Board establishes new governing code


By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

Student Government Board President Mike Nites is no stranger to revisions. 

The 2013 Board modified documents at its last public meeting during which then-Board member Nites didn’t voice his ideas.

But over winter break, Nites individually compiled an entirely new governing code into a 30-page document.

The Board adopted the SGB Governing Code at Tuesday night’s public meeting in Nordy’s Place in front of about 30 people. The code includes the Board’s bylaws, which are dispersed throughout the document, as well as modifications to the Board’s policies. 

Nites, the self-proclaimed “proponent of rules,” drafted the code before introducing it at last week’s meeting. The Board amended several sections at the meeting before approving all nine bills that make up the code.

Board member Ellie Tsatsos said that even though Nites was the composer, the Board members still expressed their opinions.

“It was his choice to write [the code], and we were not forced in any position to accept them. He can honestly propose whatever he wants, but it’s up to the Board to decide if we want to disagree or agree with him,” Tsatsos said.  

The new SGB Government Code consists of titles, or separate governing documents, which are organized into chapters. At the meeting, the adoption of the code created Title I, which includes six chapters of policies regarding the president, Board, committees, Green Fund Advisory Board, legislation and other governing documents. 

The code also reorganizes the Allocations Manual by removing sections — including ones containing information about the Student Organization Resource Center and programming resources — that the Board has deemed irrelevant to the manual.

Nites said the changes will address issues with accountability, transparency and clarity. The comprehensive document will prevent the Board from losing documents, Nites said, and the defined rules will minimize conflicts on the Board. Nites said the Board already practices the majority of the additional policies, but that these policies were previously undocumented. 

Board member Graeme Meyer said he thinks the code is a “very smart move” and a “step in the right direction.” 

The first bill created the structure for the code while the following eight bills modified and added to the code. The bills define the president’s voting privileges, establish an official Board member attendance policy, create a legislative process and recognize that the code of ethics is a mandatory obligation. The bills also clarify information about the Board’s committees and determines the committee selections process and the application process for committee chairs.

The Board amended five of the bills at last night’s meeting, including the fifth bill, which determines who can sit on the nominating committees for the elections and judicial committees chairs. The bill originally stated that the outgoing judicial chair would be part of the nominating committees for both the judicial and elections committee selections process. 

The Board voted to allow the outgoing elections chair to also sit in on the other committees’ selections processes.

Meyer, echoed by Board members Abby Zurschmit and Andrew Abboud, said it would be unfair and an “imbalance of power” to allow only one of the chairs to sit in on both selections processes.

Zurschmit said both chairs should have the right to sit in on the selections processes because the elections and judicial committees are permanent. 

The new legislative system established a new way to compose and revise the Board’s policies.

SGB previously passed only resolutions, which the SGB constitution defines as public opinions on issues affecting its constituents that do not relate to the Board’s policies or procedures. Because there was not an established policy for the Board to modify its policies, previous boards passed resolutions to approve changes.

After last night’s approval of Bill 007, SGB created bills, which are proposals for policies and procedures affecting the Board’s bylaws or allocations. 

Bills will enable SGB to record policy changes, which Nites said, will prevent SGB from misplacing documents.

Nites cited an example of SGB losing a document that introduced the Green Fund Advisory Board, which Joseph Kozak, the outgoing Judicial Committee chair, founded. 

Kozak said his committee was working with online versions, which had not been updated to reflect the change, and later realized that the document was missing.

Nites said he divided the code into nine bills to increase open dialogue between Board members. 

“I think its much easier to say, ‘I don’t like this one thing,’ if you know that there is a process that won’t stop the whole entire bylaw change. So, hopefully that encourages people [to speak up],” Nites said. “I don’t want [Board members] to say, ‘yes,’ just because they feel like they have to.”

This method also increased the likelihood that the Board would adopt the majority of the code. Board members could deny a section of a code, but still adopt the structure and other modifications.

Nites said the code’s additions define SGB policies that were previously unofficial.

For instance, the second bill added a policy detailing that the president will abstain from a vote unless he or she is needed to break a tie. While this was standard practice for SGB presidents, it was not an official policy. 

The code also established an official Board member attendance policy, which was adopted by the approval of the third bill. Attendance policies were previously set by the current president and were undocumented. Under the new policy, Board members are permitted two excused absences per semester for public meetings and two excused absences for planning sessions.  

Board members may be excused from Student Government Board business for medical, family or personal emergencies. 

Board members who serve in the armed forces may also be excused from business. Nites said that this is an exception because military obligations are not “flexible.” Board members may not be excused for class, to attend other meetings or to work other jobs. 

Board member Brandon Benjamin is a member of the Army reserves. 

The Board modeled the attendance policy on the University of Virginia’s student government attendance policy, and the bill states that Pitt should strive to hold its members as accountable as other schools.

Board members who have more than one unexcused absence must attend a Judicial Committee hearing, and a second unexcused absence would cost them their seat on the Board.

Nites said the ideas to modify SGB’s legislation came from his three-year student government tenure, serving as Allocations Committee chair and Board member, as well as research about other schools’ student governments. Nite’s inspiration for Pitt’s new document was University of North Carolina’s student code for its student government.

For instance, Nites said the requirement for candidates to interview for committee chairs in one sitting with limited outside communication, came from problems he witnessed during previous interviews.

Nites said he witnessed Board members from two to three years ago, who were on previous nominating committees, text information about the questions and candidates during the process to people outside of the committee. 

Nites would not identify these former members.

Nites said that if future Boards do not like the code, they can revise it themselves.

“If future boards theoretically don’t like [the code], it is probably because [the members] don’t want to be as accountable,” Nites said.


Men’s ultimate frisbee requested $2777.04 to send 24 players to a tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Board approved $2,519.07 and denied $257.97, a portion of the costs.

Women’s club gymnastics requested $2536.32 for transportation costs. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations recommendations.

Panther Parkour requested $2,000 to cover practice costs. The Board approved $1,000 and denied $1,000, a portion of the costs.

Pitt ski and snowboard team requested $1,000 for 22 members to travel to a competition. The Board approved $858.82 and denied $141.18, a portion of the costs.

Pitt ski and snowboard team also requested $1,294.80 for equipment repair. The Board approved $962.15 and denied $332.65, a portion of the costs.

Pitt men’s glee club requested $690 to pay for a group to perform at its formal. The request was denied in full in line with the allocations recommendation.

The Caribbean and Latin American Student Association requested $1,210.58 for refreshments and supplies for its Caribbean ball. The Board approved $602.85 and denied $607.73, a portion of the costs. 

The Panther wrestling club requested $720 to purchase 12 singlets. The Board approved $699 and denied $21, a portion of the costs

The Board has allocated $1,266.95 this semester.