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UPUA Progress Slowed by Infighting, Controversy

Last night’s meeting was by far the most highly attended of the fifth assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association. They weren’t there just to see Robert’s Rules of Order in action, that’s for sure.

UPUA responds to Karn’s troublesome tweets

The hullabaloo all originated from remarks posted on Twitter over the last year by the newly inducted UPUA Diversity Chair Noah Karn. Students from Rainbow Roundtable, NAACP, and Asian Pacific American Caucus came to lend their support as the clubs’ leaders voiced concerns over Noah Karn’s offensive status updates.

President Ragland’s report began with an apology on behalf of UPUA to all students Karn’s remarks may have offended. A former Student Life and Diversity Chair himself, Ragland condemned Karn’s actions and claimed that UPUA stood to learn a lesson from this experience.

Karn did not attend the meeting. Instead, Ragland read an apology letter Karn had written to the student body. Karn resigned from his chair position in UPUA but will remain a member of the UPUA assembly as an elected representative.

But despite Karn’s absence, a number of students were there to speak out against him. Steve Lucas, the President of Rainbow Roundtable and the student who first reported Karn’s offensive tweets, feels that he should have been removed from his assembly position by UPUA.

The NAACP wanted a member on the Student Life and Diversity Committee who will work closely with UPUA. In response to Karn’s mea culpa, they said that ignorance is not an excuse to make sexist, homophobic, or racist remarks. The representative requested a round table talk facilitated by a faculty member with Noah Karn in order to teach him about many identities that are present on campus.

Roman Sandoval, the President of Asian Pacific American Caucus, said Karn’s statements were a disappointment and a dishonor. He encouraged the assembly to expand its horizons.

UPUA governance slowed by infighting

The assembly did indeed go over other things not related to Twitter, though.

UPUA has decided on a Homecoming theme! They settled on the movie Up, with an idea for a float that is a house with lots of balloons.

The assembly confirmed Kate Malboeuf as the School of Nursing Representative and Joanna Sobel as the Clerk of the Assembly.

A very important policy was passed relating to Last Stop! But no, they didn’t announce the artists.

According to the agenda, Last Stop has contracted their four headlining artists, but money must be allocated to cover costs not associated with artist fees. This money will be used to purchase t-shirts, public relations/banners, pay Roustabout!’s booking fees, technology/headsets, and hotel accommodations for the artists. This funding will come from sources which did not use their full allotments in the 4th assembly. The hope is that a portion of the funding will also be recouped by corporate sponsorship. The policy passed with a vote of 34-0-5.

Nominations for a new Student Life and Diversity Chair were discussed. Debate raged between some of the representatives regarding whether it was too soon to elect a new chair. Some members of the Student Life and Diversity felt that they may be able to function without a leader, but the majority of the representatives felt that this was a very important position that needed to be filled immediately. Two representatives were nominated for the role of Student Life and Diversity Chair: Colleen Cannon and Katie Perugini. Perugini’s platform focused on student diversity, while Cannon’s was more based on on improving the quality of student life. In the end, Cannon won the newly vacant chair position witha vote of 19-10-5.

Internal politics struck when Wil Santivasi told the assembly that outside forces were involved with the election of Jessica Pelliciotta as Chairwoman of the Assembly. Last week, Pelliciotta beat out Mark Cannon in a close contest. Santivasi said that text messages had been sent during that meeting urging members of the assembly to vote in a certain way, ostensibly for Pelliciotta. After Santivasi motioned for a reconsideration of the Chair of the Assembly, it was explained that first the current chair would have to be removed by a 2/3 majority. Santivasi’s motion was withdrawn after a lengthy discourse.

Ragland’s closing statements were not positive. He expressed discontent with the way the meeting proceeded and said he felt the assembly was elected to bring the government back to the students, not away from them.

Other members in the gallery expressed their disappointment in the assembly’s actions. David Adewumi, who was beaten by Ragland in the presidential election, expressed his feelings that if the UPUA were to overcome their in-fighting, it could do great things for the benefit of the students.

Granted, this 5th assembly of UPUA is still young, having only met twice so far. Many of them are certainly still learning the ropes. However, I hope that UPUA can do further research before electing their internal leaders. UPUA representatives and chairs should know that their constituents are watching and hoping for great things. I hope UPUA can learn from its experiences and that Ragland-Smith can actually bring the student government back to the students.

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