Sgb reflects, looks ahead

As Student Government Board’s incoming president last year, Max Kneis said he wanted to improve collaboration and engagement with SGB. Now as outgoing president one year later, Kneis said the number of applications for SGB positions shows how he’s achieved this.

“I think we continue to have more students involved with our committees than we have in the past. Nothing that we had that was open to applicants went uncontested,” Kneis said. “And I’m excited to see how our committees will engage you and more students next year.”

SGB, a student governing board of nine elected positions and several ad hoc and standing committees, meets publicly every week to discuss current student affairs and address community concerns.

The board gets its power from the $80 student activity fee each semester, which it allocates to Pitt clubs and organizations. This year the board allocated $862,854.39 of about $900,000. SGB also passed bills that changed SGB’s internal structure and resolutions to push the University or government toward certain positions.

Looking back on the school year, Kneis said one of his favorite events was a phone banking event SGB held for students to call elected officials and urge them to pass a state budget in October. SGB organized it in less than 48 business hours, and students made more than 300 calls over the course of three days.

“The legislators heard directly from the people most impacted by their decision, which are the students, and put some added pressure on them to act and drew some great publicity towards the whole issue of the state not funding the higher education institutions,” Kneis said.

SGB also pressed lawmakers to take action regarding current medical amnesty laws. It passed a resolution calling on the Pennsylvania legislature to increase protection for those experiencing an alcoholic crisis. Under current Pennsylvania law, if an underaged person is experiencing an alcohol-related medical emergency and someone calls for them to get help, the caller is immune from legal consequences but the subject in need is not.

Due to recent incidents in Pennsylvania, such as alleged hazing in the Pitt sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Pennsylvania State Senate unanimously passed a bill April 18 making hazing a felony. Kneis noted that there’s a provision in the bill that touches on medical amnesty, but only with hazing.

Executive Vice President Zuri Kent-Smith held three drives in October 2017 inviting students to sign letters of support for DACA, which were then sent to elected officials. He also held the immigrant-focused Human Rights Conference and served as a member of the SGB’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, which SGB made a permanent standing committee this year.

Vice President and Chief of Finance Maddie Guido — who also served on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee — worked on an allocations how-to video, a comprehensive student organization manual and Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week.

Guido invited the Pitt community to join this conversation and organized the University’s second annual Women’s Empowerment Week in March. The initiative brought together Pitt community members and student leaders to promote female empowerment and discuss an intersectional approach to gender rights and equality.