Chester Springs, PA
Politics and Philosophy
My name is Jack Ruotolo and I am a freshman studying Politics and Philosophy. I am thrilled to be running for a position on the Pitt Student Government Board this year. It is rather uncommon to find freshmen running for the SGB, but I believe it is time for a fresh perspective for the Student Government Board, and the platform we have built will tell that story. The core focus of our platform is the Pitt student. When the student is the central focus of SGB, great things can be accomplished. The Pitt undergrad student is not just a member of one class or the other, not just a member of this club or that club; rather the Pitt student is every one of us – all ~20,000 undergraduates. That will be my focus on SGB, and I will strive to ensure it is the focus of every other SGB member as well. We want to better the lives of every student, which is why we have decided to call ourselves the Betterment slate. We want to do better and be better. While our platform is expansive, it can be condensed down to three major points and policies. First and foremost, as a board member, I would push to establish an ad hoc committee composed of members from varying student groups to review COVID-related policies once the public health crisis is over. This committee will, in essence, review and discuss what policies worked, and what policies did not, such as “Flex@Pitt”. There have been many policies implemented in the last year by Pitt that are worth keeping, and this committee will investigate just that. This committee will present its finding to the chancellor and administration, and work with them to keep/adapt certain policies that are in the best interest of the student body. While a return to normalcy is inevitable, let’s work together to form a new normal that greater benefits the student and does away with unnecessary ancient policies that make no sense in today’s world. Our second major platform point is to have the SGB and university administrators adopt the Chicago Statement to protect free speech on campus and also to adopt new verbiage into the code of ethics and the Pitt Promise that explicitly protects free speech for all Pitt students, faculty, and staff. Over 55 institutions have signed onto this statement so far, including Princeton, Georgetown, Columbia, Perdue, and dozens of other academic institutions. FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) currently gives the University of Pittsburgh a yellow rating on its free speech codes, specifically relating to internet usage policies, harassment policies, and policies restricting the freedom of conscience. This is simply unacceptable for a world-class public research institution. The SGB must move with impetus to work with the administration and protect against gross injustices of individual rights and free speech on our campus. Our third major point is to streamline and simplify the allocations process. One of the largest roles of the SGB is to allocate millions of dollars to student groups from the Student Activities Fund each year. The SGB must work to simply the allocations application process and make it easier for student groups to access funds they are entitled to, without the convoluted and complex red tape that exists today. It is also necessary to ensure there is fairness and equity when it comes to allocating funds. Hundreds of student groups rely on these funds for their basic processes. As allocators and trustees of such a significant fund that each student pays into, the SGB has a duty to make the process as fair as possible and with accountability – no approved student group shall ever be denied funds based solely on the mission of their group. As a board member, I will work with the SGB to review and amend the Allocations Manual and the Governing Code to ensure that the process remains fair and simple. It is time for the Student Government Board to pursue worthwhile policies that will benefit every member of the Pitt community, especially the student. Let’s be better together. I ask for you to vote for Betterment on March 2nd.