The Pitt News

Board proposes elections code revisions

By Abbey Reighard / Senior Staff Writer

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While some students contemplate the idea of running for Student Government Board, the current members of Student Government are changing the rules. 

At last night’s public meeting, Elections Committee Chair Lauren Barney proposed changes to the Elections Code, which is the governing code for SGB campaigns. The changes will lift a restriction on slates running together, finalize candidates’ application deadlines and define the role of the campaign liaisons and managers and candidates’ workshop attendance. This year’s election night will be Nov. 11. 

If passed, the new code would reverse a restriction that prohibits two slates — coalitions of people running together — from endorsing each other and joining to form what Barney called a “mega-slate.”

Barney and Student Government Board President Mike Nites said they have to lift that restriction because it is a violation of the freedom of speech. 

After the meeting, Nites said he and Barney consulted Kenyon Bonner, director of student life and associate dean of students, about whether or not the restriction on “mega-slates” was legal. Bonner sought advice from Pitt Office of General Counsel legal services, who said the restriction was a violation of the First Amendment. 

The Elections Committee and Board previously banned “mega-slates” to prevent six students from grouping together to secure the number of votes needed to be the majority on the Board, which consists of nine members including the Board President. 

To prevent mega-slates from gaining the majority, the Board will vote to change another part of the Elections Code — the number of votes a student can cast during the election. This proposal will update the code to reflect the last SGB election’s referendum, which reduced  the number of students’ votes from six to four — three for Board members and one for President. 

Barney said this move will prevent student groups from endorsing more than one slate, by effectively stopping a mega-slate from controlling the Board.  

“It just evens it out for everyone [campaigning],” Barney said. 

The Board voted that they will table the new Elections Code, meaning the members will review and deliberate the changes before voting on the code next week, unless they propose additional changes. The Elections Committee, along with the Allocations and Judicial Committees, is one of the three standing Student Government Committees that oversees the SGB elections to ensure that campaigning is fair in accordance with the Elections Code, the SGB constitution and by-laws. 

Barney announced some of the proposed changes at last week’s public meeting, which the Board decided to table for a week. Members could have voted on the changes last night, but decided to table the code for another week to make their own changes to the code. 

Nites said the changes the Board proposed for the Elections Code were minimal. He said the Board changed wording but didn’t change any major points in the Election Committee’s proposals. 

Barney said one of the proposed changes to the Elections Code states that the Student Government Board application packet deadlines are final. For instance, last year, former Elections Committee Chair Aaron Gish extended the deadline during the last elections because of the low number candidates who ran for the Board.

Another change Barney proposed to the Elections Code allows campaign managers and campaign liaisons to help their candidates hang up election posters and distribute campaign material.

In previous years, Barney said, only the candidates and campaign managers were allowed to hang up campaign material, which meant the number of individuals hanging up campaign material depended on the number of candidates running on a slate, plus the slate’s campaign manager.

“It wasn’t fair when there was a slate of three people hanging stuff up, while individuals had to hang materials up on their own,” Barney said. 

This campaign season, candidates running indepently can have up to two campaign liaisons helping them with campaign materials. Candidates running two to a slate can have one campaign liaison hanging up material. To keep the number of people helping even, three candidates running on a slate together will not have the option of a campaign liaison. 

“It’s to even out the legwork,” Barney said. 

The Elections Committee also added into the Elections Code that candidates, campaign managers and campaign liaisons must attend the campaign workshop, where the Elections Committee will go over campaigning rules. In years past, the Committee only required candidates to attend the workshop, not campaign managers and liaisons. This year, they will require everyone to attend so that all parties involved know the rules.

“We wanted to clarify that no campaigning may be done if they do not attend the workshops,” Barney said.

In other action:

The Board voted in the two newest members of the Allocations Committee, Max Kneis and Seth Erlanger, both freshmen.

Nites, Allocations Committee Chair Nasreen Harun and Allocations Committee Vice Chair Robyn Weiner selected Kneis and Erlanger from a pool from 35 applicants. Nites, Harun and Weiner reviewed the applications on Saturday and then decided on 12 remaining applicants to interview during private sessions Sunday evening. They announced their decision to the committee at 11 p.m. after five hours of interviews and deliberations.

Environmental Committee Chair Kacy McGill introduced an initiative the Students for Sustainability are currently working on. The Students for Sustainability is a student group that wants to create a thrift shop called Thriftsburgh, stocked with donations from Pitt students, where students can buy used clothing for reasonable prices. 

McGill said the specifics for the project are still “in the works,” but that she is excited to see where the idea goes. McGill said she talked to students who seemed “jazzed” about the idea of  a thrift store on campus.

“[The student reactions] show that the idea of sustainable clothing has a presence on the Pitt campus,” McGill said.

The Board recommended an amendment to the governing code which would allocate zero percent of the Student Activities Fund to Panther Prints, the University yearbook which has since moved online

Allocations:

Biomedical Engineering Society requested $1,961.56 to send two people to the BMES conference in San Antonio, Texas. The Board approved in full in line with the Allocations Recommendation. 

The Pitt Pulse requested $1,961.86 for the printing cost for two issues. The Board approved in full in line with the Allocations Recommendation.

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Board proposes elections code revisions