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Onward State Endorses TJ Bard for President

When Christian Ragland began touting his hashtag slogan #nodaysoff, we didn’t know whether to take him seriously. Twelve months later he has proven himself to be a competent executive, if not especially adept at working in conjunction with the assembly.  During his time in office, however, Ragland has not been able to substantially improve the recognition of University Park Undergraduate Association among the student body as the legitimate seat of student government and the premiere advocates for University Park undergraduate students.

It’s no surprise, then, that the candidates for UPUA president this year have largely focused their campaign rhetoric on the intended execution of meaningful legislative goals. The scope of ideas presented in the platforms this year is as broad as last year, but none seem as ambitious as the admittedly fanciful 10.i.10 plan that David Adewumi campaigned on in 2010.

Instead, most candidates this year have aimed for more achievable goals. Realistic might be the word best suited to this year’s crop of platforms, with the presentation of several of legitimately attainable proposals that will substantially improve student life at Penn State.

We believe that T.J. Bard and Courtney Lennartz are the candidates most able to accomplish tasks immediately upon entering office. Through their experience both within UPUA and from their outreach to the state legislature and Penn State administration they have demonstated that they have forged effective relationships (not unique to them). The having already established a meaningful dialogue (regardless of agreeing on the issues at hand) that they will be able to further during the Sixth Assembly of the UPUA. This communication with the powers that be form the key to establishing meaningful and far-reaching measures that will be the most beneficial to Penn State undergraduate students.

Bard and Lennartz are not perfect candidates. However, we believe that they have the foresight to lead effectively, even in a chaotic political landscape. We trust in their judgment to constantly analyze and redirect their courses of action as pressing issues arise, all whilst maintaining a commitment to the goals they’ve presented over the course of the campaign. Their experience, ideals, commitment, sense of urgency, and realistic awareness form a winning combination befitting the offices of UPUA President and Vice President.

The sheer diversity and comprehensiveness of their platform ought to be recognized, too. Though other candidates have chided them for having “17 pages of ideas,” the fact of the matter is that each subsection aims to address a legitimate need and offers a legitimate solution. While Bard and Lennartz often tout their experience negotiating with legislators and members of the administration, we are equally impressed by their suggestions for online syllabi, and a tenant rating system for downtown landlords. And despite their wealth of experience within UPUA, Bard and Lennartz are willing to turn a critical eye within, and provide reform where it is most needed.

But we also hope that Bard and Lennartz will take a page from other candidates’ platforms and incorporate those into their own. Make no mistake: all of the candidates had good ideas. That another name is attached to those ideas is no reason not to go after those goals as well. At the heart of Adewumi’s ONEPSU is a commitment to inclusiveness, and a joining together of student groups for a better Penn State. Travis Salters and Maggie Quinn have presented an unmatched spirit in combating students’ financial burdens. And Joe Grimes and Tyler Wentz offer both small-scale solutions to individual students’ problems and liasons within the greater State College community.

What remains common to all four campaigns, however, is the idea of “increasing the student voice.”

Bard and Lennartz recognize that both UPUA and Penn State are at a pivotal juncture that will determine the path the future of each institution. Among this year’s crop of presidential candidates, Bard and Lennartz are the most qualified to lead the student body through this turning point. They are capable of being student leaders to whom we can look, and in whom the faith of the some 40,000-enrolled undergraduates at the University would be best placed.

But tomorrow’s election won’t be a coronation. It ought to be one of the tightest in UPUA’s short history, and perhaps Bard and Lennartz would be best served by the humbling experience of such a close campaign. This is a time when students need not just results, but accountability from their leaders, and a failure on the part of our student body president and vice president to provide that would be a catastrophic disaster.

For now, though, we offer our unqualified endorsement. Should they emerge victorious, we have confidence in the Bard and Lennartz campaign to follow through on their campaign promises, and lead UPUA into a new era.

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