they have been members and still were actively engaged in the work that USSA did and really viewed it as a valuable presence for the student leadership.’ Haddad asked Cendana to confirm that Pitt was USSA’s only school in the Atlantic Region, which includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. Cendana said that another Washington, D.C., school was also a member and that USSA had a total of nine regions. Several students and board members, including diversity committee chair Shannon Martin, said that USSA affects Pitt students directly. ‘[Cendana] definitely said that USSA is the only voice on Capitol Hill,’ said Martin. ‘I feel like people are just getting a one-sided view.’ Senior J.J. Abbott said a USSA Generation Vote pledge card distributed by SGB expressed partisan issues that he did not think related to education, such as immigration and ending the Iraq War. ‘I think the problem here is not what USSA does,’ said Abbott. ‘It’s that, in my opinion, USSA strays from its purpose.’ President Sumter Link said that at a board meeting last year, some members wanted to form a Pitt chapter of USSA so a student group could represent the organization rather than the student-elected board. Cendana said that although Pitt cannot form a chapter, it may participate through campus votes in a referendum ‘- although he said that using student government is the preferred way. Board member Ryan Very said in his remarks that he thought the administration should be willing to take on membership dues so that the Student Activities Fund would not have to be allocated to represent college students on a national level. ‘It’s unfair to ask Pitt students to pay [for a long-term cause] when they only will be in school four years,’ said Very. Board member Lacee Ecker disagreed. ‘A lot has happened to me financial-aid-wise in four years,’ she said. Ecker said she got her work-study back because of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, for which USSA advocated, and that the group’s conferences are opened to Pitt students so they can be involved in decisions. Junior Kieran O’Leary suggested that the board consider a referendum so Pitt could vote on funding USSA membership, which several board members, including Ecker and board members Amanda Reed and Nila Devanath, said was a good idea. SGB Notes The board allocated about $3,000 to College Republicans to bring speaker Jesse Lee Peterson to Pitt before the election. President Pat Graham said that Peterson, a black conservative political pundit, would encourage students to vote on Nov. 4.