Former SGB presidents deem Nites’ ideas feasible

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

Campaign season has been one long victory lap for Mike Nites, the only candidate in Student Government Board’s presidential race.

Since Nites is the sole contender for the presidency, there are no candidates pitching campaign initiatives that compete with his own. Two of his major proposals include establishing a council of students from outside SGB to offer feedback and hold the Board accountable and an effort to audit the Student Activities Fund to use the $2.3 million reserve more efficiently.

Nites has proposed creating a legislative body made up of representatives from Student Affairs Affiliated Groups, such as the Interfraternity Council and Resident Student Association. The proposed council would also include representatives from Pitt Program Council and WPTS, as well as other appointed students.

Nites said his council would pass resolutions to communicate the student body’s opinion to the Board and hold it accountable.

Gordon Louderback, current Board president, said he thinks establishing such a council is a good idea and is feasible as long as the student representatives from the various Student Affairs Affiliated Groups are interested.

Louderback said he doesn’t think there is a lack of communication between the student body and the Board, but he does think SGB would benefit from more student feedback.

“There is no easy way to get the majority opinion of the student body,” Louderback said. “I think [the proposed council] will help towards [addressing the lack of student representation], but I don’t think it will solve it. I don’t think it’s possible to solve.”

Molly Stieber, president of the Board in 2011-2012, agreed with Louderback.

“It’s frankly one of the hardest things to do when you are in an elected position,” Stieber said.

According to Stieber, Board members discussed establishing a similar council in the past. She said while it’s not an easy project to execute, it is feasible.

“It just needs to be very clear about what exact responsibility the students on this council can do,” she said.

Stieber said the council would be a good way to attract interest from students outside of SGB.

“Obviously, we are seeing a race with only one candidate,” she said. “We want people to run [for SGB], but it can be an intimidating process if you are not already involved in the Board.”

Nites said he also wants to audit the Student Activities Fund — the $2.3 million fund to which each student pays $80 each semester — that the Board distributes to student groups.

Nites said he wants to determine the reason behind the fund’s increasing overhead, which consists of unused and returned money that was previously given to student organizations. He also wants to examine the percentage of allocations that formula groups — groups that receive a set amount of annual funding — use.

“If [the Board conducts an audit] and sees that the number of allocations have been decreasing for the last couple years, maybe that should be signal to us that we need to reach out to more student groups and explain allocations to them and get them to ask for money,” Nites said.

Louderback said Nites and the next Board would have to work with University administrators on the project. The current Board spent roughly two months deciding whether to continue funding Panther Prints, the University yearbook. As a formula group, Panther Prints received 1.6 percent of the Student Activities Fund each year.

“If the Board starts [the audit] right away, I think it’s doable,” Louderback said.

Stieber said the University already conducts an internal audit of formula groups’ budgets. But if mismanaged funds are becoming a bigger problem and attract the interest of the student body, then Nites should look into it.

“If this is something students really want [the Board] to do, then do it. That’s student government’s job,” Stieber said.