Editorial: SGB must establish concrete rules

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

At the end of the last school year, the Student Government Board and the chairman of its Elections Committee made a vow to revise the Board’s Elections Code in order to increase accessibility and transparency.

But a recent string of challenges to the revisions to the code made by Elections Committee Chairman Aaron Gish have exposed a lack of clear and steadfast rules concerning the powers of not only the Elections Committee, but also the Judicial Committee., This muddles the official agency of each committee within the system, thereby producing an opaque organization..

During Tuesday evening’s public SGB meeting, Gish announced that he would delay the implementation of the revision to the code forbidding SGB committee members from endorsing board candidates during election season. His announcement came after Allocations Committee member Ray Ludwig filed a complaint in front of the Judicial Committee claiming that he and other committee members were not given fair warning of the impending changes to the code.

The Judicial Committee claimed that there was no precedent and rule for them to determine the constitutionality of revisions made to the Elections Code. Instead, they provided a mere recommendation in favor of Ludwig. 

The implications of Gish’s decision are problematic for two reasons. For one, allowing paid SGB committee members to publicly endorse Board candidates continues its recent tradition of operating as an insular community in which a group of familiar faces is not only in support of the process, but also elected year after year. Rather than actively campaigning to the Pitt student body for votes based on merit, candidates rely on committee appointees to convince their friend groups to vote for a particular candidate. What keeps this process insular, is that the committee members in support of candidates are often supporting the very Chairs and Board members to whom they owe their jobs. Only by disallowing all paid SGB members from publicly endorsing candidates, can the Board  connect with open-minded  students.

But what’s more troubling is the organizations broken set of rules.

The Judicial Committee’s admittance that they had no authority to rule on the constitutionality of Gish’s Elections Code revisions reveals a system in which the Elections Committee chair, a single individual, undue influence over the election process.

In order to prevent similar occurrences in the future, the Board needs to agree upon a concrete Elections Code. When a comprehensive set of rules is replaced by weak constitution and committee bylaws, a government structure will not operate effectively, fairly or without continuous disagreement. 

If the Board continues to ignore the blatant weaknesses in their own committee bylaws and constitution, accessibility and transparency will continue to elude them.