SGA Leadership Awards reformatted, disagreements rage among committee

Article by: Jeff Fish

“It’s not a great reflection on SGA leadership. There was a lot of miscommunication, which is why things happened the way they happened.”

The format of this year’s SGA Leadership Award ceremony will be a departure from previous years and with those changes there has been dissent among the ranks of the newly formed Leadership Awards Committee.

“We’re making a lot of changes this year,” said SGA secretary, Christina Pangiatakos, 2010. “[The Leadership Awards ceremony] has been the same for the past 26 years. We’re changing the presentation to be more like an award show,” instead of a ceremony where presenters read strictly from the script.

The nomination process has also changed, leaving each club to vote on the top five nominees in each area on a ballot, instead of previous years where club leaders that got together to discuss and then vote on every nominee, a tedious process that took hours, according to Pangiatakos.

An awards committee was formed for the first time to help Pangiatakos with the new process, but after a Google document with a spreadsheet of the nominees went missing for three days, three members of the committee became suspicious that the spreadsheet was tampered with, so they resigned.

Pangiatakos, who was the only one with the password to the spreadsheet, is up for two awards—Unsung Hero and Senior of the Year.

“The biggest issue that I have with the awards is making sure that the integrity remains,” said junior SGA senator Christina Scopa, who resigned from the committee. “I feel that the integrity [of the awards] has been lost and that we have veered away from the true purpose of the leadership awards, which is to recognize those students who are truly deserving of the awards they were nominated for.”

Although a complaint was filed against Pangiatakos, SGA Vice President and Chair of the Student Judicial Review Board (SJRB), Nick DiZoglio, decided not to take up the case because there was no proof of any wrongdoing.

“Whatever people were saying, I just didn’t see any hard evidence,” said SGA President Brian LeFort, 2010. “It’s one thing to accuse people of something. It’s another to show me.”

“I don’t know [what happened to the Google document], which is very frustrating to me,” said Pangiatakos, who had backed up the document before it was lost, and was able to prove that when the document was found, no changes had been made.

Pangiatakos said that she offered to withdraw from her nominations to get the process moving again, but Assistant Dean of Student Affairs John Silveria decided not to remove them, due to lack of proof.

LeFort decided to dissolve the committee and oversee the event himself. Pangiatakos along with those former committee members who didn’t resign, freshmen Martha Alvarado, Samienta Pierre-Vil, and junior Courtney Porcella have continued to work on the ceremony.

“Brian is doing a good job of things of getting things done,” said Alvarado. “It’s unfortunate that things escalated as far as they did.”

“It’s not a great reflection on SGA leadership,” said Porcella. “There was a lot of miscommunication, which is why things happened the way they happened.”

The way the votes were counted was also changed. At first it was done by Pangiatakos, but now it’s all done by a graduate fellow working with the SGA, Rick Walsh.

The change to the voting system added to the speculation that the nominations had been tampered with, but changing the voting system was Pangiatakos’ idea. “I was counting votes and accidentally looked at one, so I decided ‘I can’t do this.’”

Another issue with members of the committee is the cost of the event, nearly $21,000. “There’s an incredible amount of money going towards these awards that not all students are involved in,” said another committee member who resigned, Karl Hoffman, 2011. Junior Ashley MacAnespi also resigned from the committee.

“In a way, I would like to see the amount of money scaled down next year and get reallocated to clubs,” said Alvarado. “The event can’t be for the entire student body.”

“Every year we line-item [the awards ceremony] into the budget,” said LeFort, who added that club budgets were slightly up this year. “It’s worth it. Even if not every student gets nominated or wins, it’s a good opportunity for different clubs on campus to get together.”

$16,000 of the budget was spent on the Copley Marriot hotel, which gave Suffolk a 12 percent discount for having the same food choice as another group that night. The centerpieces, decorations, and chair covers cost $2,000, the invitations cost $400, the publicity cost $300, and the awards themselves were $1,400.

All of these prices are subject to change, according to SGA Treasurer and President-Elect, Mitch Vieira, 2011, but with the grand total at $20,100, the event will not go over budget. The remaining money will roll over into the initiatives fund next year.

The ceremony will include performances by Seriously Bent, Vocal Bliss, and the Jazz Ensemble, in addition to the Ramifications, who have performed at previous Leadership Awards ceremonies. It will be hosted by senior Mark Picariello, who hosted Fall Fest this year. “He’ll keep it streamlined and flowing,” said Pangiatakos.

The Techies Union will also be involved with the show, helping with lighting, stage managing, and Audio Visual.

“Despite all the drama, [the awards ceremony] should be a lot of fun,” said Pangiatakos. “I’ve worked so hard on it and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.”