Four UPUA Representatives Disregard Capital Day, Constituents, and Democracy
“Half of democracy is about just showing up.” – Ralph Nader
(Update: 12:22 P.M. – A previous version of this article incorrectly included Justin Laskowski on the list of people not attending Capital Day. We regret including him in this article.)
When the bus leaves for Harrisburg on April 4, carrying most members of your student government, three representatives won’t be on it. Capital Day, as it states on the website, “brings together alumni and student advocates for Penn State and connect them with their state legislators. ” It seems like the ideal event for student leaders to attend, but that is not the case for four members of our student government.
The following three members of the UPUA have decided that it isn’t important to represent you and the student body in Harrisburg to Pennsylvania state legislators:
Anas Almathami (Off-Campus Representative)
Dan Florencio** (IFC Representative)
Nick Grassetti (Off-Campus Representative)
*Dan Florencio responded to my e-mail stating, “I am not attending because I do not hold the office of IFC representative any longer.” UPUA Chairwoman Kelly Terefenko, who is in charge of membership, said in an e-mail that Mr. Florencio has not submitted his resignation and still holds the position of IFC Representative. Further requests for clarification to Mr. Florencio were ignored.
Anas Almathami, Dan Florencio, and Nick Grassetti ignored repeated requests to justify their absences.
Governmental Affairs Chairman Adam Boyer has championed the effort to encourage the 6th Assembly to attend Capital Day. Although it is not a constitutional requirement for the 6th assembly to attend — the assembly’s final meeting was last night — Boyer set the ultimatum this year.
“From the beginning, UPUA has played a significant role in sponsoring Capital Day,” Boyer said. “What a better way to help your constituents? We couldn’t have made it any easier to sign up.”
Indeed, with Penn State appropriations proposed to be cut in half last year (ended up being an 18% cut) and another 30% proposed this year, it is essential for our University to be represented in Harrisburg. Capital Day provides a convenient outlet to meet with state legislators to speak on behalf of the student body. But how can we be properly represented if members of our student government (Anas Almathami, Dan Florencio, and Nick Grassetti) don’t even deem it important enough to attend?
Boyer noted that he “sensed apathy” in the assembly, which inspired the campaign to get everyone in UPUA signed up. “It’s really not that much of a burden,” he said. “If [the appropriation cuts] aren’t a wakeup call, I don’t know what is.”
The democratic process is a two-way street. It doesn’t work unless both sides — the policy makers and the public — constantly interact with each other. For Anas Almathami, Dan Florencio, and Nick Grassetti, this process apparently isn’t important enough. Not only is the leadership of Anas Almathami, Dan Florencio, and Nick Grassetti in serious question, but repeatedly ignoring messages from a concerned constituent would seem to indicate a lack in communication skills as well.
Penn State students are also able to sign up for Capital Day. I urge you all to do so. If you’re in a fraternity, your representative won’t be there for you. If you live off-campus, two of your representatives won’t be there for you, either. If Anas Almathami, Dan Florencio, and Nick Grassetti won’t do it, it’s up to us to make sure we’re represented.
More importantly, it’s up to us to hold our student leaders accountable.
(Note: Alyssa Wasserman (Treasurer), Ryan Thomas (Board of Arbitration), Chris Donohue (Off-Campus Representative), and Chris Ferri (Eberly College of Science) regret that they can not attend Capital Day due to academic and professional obligations. Jarod Hughes (Schreyer Representative) will not be attending for personal reasons.)