Board welcomes new semester, new member

Board welcomes new semester, new member

With less than half the fiscal year remaining, time is not on the side of the newest Student Government Board member. 

The Board met in Nordy’s Place for its first public meeting of the semester and announced its new member, Meghan Murphy, to about 40 students. The Board selected Murphy, a junior majoring in neuroscience and political science, to fill the latest vacancy left by Ryan Orr, who came onto the board in April and resigned after transferring to the University of Virginia.

The Board members had brief, private conversations with Murphy and the other two candidates before the meeting, according to President Mike Nites. The Board members chose Murphy, previously an elections committee member, because they were interested in her project ideas and liked her familiarity with SGB. 

“I want to get everyone involved,” Murphy said. “Not just the people who are already looking to get involved.”

Murphy said she plans to collaborate with Board members Andrew Abboud and Sara Klein on their ongoing wellness project and with Abby Zurschmit, whose most recent project is increasing the dining options on campus.

Murphy’s appointment fills the former seat of Orr, who replaced one of the two open Board seats after the resignations of former Board members Brandon Benjamin and Ellie Tsatsos. Orr’s resignation marked the fourth board member to resign during the 2014 fiscal year. 

The Board chose Murphy from the six finalists who participated in the previous public interviews to replace Benjamin and Tsatsos in April as well as former Board member Jake Radziwon, who resigned in February.

Nites said the Board approached all of the finalists about the opening, but three finalists declined to re-apply for the position. 

Erin Shields, a senior majoring in history and political science, was one of the former finalists who declined because she hasn’t decided whether or not she wants to eventually study abroad.

“SGB deserves members who (finally) take their commitment seriously,” Shields said in an email. “I decided I didn’t want to take on the tradition of abdicating if my interests did take me away from Pitt’s campus.”

Andrew Stefanick, a senior majoring in accounting and finance, applied for the SGB position when Radziwon resigned and then again when Benjamin and Tsatsos resigned. He opted out from this round to focus on his courses this semester but intends to run for the 2015 fiscal year.  

Nites said the private conversations revolved around projects the applicants pitched if selected as Board members. The project ideas consisted of proposals the applicants presented during their first interviews with the Board and new projects the candidates have thought of since the interviews took place. 

“We’re not going to drill them with questions,” Nites said. “We won’t get into allocations or all the nitty-gritty.” 

Nites said he and the other Board members initially questioned if it was worth appointing someone new with just one semester left for the Board to serve. 

“We realized it would be a disservice to students not to [fill the position],” Nites said.

In the future, Nites said he wants to make the expectations more clear for students who want to run for Student Government. One way he said he hopes to achieve this is by listing the responsibilities — especially the time commitments — the applicants will have as Board members on the election information packets.

“There is a difference between what [SGB] seems like, and what it actually is,” Nites said. 

Nites said he spends anywhere from 30 to 45 hours a week on work for SGB, while Board members typically dedicate 15 to 25 hours a week to SGB work. 

Some of those responsibilities, he said, are the SGB weekend retreat, Pitt Day in Harrisburg, Pitt Make a Difference Day, weekly planning sessions and other events that come up during the fiscal year, such as last April’s We Love Nordy Day.  

“[Candidates] don’t realize coming in, but those are things that can slow you down in terms of projects,” Nites said.

Nites has also been working on a new policy aimed at increasing student group leaders’ attendance at Board meetings. He said he met with Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey over the summer to discuss groups who receive stipends funded through the Students Activities fee.

Nites said groups receiving stipends  — which in Student Government include Board members, committee chairs, the Allocations Committee, along with The Pitt Program Council directors, WPTS directors and Student Affairs Affiliated Group presidents — will be expected to attend SGB meetings at least once a month and events on campus. He hasn’t finalized the requirements.

Nites said the measure is meant to “keep people accountable as representatives and individuals receiving stipends [from the Student Activities Fund].” Group leaders can choose to provide reports if they want, and Nites said he wants them present at meetings to keep up with the Board’s actions.

“It’s not required this semester,” Nites said. “If it becomes a problem, then we will enforce [the policy].” 

He added that the Board will withhold stipends from group representatives who fail to attend meetings and campus events for that month. 

“As a student leader, you should want to be involved in what is going on in Student Affairs,” Nites said. 

 In other action:

The Board appointed Alyse Johnson to Academic Affairs Committee Chair, replacing Robert Sica who also announced his resignation this summer. Johnson previously served as vice chair of this committee.