UPUA Meeting Sees Budget Commission Dissolved

It was everything you could expect in a UPUA meeting and more — no-holds-barred debate on leadership organization and parliamentary procedure regarding a budget commission, unanimous votes on legislation, and powerpoint presentations on both a revamped housing database website and a partnership with the Princeton Review for test prep courses.

To begin, there was an uneventful report from President Courtney Lennartz in which she mentioned that the search for Penn State’s next president will include students. And then came the fireworks: a motion from Internal Development Chair Dray Krishnan to dissolve UPUA’s budget commission as it currently stands and hand over power to the executive board. But let me take you on a trip down memory lane first.

In April at the last UPUA meeting of the spring semester, legislation was passed that formed a commission to review the Penn State budget. Soon after, the commission was appointed by President Lennartz. She announced that At-Large Representative and friend of Onward State Elias Warren would serve as chair of the commission, along with vice-chair and off-campus rep Anthony Christina, among others.

One of Warren’s first actions was to send a Right To Know request to the university hoping to receive the entire budget. An email about the Right to Know initiative was sent to an account that leaders of UPUA’s executive board — including President Lennartz, Vice-President Katelyn Mullen, and Chairman Spencer Malloy — had access to.

Rep. Warren hand-delivered the RTK request the following day and Rep. Christina later reached out to the Harrisburg Office of Open Records to an request appeal after they didn’t receive a timely answer. 18 days later, according to Rep. Warren, a video chat meeting was held to discuss the commission, and VP Mullen expressed frustration that she and President Lennartz weren’t made aware of the RTK request at the time it was made. They asked Rep. Warren to inform them of any new communications with with third parties in the future, but about a week later, Rep. Warren made the decision to resend the request appeal after it was reportedly lost in the mail.

That was the breaking  pointfor the executive board. Apparently, in trying to take responsibility and make decisions regarding his commission, Rep. Warren threatened the powers that be within the UPUA, and Chairman Malloy informed Warren via e-mail that the most recent filing “violated Courtney [Lennartz]’s directive” and that the commission “is officially placed on hold”, asking Warren not to “perform any other actions representing UPUA in this capacity”.

In later conversations and video calls, it was decided to ask both Warren and Christina to step down from their positions on the commission. The two of them decided that their resignations would imply guilt, and that they believed that they were not in the wrong, so they chose not to do so. Unfortunately for both of them, Krishnan’s motion passed tonight with only a few dissenters, and the commission was dissolved. Communication errors have put a potentially groundbreaking research project on hold, and for what?

Didn’t the commission need the actual budget if they were going truly dig their teeth into Penn State’s spending? Wasn’t Warren given his position because the Executive Board trusted him to make the right decisions regarding the project? UPUA was finally going to do something that could truly be considered of extreme importance to the Penn State student body, and they let it go because of what appears to me to be a power squabble.

Anthony Christina was not at tonight’s meeting as he is attending the Republic National Convention (you can laugh now), but he sent a statement to Warren, explaining his opposition to the decision to dissolve the commission:

Madam Chair, due to prior commitments I am unable to be in attendance tonight. However I wish now to express my thoughts on the University Budget Commission.

The fact that this Commission is dissolved this evening is a travesty that our leadership has perpetrated upon ourselves. We are dissolving one of the only bodies that existed that was of a truly independent nature. Our fellow peers charged us last spring with getting to the bottom of this and bringing the best of the best on to deal with this matter.

We did so indeed.

We acquired a dozen plus Master of Accounting Students and Alumni to tackle this. And yet we have been failed.  I now address this to my constituents and my fellow peers: What Chair Warren and myself did this summer was to follow the mission we were charged with in #1 of the Recommended Course of Action: “Gather all pertinent information regarding the University Budget and analyze in as sufficient detail.”

The RTK Request falls well within the purview of that charge. The fact of the matter is, was that the Commission’s Independence was compromised. We have wasted an entire summer’s worth of time where we could have gathered research, we have wasted the time of the dozen plus CUB Members we put our good word to, and most of all we have wasted the time of the students and UPUA we charged us with this task.

The matter is now out of our hands, and in yours. We have tried, but roadblocks beyond our control have stalled us. However it was not without a valiant fight by Chair Warren and Myself.

But let’s move on to the legislation.

Policy 03-07 — Funding for Housing Database Website:

Representative Rishi Mittal gave a brief powerpoint presentation detailing the proposed housing database website, which would make finding off-campus housing much easier for students. His recommended budget of $8,000 was of course passed unanimously.

Resolution 05-07 — Funding for FreshFest:

An annual event taking place at East Halls, FreshFest introduces UPUA to freshmen students and provides them with live music, free food, and more. Student Life Chair Justin Laskowski’s proposed budget of $1,600 for the event was of course passed unanimously.

Is it really possible that every UPUA member found both the Housing Database and the FreshFest plan to be entirely flawless? Yes, yes it is.

Elias Warren Quote of the Week:

We’ll give Elias a much deserved week off. It was a rough one for the former Smeal ‘reppin cheerful soul.

John Zang Tie Rating of the Week (3.5/5): 

Sporting a spiffy grey suit and a white button-down shirt, Chief of Staff John Zang’s tie selection for the first assembly meeting of the semester was a slick black skinny tie with small white dots. It said, “I’m here for business, and also to check Twitter, but mostly for business.” Great start to the semester.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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