Program Board executive chair candidate Anthony Rizzuto announced his withdrawal from the race Tuesday, stunning the sparse audience at the Joint Elections Committee candidates’ forum.
Rizzuto’s public announcement was the first time JEC officials and his opponent, Ruth Abu Sahid, learned he would drop out.
Rizzuto, a GW junior who served as PB secretary last year, said personal reasons prohibit him from remaining in the race.
“It was a really hard decision for me to make,” he said. “But after careful consideration, I know I will not be able to commit 110 percent of myself to PB, because I need to finish strong academically, personally and professionally in my crucial senior year.”
But vanishing from the GW stage, he said, is not an option.
“Even though I am withdrawing as a candidate,” Rizzuto said. “I can never withdraw from my personal responsibility to make a difference here.”
A member of several campus groups, Rizzuto took time off from PB activities to put his efforts toward smaller student organizations, including the Disability Resource Association. He said his platform was largely inspired by his experiences battling on behalf of smaller groups in the struggle for resources and support from larger student organizations such as PB.
Advocating a restructured PB with more “accountability, perspective and approachability,” Rizzuto penned a new constitution for the organization that invests governance in an elected board of directors to approve a budget and “establish an overall vision” for the PB each year, he said.
Rizzuto said the current PB executive structure, in which all but the two top posts are internally appointed, has become non-responsive.
“The PB is the largest student organization on campus, with the largest operating budget of nearly $230,000,” he said. “So think of it as a corporation in which every student whose tuition dollars go toward that budget are shareholders. They invest in PB and they deserve to know exactly where their money is going.”
Rizzuto attributed the sharp drop-off of PB general members in recent years to a policy of closed-door PB executive board deliberations, as mandated by the organization’s current constitution.
“Students are not allowed to see how the executive board operates, but that is where everything really happens,” he said. “They should just open it up. There is absolutely nothing to hide.”
Abu Sahid, Rizzuto’s opponent, said she was “shocked and speechless” after Rizzuto’s surprise withdrawal from the race. Currently PB treasurer, Abu Sahid said many of her platform proposals are similar to Rizzuto’s, including her plans to make PB more accessible to student groups through monthly meetings and more responsive to student interests through polls and surveys. She also said she plans to improve the PB Web site and strengthen PB’s work with the graduate student population.
“Now, I know I have someone out there waiting for me to do something,” said Abu Sahid of Rizzuto. “I know he is relying on me and other students who have the same dreams.”
Abu Sahid, a GW junior majoring in finance and international business, said she hopes PB members will feel “like part of a family” during her administration.
“I want my team to be very proactive in getting out there and finding out what it is the students want,” she said. “At the same time I want the PB to be fun. People should enjoy it and really want to be there.”
Abu Sahid said her strong background in programming is the attribute that most qualifies her for the office of PB executive chair. An active PB member since freshman year, she planned the reception for the Dalai Lama this year and has worked on Spring Fling, International Week and other events in the past. Next year she said she plans to incorporate the approaching millennium into many Y2K-related programs.
“Some students don’t even know what PB is,” she said. “We need to keep in touch with students and inform them of our activities. We can’t expect them to just come to us. We must seek their opinions out.”