UPUA Passes Legislation, Despite Bureaucratic Struggles
Last night’s University Park Undergraduate Association was a tough one to sit through. The end result of it was productive but we should have been out of there a lot sooner. As a constituent who can vote (as most of you probably can too), it was frustrating to see my elected representatives bickering over minute, largely irrelevant details rather than putting the appropriate focus on crucial aspects of the issues.
Let me say before I begin: a lot of good things came out of this meeting, but the way the Assembly looked at them, the spirit of conducting business, was far less than ideal—there was way too much emphasis on politics in itself, red tape, and bureaucracy.
First on the agenda was the Code of Practical Standards, a formal definition of conduct rules for UPUA members. No trouble with this one; it passed by a vote of 29-2-6. I will say, however, that this should have been unanimous. Especially since everything in the code is pretty standard and unobjectionable, it looks pretty bad to vote against ethics rules (let us know in the comments why you voted against it… I’m looking at you @AnthonyPSU). Besides, it can be amended later if it proves to not work.
Smeal Representative Elias Warren said it best: “Even though we generally follow the rules as is, it’s nice to have some backing behind what we do and who we are.” There was virtually no debate on the subject; I just thought the two dissenting and six abstaining votes were curious. The Assembly also passed legislation allocating funds to its Encampment without much ado, as well as resolving to put a box to return library books at the HUB.
One of the more contentious issues was the creation of a Student Handbook Commission. This body would not create and produce a handbook per se, but would be charged with looking into the reinstitution of a handbook and the structure of its production. “It’s just to get the ball rolling,” said David Frankenfield, who will be an editor. However, the Assembly kept trying to micromanage the operation. Concerns and worries surfaced on whether this commission would shift the ownership from UPUA and toward the handbook itself, making it an independent and uncontrollable operation. They ended up amending the policy to name, as editors, Jessica Pelliciotta, Chair of the Assembly, and Frankenfield. But new editors will apparently have to be legislated in after they leave. The measure passed. It’s interesting that last year’s debate on whether a printed handbook is worth the $15,000 allocated to produce it wasn’t really broached in last night’s assembly meeting.
Bottom line, the arguments were endless. Whether it was Governmental Affairs Director Travis Salters actually going downstairs to get the exact invoice from the Days Inn to put up representatives from the PASS schools for their meeting here next week, or combing over grammatical errors in a simple resolution to congratulate the women’s volleyball team, many eyes were rolled. Both measures passed. (Though I will interject that paying for visiting schools’ stays in Happy Valley is a dangerous precedent to set, especially with expected budget cuts.)
I understand the importance of following protocol and making sure everything is neat and orderly. But that should take a back seat to coming through on issues that will affect undergraduate students. As stated in the newly passed ethics code, UPUA must “oppose any action taken by any institution; either external or internal that would serve as a detriment to student interests.” Obsession with bureaucracy leapfrogged student interests here.