Four out the door: Board member to fill another vacant seat

Pitt’s Student Government Board suffered a bit of summertime sadness this break after Board member Ryan Orr became the fourth member to resign in the 2014 term.

The Board announced on Aug. 21 that Orr resigned from his position because he transferred to University of Virginia this semester and is no longer a Pitt student. His replacement will be a familiar face, President Mike Nites said. Instead of reopening the application process, the Board decided during a July meeting that it will choose from four of the six finalists from previous public interviews that followed resignations. 

Nites said finalists Genevieve Sanders, Andrew Colaizzi, Meghan Murphy and Macy McCollum expressed interest in reapplying and will have brief, private conversations with the Board before its first public meeting on Tuesday. The Board will announce the replacement at the meeting.

“I don’t want it to be some formal interview process because we have already done that [with the six applicants] already,” Nites said. “Some of them twice already.”

Orr’s time on SGB was brief, as he joined in April, filling one of two open seats after former Board members Ellie Tsatsos and Brandon Benjamin resigned. He is the fourth member to resign this term, following Tsatsos, Benjamin and another former Board member Jake Radziwon. Orr’s resignation was effective July 1.

His decision to apply to the University of Virginia, Orr said, was “spur of the moment,” and he submitted his UVA application three days before the university’s March 1 deadline. UVA denied Orr’s first application when he applied to be a freshman, and Orr said he was curious to see if he would get accepted after having completed a semester at Pitt. Orr was previously vice chair of the Academic Affairs committee and hadn’t heard back from UVA yet when he applied to join SGB in April.

“I didn’t think I was going to get in [to UVA], and I wasn’t committed to going if I did get in,” Orr said. “So when the opportunity came up for me possibility be on the Board, I took it because I loved my work on SGB and was really enthusiastic about being further involved.”

“It was very unfortunate that I had to leave them, especially this year with previous instances with people resigning,” Orr said. “I felt really bad because I loved everyone on the Board.”

Orr said he was still working on his projects — publishing OMETs, creating a scholarship database and an upperclassmen scholarship — after his resignation, and he has passed all of his contacts and materials over to Nites. Nites said he and the Academic Affairs committee will continue to work on the projects. 

In addition to losing a Board member, SGB also said goodbye over the summer to Academic Affairs Committee chair Robert Sica and Allocations Committee member Michele Buono.

Buono, a member of the Allocations Committee, resigned to accept a co-op with Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg, Pa., for the fall semester. Buono said she plans to reapply for the position next year.

Buono’s co-op was originally set for the summer, allowing her to remain on the committee, but she said the company moved it to the fall.

“The decision wasn’t based on what the committee was doing or anything like that. It was based off what the co-op was and what was best for me in terms of my life,” Buono said.

Like Buono, Sica also chose to focus on his future career.

Sica said he resigned to focus his energy on activities more directly relevant to his professional goals. Academic Affairs vice chair Alyse Johnson will become chair for the remainder of the term, according to the committee’s bylaws.  

Nites delayed releasing the information to press to wait for the other two resignations following Orr’s , he said, especially since SGB is not in session during the summer. SGB did not update its website’s contact information — which lists Benjamin, Sica Tsatsos  — at the time of publication. Additionally, SGB didn’t post the news on its social media accounts. 

“It was a matter of one came after another,” Nites said. “I’ll accept responsibility for [not posting about the resignations]. It just sort of happened. If people are unhappy about it, I’d be happy to talk to them.”

Nites also said he was waiting for the Board to decide if it should replace Orr at all or leave the seat open for the remainder of the term.

Going forward, Nites said SGB has to make its own expectations clear and convey to applicants that their future plans are something they should already have considered when applying for a leadership position at the University.

“We do make it clear that once you become a part of SGB, SGB comes first, and if something else has to come first, and you can’t reconcile that, then you are going to have to make a choice or don’t apply,” Nites said. “In Michele’s case and Ryan’s case, they didn’t really know that this was going to come up so it’s sort of out of their control.”

Board member Ben West, who was appointed with Ryan Orr, said although the resignations are unfortunate, career and academic decisions come first.

“All of them have very good reasons for dropping out,” West said. “SGB will get through it. We will appoint another person and not worry too much about it.”