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The Power of the UPUA Assembly

If you have clicked on Onward State or picked up a Collegian sometime over the past 15 days, you’ve seen headlines dealing with one or more of the four UPUA presidential tickets. Since the start of the campaign season, the media focus on the upcoming election has been on the executive branch of the student government.

But do the presidential tickets deserve all this hoopla? Do they wield enough power in the UPUA to warrant such excessive coverage?

The power of the UPUA is still in the hands of the 39 members that make up its Assembly, yet there has not been one story profiling the any of the 57 undergraduates vying for either the six at-large, 12 off-campus, seven on-campus or one of the 14 academic college positions in the government’s legislative branch.

Of the 12% of undergraduate students that vote in the UPUA elections every year, my guess is that a woeful majority of those voters have only a limited amount of knowledge of the presidential candidates and know even less about people who actually run the government.

To get a better handle on just how important the Assembly is, I spoke with the Chairwoman of the Fifth Assembly, Jessica Pelliciotta.

The UPUA Assembly comes up with every piece of legislation that comes to the floor, the legislation that affects the student body. All of this legislation makes its way to the floor after going through committees which are made up of the elected representatives of the Assembly. These committees do all the research on the bill and once they are happy with it, they send it through Steering. All of this legislation must be signed by two different types of representatives (i.e. an Academic Affairs committee member and then independent Liberal Arts college representative).

There is an exception to this rule when the President can attempt to bring legislation to the floor without going through a committee and Steering, but once again, the Assembly has final say because it must be approved by a two-thirds vote. Pelliciotta noted that President Christian Ragland used this exception between five and eight times this year (out of the 50 pieces of legislation that were passed), but that that number in anomalously high for one year.

The executive branch of UPUA does not put the chairs of UPUA’s six committees into place, the representatives of the Assembly vote on which of their own will head these positions. The representatives also vote on who chairs the entire assembly for the year at the first meeting.

Pelliciotta summed it up best:

The Assembly has a lot of power and potential. It approves all spending over $1,000, passes all legislation, comes up with and writes 90% of the legislation and approves all directors. While the President acts as the representative of the student body at large by attending Board of Trustees and Alumni Association meetings and being a figure-head, the Assembly actually does a majority of the researching and planning with hopes the executive directors will execute it.

So do the presidential and vice-presidential elections matter? Of course they do. They are the ones who have the most direct contact with administrators and are the voices of the student body as a whole.

But are they the most important election? No. The UPUA Assembly does the grunt work so that the student body president has something to say to those administrators when they sit in on meetings throughout the year.

So do yourselves a favor before you vote tomorrow. Go to vote.psu.edu and check out each of the profiles of those running to fill the seats in the Assembly. They are the ones who will decide on the legislation that directly impacts you, so you should want to put the people with your best interests in place to do so.

About the Author

Dan Vecellio

Dan is a graduate student in meteorology, hailing from Bradford, Pennsylvania. His interests include sports, Penn State and commons cheesesteaks. Feel free to contact me through my email or follow me on Twitter.

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