Board selects two new members to fill vacant seats


The Student Government Board has selected two new members to fill the vacancies left when former Board members Ellie Tsatsos and Brandon Benjamin resigned at the Board’s public meeting two weeks ago. 

After a nearly eight-hour interview process, the Board chose Ben West and Ryan Orr to fill the two positions on the Board. 

West, a junior chemical engineering major, discussed his project proposal to create an online calendar that would advertise events happening on and off campus. 

West, a member of the ROTC Navy and vice president of Beta Theta Pi, said students or nonstudents hosting events happening off campus could fill out an online form that would include the time and date and a brief description of the event.

West said the submission of the event would then be approved by either a current student involved in Student Government or someone the Student Government would hire.

“I’d love to see no money being spent on this,” West said. “But if we did have to spend money on [the program], I’d see if it’s cost-effective and if it’s worth it overall.”

West also said he plans to utilize different forms of communication, such as Facebook, email, tabling and flyers, to expand the outreach Student Government has with the student body. 

West said the Board should strive to communicate more with students about the allocations process and take time to explain to student groups why allocation requests are denied by the Board during or after public meeting. 

“We need to show students that we’re not these elitist people,” West said. “We’re here because we want to help.”

Orr, who currently serves as vice chair of the academic affairs committee, has been working with the committee chairman, Robert Sica, to make OMET response available for the students to review. 

Board President Mike Nites said Sica will select a new vice chair from the current academic affairs committee members. 

Orr, a freshman microbiology major, has also been working with Sica to increase the number of scholarships available for students. 

Orr said that for the past three months he has researched the number and types of scholarships available to students at other ACC schools. 

Orr is also a representative on the Arts and Science Student Council and said he has had prior experience working with Pitt administrators to discuss his OMET initiative and has received a lot of feedback from them. 

“We shouldn’t be afraid of [administrators] or anything like that,” Orr said. “They’re doing their jobs, and we’re doing our jobs.”

Orr said he takes into consideration the criticisms from administrators concerning the publication of OMETs and plans to find ways to compromise with administrators to move forward with his initiatives.

Nites said he and the other Board members chose West and Orr because they “demonstrated exceptional interviewing skills” and presented thoroughly developed project ideas. 

Nites said he was also impressed by West because he had previously applied for the position on the Board that opened up when former Board member Jake Radziwon resigned in February and continued to work on his project even though he did not get the position. 

Before the selections, the Board interviewed 19 applicants for two hours from 2 p.m until 4 p.m. in Dining Room B of the William Pitt Union. The interviews were divided into two rounds. At 4 p.m. the Board took an hour and 15 minute recess for private deliberations. The Board selected six applicants to question in the second round of interviews. The seven remaining Board members interviewed each applicant for about five minutes. Each Board member asked the applicant one or two questions. 

Board member Sara Klein asked applicants to describe themselves in 30 seconds or less. Klein also asked applicants what he or she thought the main responsibilities of the Board members are. 

Board member Mona Kazour asked applicants to describe a time when they had to accomplish a task with little direction on how to complete it. 

Board member Nick Hufnagel, the newest member of the Board who filled Radziwon’s position, asked applicants to describe their biggest failure and what the applicants learned from their failure. 

Board member Abby Zurschmit asked applicants to choose three words that least describe their character. 

Board member Graeme Meyer asked applicants how they would describe what Student Government is to a person who didn’t know. Meyer also asked applicants to name a time when the applicants went “above and beyond” the expectations for a task they had to complete. 

Board member Andrew Abboud asked applicants how they would manage their time to complete their projects with the time the applicants would have left to serve as Board members. Abboud also asked applicants to describe their “biggest weakness.” 

Nites asked applicants about the projects they planned to pursue while on the Board. Applicants submitted project proposals and three essay questions on the online application form Nites posted to the SGB website.

Each interview in the second round lasted for about 30 minutes. The Board members asked the applicants questions about their availability, their knowledge about the Student Government and Student Affairs and their ideas about improving the Board in terms of transparency and communication with the student body. 

Nites asked applicants if they would be available to attend weekly public meetings and planning sessions. Nites also asked applicants what extracurriculars they are currently involved in or intend to be involved in during the fall semester and if those extracurriculars would conflict with the applicants’ work with SGB.

Hufnagel asked applicants how they plan to reach out to the student body and how applicants would measure if their outreach tactics are successful.  

Zurschmit asked applicants to define transparency and how the applicants would work to make the Board’s work more transparent for the student body. 

Abboud asked applicants to describe their experience with Student Affairs. 

Meyer asked applicants how they intend to approach administrators with their project proposals and how applicants will convince administrators that the student body supports their projects. 

Kazour asked applicants how they will communicate to the student body that what the Board does is “worthwhile” for students, saying that “there has been a lot of criticism surrounding Student Government lately.”

The Board members also asked each of the applicants about the project proposals they included in the online application. 

For the last 10 minutes of each of the individual interviews, the Board held mock planning sessions where it discussed a fake allocations request. Nites informed the candidates that the Board was not “testing [the candidate’s] knowledge of allocations.” Instead, the Board was seeing how the candidates shared their thoughts and worked within the group, according to Nites. 

The mock sessions began with Allocations Committee Chairwoman Nasreen Harun stating the hypothetical request, what the request would be funding and the Allocations Committee’s decision and the committee’s reasons for its decision and recommendation to the Board for funding.

The Board and the applicants could then ask Harun different questions about the event and the request. After Harun answered all questions posed during the mock planning session, the Board and the applicant deliberated the request and came to a decision. 

Nites said the Board spends about half of the time dedicated to their planning sessions, which occur every Friday from 3 to 5:30 p.m., to allocation requests. Nites added that the amount of time the Board spends on allocation requests could decrease if the current $500 threshold, where any student group requests more than $500 automatically goes to the Board for deliberation, is raised so that more Allocation Committee decisions are final and less requests are heard by the Board during its weekly public meeting.  

Nites said the Board will officially swear in West and Orr at public meeting this Tuesday night.