Statement attacks Elections Code

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

A split Allocations Committee attacked Student Government Board members for a “lack of transparency” in a statement Tuesday.

A week after the Student Government Board — responsible for allocating the more than $2.3 million Student Activities Fund — passed revisions to the Elections Code, preventing Allocations Committee members from endorsing candidates in SGB elections, Alexander Majchrzak publicly challenged the revisions. Majchrzak, Allocations Committee Chairman, read a statement claiming that the Board has taken away committee members’ voices in the Nov. 21 election.

Majchrzak and committee member Ray Ludwig introduced the statement, which was co-sponsored by committee members Nasreen Harun, Oluyinka Olutoye, Courtney Sladic, C.J. Stavrakos and Robyn Weiner.

According to the statement, the Board failed to consult Allocations Committee members and committee chairs “before making decisions that restricts [sic] their actions” when it approved Section 207.03 of the Elections Code Sept. 17.

According to Section 207.03, all members of Allocations Committee and chairs of other committees are prohibited from endorsing candidates.

The Allocations Committee is responsible for advising the Board in allocating the Student Activities Fee, into which each undergraduate student pays $80 a semester. Each week, the committee meets to hear requests from student groups and make recommendations on the requests to the Board for approval during public meeting.

According to the statement from the Allocations Committee, the Board is obligated by its code of ethics to recognize its relationship to the committee chairs and members as “functioning peers rather than subordinates of the elected Board.”

The statement also lists a Board of Trustees policy that dictates that students can “associate with whomsoever they please.”

The statement contends that endorsing SGB candidates is included in this right to free association.

Board member Sarah Winston rebutted the statement immediately after Majchrzak read it, and said that Elections Committee Chair Aaron Gish read his proposed elections code three times during previous public meetings without any response from the Allocations Committee.

Board member Thomas Jabro asked Majchrzak if he was the primary author of the draft.

Majchrzak said that he wrote the draft, but said that another member of the committee had first approached him about the subject. The rest of the committee took varying degrees of interest in the statement and passed it by a vote of seven committee members in favor, four opposed and two abstentions.

Majchrzak would not say after the meeting which member of the committee originally approached him.

Jabro asked Majchrzak what his role is as Allocations Committee chair. Majchrzak responded that he acts as the spokesperson of the whole committee. Jabro raised concerns about Majchrzak inaccurately representing the opinion of the committee as the sole drafter of the statement.

“I brought [the statement] up strictly to get discussion going [among the committee members],” Majchrzak said.

Gish said that he was unconvinced by the committee’s statement.

“Given what I heard tonight, I’m not convinced that there is a well-established reason to change the code,” Gish said. “I don’t think that anything that was done during the process of voting in the code was improper.”

Gish said that if an Allocations member or committee chair supports a candidate inappropriately, the member or chair would be sanctioned. One example of a sanction that Gish provided was that the candidate would not be able to attend Elections Committee-sponsored events .

Gish said that he did not know that the Allocations Committee tooksuch an issue with the code until it was read before the 25 or so people gathered in Nordy’s Place of the William Pitt Union, but Majchrzak said that the committee took issue with the Board’s inability to convey the impact of the decision.

Board member David Rosenthal pointed out that chair members were not allowed to endorse candidates last year and said, “It’s just a better move to sterilize the committees so you don’t cause these factions.”

Board Member Mike Nites voted against the Elections Code Sept. 17 because he said that these sections, which prohibit committee chairs and Allocations Committee members from endorsing candidates, prevented the Board from voicing its opinion.

The board defended section 207.03, saying that the committee had enough time to meet with Board members about their concerns during office hours or raise concerns during the meetings.

“I understand where the committee is coming from,” Nites said. “I respect the autonomy of the committee that, if they want to come together and make a public statement, that is their prerogative to do that.”

Nites, who sat on the Allocations Committee two years ago, prior to his role as chair and Board member, cited the same rule in previous codes that banned members of SGB from helping Board members run their campaigns. The rule, he said, was ineffective.

“I’ll be the first to admit that even though that was a rule that every single person who was involved in the committee cheated and went around that rule and tensions were still in the office,” Nites said, admitting to supporting Louderback’s campaign for Board two years ago.

“Those tensions were very real,” Nites said. “I don’t believe that this rule is going to necessarily decrease tensions.”

Despite what Nites called the rule’s inefficiency, he said that he doesn’t think the committee has a valid argument in stating that it was not consulted by the Board.

“That can be an excuse to be angry, but I don’t think that is a reason for the Judicial Committee to rule in favor of eliminating the section of the code,” he said.

Instead, Nites suggested that the Allocations Committee will need to present research about what rights the Board of Trustees gives to students and look at what Student Government Boards at other universities have done in similar situations.

Majchrzak said he is going to work with the Allocations Committee to write a judicial complaint against the Board.


Strong Women Strong Girls requested $2232.50 to cover costs for security clearances for 47 members. The request was approved in full.


Summerbridge Pittsburgh request $1218.75 to cover costs for security clearances for 25 members. The request was approved in full.


The Club Golf Team requested $1,855.21 to cover expenses for two tournaments. The request was approved in full in line with the allocations committee.


The Quidditch Club of Pittsburgh requested $1,200 to cover national organizational dues. The request was approved in full.


The Pittsburgh Club Baseball requested $1637.37 to attend a tournament. The request was approved in full.


Active Minds, Veterans Services requested $3,000 to bring a veteran of the Iraq War to the University. The request was approved in full in line with the Allocations recommendation.


The Humanities, Engineering and Design Club requested $5053.53. The request was approved in full.


The South Asia Student Alliance requested $4585 to cover expenses their Penn Masala Program. The request was approved for $4152 in line with the Allocations recommendation.


The Panther Hurling Club requested $91 for new equipment. The request was denied in full in line with Allocations recommendation.


The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers requested $2773.76 to cover costs to for 8 members to attend the group’s national conference. The request was approved for $1386.88 in line with the Allocations recommendation.


The Engineers for Sustainable Medical Development requested $2308.30 to travel to the Global Humanitarian Tech Conference. The request was approved in full.


The National Society of Black Engineers requested $508 for security clearances for members. The request was approved for $406.


The Board has allocated$57,886.31from the Student Activities Fund so far this semester.