The BugPAC campaign to reclaim State College launched last night with a press conference in the HUB, announcing endorsements for mayoral candidate Michael Black and Borough Council candidates Marina Cotarelo, Evan Myers, and Dan Murphy. Penn State freshman and Borough Council candidate Rylie Cooper was not among these endorsements, so she released a statement on her campaign’s Facebook page accordingly.
Rather than assuring supporters she is the best candidate for the job, Cooper berated the University Park Undergraduate Association for not endorsing her campaign.
“Tonight, in unprecedented fashion, the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) decided to not endorse this campaign for the State College Borough Council,” the statement reads. “UPUA, an organization purporting to represent the undergraduate student body of Pennsylvania State University, has decided to not endorse any of the two undergraduate students running for Borough Council seats. UPUA has again shirked its responsibility to advocate for the students who elected them.”
To be clear, UPUA did not endorse any candidates for Borough Council seats Tuesday night. Actually, UPUA hasn’t endorsed any candidates for Borough Council at all, and most likely won’t. Many UPUA members attended the BugPAC launch in the HUB, but BugPAC is in no way affiliated with or representative of UPUA.
“I think it’s well within the rights of members of a student government to support a pro-student initiative. Absolutely no UPUA or student fee money has been used to fund the BugPAC. In fact, only three members of our 15-member steering committee are members of UPUA,” BugPAC Chairman Kevin Horne (also an Onward State editor) said. “The IFC, College Democrats, Panhellenic Council, and other student organizations are all represented. Certainly the BugPAC appreciates the support that dozens of UPUA members showed us at our first rally, and it is well within their rights to support a political movement such as ours.”
Cooper’s statement goes on to accuse UPUA of blocking student initiatives from reaching fruition, citing marijuana decriminalization, hate crime law reform, and ensuring international students’ safety after recent executive orders as examples. Again, UPUA has no power to implement law or policy, but is, as has been reiterated time and again this assembly, an advocacy organization.
“We were told repeatedly by representatives how they were trying their best but, inevitably, what came forth resembled nothing close to what we advocated for and nothing close to what would insure [sic]international students’ safety,” the statement reads. UPUA passed a resolution last month supporting President Barron’s statement on the travel ban, but some students wanted more. Cooper said in the statement she “advocated for action and structured recommendations,” but in the end, UPUA simply cannot force the administration to take action, in this case including providing housing for international students over spring break.
“[UPUA has] announced, tonight, they will shut out all undergraduate campaigns in a decision which was made with no input from anybody outside of their in-group, and have done so a little more than a week before they will ask the undergraduate student body to trust them as capable leaders in the 12th Assembly,” the statement goes on.
UPUA has announced no such thing.
In an organization notorious for hairsplitting and voting on even the smallest actions, surely something as significant as endorsing candidates would need to be voted on by the Assembly in a public meeting. It’s ludicrous to say such decisions could be made behind closed doors on behalf of a student government that’s been transparent to the student body through the rest of its term.
Again, BugPAC is not UPUA, and UPUA has not endorsed any candidates for Borough Council. So why didn’t BugPAC endorse Cooper last night in the HUB if the organization aims to support pro-student candidates?
“We are certainly happy to see students like Rylie Cooper interested in the local political landscape. And I am certain Rylie would be a better Councilperson than the majority of the people currently in those positions,” Horne said. “Ultimately, the BugPAC is designed to support pro-student candidates, but we are not obligated to endorse students just because they are students. Indeed, that would make us just as bad as the long-term residents who refuse to vote for a student just because they are a student. I would love to see a student on Council one day, but we are quite excited about our slate of four future Borough leaders, all of whom were endorsed by a wide variety of stakeholders, the majority of which were not in UPUA.”
When we reached out to Cooper, she said she was under the impression UPUA was making these endorsements at the time she released the statement. “I also don’t agree with the notion that they aren’t the same thing,” Cooper said. “You have BugPAC material in the UPUA office, BugPAC having their event reserved under UPUA’s name, for an event called “UPUA Extension”, and the only people having been aware of this six months of planning being UPUA people.”
Of course it’s a step in the right direction to see an undergraduate student running for a seat on Borough Council, so we must give credit where credit is due to Cooper for launching her own campaign in the first place. But perhaps this institutional misunderstanding of the difference between UPUA and BugPAC is a significant reason Cooper was not endorsed by BugPAC last night.