Bard and Lennartz Tout Experience and Feasibility in Campaign Platform
It’s probably a good thing that T.J. Bard and Courtney Lennartz’s platform was more professional than their campaign song.
In front of 35 individuals–campaign supporters, volunteers, and other interested parties–the two set forth their agenda, unveiled a campaign website–votebard.com–and laid out a number of campaign promises and plans, but not before, regrettably, introducing a half-hearted hip-hop tune that implored listeners to “remember this rhyme come election time,” while a remix of Seven Nation Army played in the background.
But once the fun and games came to an end, Bard and Lennartz differentiated themselves not just from the theme song but perhaps from other candidates, touting their experience and realistic proposals to improve student life at Penn State.
Bard, who currently serves as UPUA’s Governmental Affairs Chair, is the longest-serving UPUA member, and has been involved in student government since his freshman year. So too has Lennartz, the sitting Academic Affairs Chair. As a result, the two argued, they were in a better position to accomplish their goals on a number of fronts–which covered virtually all issues of life both on and off campus, from tuition to scholarships, academic issues to housing, health and safety and forging relationships between groups, as Bard and Lennartz both simultaneously touted their previous accomplishments while presenting goals for the future.
As Governmental Affairs Chair, Bard said that he has worked with legislatures at a number of levels–from building relationships within the Penn State administration to the State College borough, where he worked to install a non-voting student member on the council, and even to Harrisburg, where Bard stressed his relationships with state legislators. Similarly, Lennartz’s experience in developing a course watchlist and in extending the add/drop period, and her appointment to the Penn State Board of Education by Graham Spanier offered a number of existing ties between the duo and key members of the University administration.
Jessica Pelliciotta, the Chairwoman of the Board for UPUA, saw that “unparalleled experience” as key to the campaign’s success, and though she drew the line short of endorsing their candidacy, Pelliciotta did say that Bard and Lennartz “understand other students more” and had the “best idea of what’s feasible.”
Chief among those proposals was gaining access to the administration, especially as Penn State faces a drastic cut in appropriations from the state. The Core Council, Bard explained, was made up of a mere 13 members, handpicked by President Spanier, which left both students and faculty out in the cold. Bard sought to create a comparable group of students and faculty to review proposals and offer their own suggestions on areas of cutbacks.
“We want to take the people left out of the discussion and provide our own input,” Bard said. “We want to take a responsible perspective, but we realize cuts will be made.”
That “responsible perspective” meant collaboration with the administration in the form of meetings, rather than “yelling” and “knocking down doors” in an effort to raise awareness.
Similarly, Bard wanted UPUA to align with student groups, citing a current “lack of cooperation” between the two, and encouraged an expansion of Spanier’s existing Presidential Roundtable to invite more voices into the conversation.
But many of the campaign’s proposals were more tangible in their scope. For instance, one suggestion for cost reductions was rolling back the taxes on textbooks purchased during the first week of classes–an accomplishment managed by students at Ohio State, and one that Bard claimed his experience with legislators could help facilitate. Another proposal to lower tuition came from a green scholarship initiative, one that suggested that the money raised from recycling efforts on campus could help create scholarship money, much like existing projects at Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center which raise money for students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. According to Bard, recycling mixed office paper alone netted over $450,000. And Lennartz expressed a desire to see course syllabi posted online before registration, so that students could know more about the classes they planned to take.
But perhaps the hallmark of Bard and Lennartz’s campaign was a commitment to facilitating off-campus housing–something Bard found himself uniquely qualified to do, since he became a licensed real estate agent before coming to college. Bard was “shocked” when he came to State College and “saw the crazy rent prices that students pay,” prices that closely aligned with those one might expect if living in downtown Philadelphia or Pittsburgh–and equivalent to a $350,000 mortgage. Bard wanted to initiate an information channel to be hosted by Penn State, arguing that information should come from the university, not landlords or housing companies.
Further, Bard claimed that many housing options failed to meet legal standards, with apartments failing to line up with code. He proposed that UPUA subsidize building code inspectors, to bring in neutral 3rd-party observers in an effort to ameliorate “subpar” housing options.
But beyond presenting a platform of goals and past accomplishments, Bard also acknowledged a desire to reform UPUA, saying that he wanted to be a president focused on internal affairs as well as external ones, to help grow and evolve UPUA and to build cohesion between the executive board and the assembly.
“We recognize UPUA’s shortcomings,” Bard said, “and we want it to become less bureaucratic, and unite students together.”
Indeed, although Bard expressed a desire for UPUA to expand its visiblity, his running mate also acknowledged that it was far from all-encompassing.
We’re here for the students, but we need to hear what other students have to say, not just make decisions on our own,” Lennartz explained.