UPUA’s Ninth Assembly Begins (With Chairs!)

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Anand Ganjam and Emily McDonald officially took over UPUA  last night as predecessor Katelyn Mullen swore the pair into their new positions as president and vice president of the undergraduate student body.

There was no legislation on the agenda at Wednesday’s meeting, but it was eventful nevertheless as the internal speaker and committee chair elections proved mostly contested.

Ganjam opened the meeting with his first presidential report.

“Thank you very much to Brenden Dooley and Katelyn Mullen for a great Eighth Assembly,” Ganjam said. “I see a lot of newcomers here and I’m very excited to work with all of you. I see a lot of familiar faces and I’m looking forward to continuing to do great work with all of you.”

He added that there will be transition meetings on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the assistance of former UPUA leadership as an initiation of sorts for the new assembly members to get them up to speed on how the organization works. Ganjam also spoke about Big Ten on the Hill, which was attended by him, John Wortman, Ted Ritsick, and Stephen Payne.

In her first report as Vice President, Emily McDonald spoke about her attendance at a Student Technology Advisory Committee meeting in which she received positive feedback about the idea of transitioning from Webmail to GMail. McDonald said that the committee was receptive to the idea as long as it’s well researched in advance.

Sean Gregory

Photo by: Sean Gregory/Onward State

Here’s the rundown from the position elections:

Speaker of the Assembly:

The coveted position at the front table beside the President and Vice President came down to a faceoff between Melissa McCleery and John Wortman. McCleery was previously the Academic Affairs committee chair and was Ganjam’s strongest competition in the presidential election.

“I’m really excited and passionate about this position. The work that we do in UPUA has become really meaningful for me and I love to help people solve their problems,” McCleery said. “I have … a lot of institutional knowledge about UPUA and the university. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel and I want to continue the upward trajectory that we have from last year.”

She added that she would like to make UPUA more organic and stressed that she stands behind the Ganjam-McDonald platform entirely despite running against them in the presidential race, explaining that she would have no problem putting personal differences aside to help better the student body.

Wortman addressed the assembly next, starting off by saying that he initially was cautious about running for UPUA but later recognized that it was the best decision he’s made since coming to Penn State.

“I am the only representative sitting here tonight that can say they passed or authored or co-authored a piece of legislation that has gone through every single committee,” Wortman said. “You should vote for me because you know at the end of the day, I’m going to be the Speaker that sits up with you until 3 a.m. if that’s what it takes to get your initiative worked out.”

Wortman won the Speaker position by a vote of 19-12.

Internal Development Chair:

This position again featured two UPUA members going to head to head for a committee chair position in the organization. Ryan Belz and Victoria Woods both accepted nominations to become the ID Chair.

Belz addressed the assembly first, emphasizing that his odd but relevant infatuation with by-laws makes him the best candidate.

“I have a passion for something weirdly unique,” he said. ” I will do what the assembly wants and will not push my own platforms. As John F. Kennedy said, ‘Sure it’s a big job; but I don’t know anyone who can do it better than I can.'”

Woods spoke next, boasting about the fact that she has sat on two previous ID committees under two different chairs, Dray Krishnan and Katia Esarey. Woods said that she would meld their leadership skills together and felt that she was the strongest candidate because of her prior experience within the committee.

Belz went on to win 23-9.

Student Life Chair:

Alley LaMont, Shannon Rafferty, John Lombardo, and Steffen Blanco were the four candidates nominated to chair UPUA’s largest committee, which recently absorbed the Facilities and Diversity committees.

LaMont, the UPUA Panhellenic representative, addressed the assembly first. Despite not holding any prior UPUA leadership positions, she said that she is “not new to leadership” and wants to empower representatives to push initiatives through the subcommittee structure. As for diversity, a current hot-button issue, LaMont said that using roundtables for input from multi-cultural organizations around campus is the best way to handle the subject.

Rafferty spoke next, mentioning her previous experience sitting on the Student Life committee. She said the the committee should work to directly impact and better the lives of Penn State students. Rafferty mentioned a Blue & White Brigade expansion, green initiatives, and diversity education as initiatives that she would like to see the committee work on.

Lombardo and Blanco were the final two candidates to speak. Lombardo opened by saying that his experience as a Student Life committee member coupled with previous leadership roles give him the tools to lead the committee, adding that he wants to lay a new groundwork. Blanco focused primarily on diversity, saying that he wants to build relationships with multi-cultural organizations and bringing up his passion for student life.

After Blanco and LaMont were ousted in the initial vote, Rafferty went on to beat Lombardo 18-13 to win the chair position.

Governmental Affairs Chair:

Stephen Payne was the one and only representative to be nominated for this position, and he is certainly qualified to replace Laurel Petrilionis. He chose not to give much of a speech and was voted in by unanimous consent.

Academic Affairs Chair:

Emily Miller was the only representative nominated for this chair position. She cited her experience with the committee, working on initiatives such as the open educational resources and the online syllabi archive before being voted in unanimously.

Borough Council Representative:

John Garfield was the only representative nominated to replace Chase Englund in this role. He too was voted in unanimously.

That’s all from the first meeting of the UPUA Ninth Assembly. Don’t go away. I’ll be back next Wednesday with more.

Photo By: Sean Gregory

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