UPUA Unofficially Opposes Lord Resolution In Closed Meeting
For the first time ever in its history, the University Park Undergraduate Association held a closed meeting with the full assembly in attendance last night. While Onward State was part of the general public asked to leave last night for the closed discussion, President Anand Ganjam and other assembly members briefed the media after the meeting and said that the “vast majority” of the assembly opposed trustee Al Lord’s resolution to reinvestigate the Freeh report and question its findings.
The meeting was closed to the public and media as a result of a controversial motion voted on last week. The assembly decided to restrict the meeting with a 30-8 vote to have a discussion in private about the merits of Lord’s resolution and the Freeh report, although the organization’s constitution states that all general meetings must be open. Some clever wording and support from UPUA’s president and committee chairs allowed the closed meeting to go forward, despite heavy criticism from the media and some assembly members.
UPUA President Anand Ganjam, along with Speaker John Wortman, Governmental Affairs Chair Stephen Payne, and Vice President Emily McDonald addressed the media following the closed assembly meeting, explaining that the assembly was largely in opposition to Lord’s resolution and did not wish to challenge the Freeh report.
“The majority of the assembly is of the opinion that they would like to oppose the Lord resolution on the ground that it is going to cost the university a substantial amount of money and the fact that there’s a lack of access to people involved in the scandal and documentation due to three people implicated in the report awaiting trial,” Wortman said.
Payne elaborated that the assembly didn’t necessarily support the Freeh report, but felt that the university should continue distancing itself from the scandal.
“I think that the consensus of the organization was that while there are flaws with the Freeh report,” Payne said, “an investigation doesn’t align with the goals of the institution as it tries to move forward for the sake of the students.”
Ganjam explained that this won’t necessarily result in an official UPUA opinion through a resolution though, as a sect of about 10 representatives were vocally against the organization supporting or condemning it publicly.
“As we got further along in the discussion, there were a number of individuals who felt that this is something that UPUA shouldn’t touch and that it’s not something that the student body has too much of an opinion on, so we shouldn’t necessarily get involved,” Ganjam said.
The UPUA Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a “very” open meeting on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. in 302 HUB to discuss the Lord resolution. Payne said that legislation related to this issue will be brought up at that meeting and the committee will be open to hearing opinions from any students who choose to attend and provide input.
Wortman seemed to support the idea of a UPUA resolution opposing Lord’s resolution, arguing that such an opinion would help legitimize the student government within the Board of Trustees.
“I think that it would strengthen our relationship with the Board because it shows them that we are a serious student government,” Wortman said. “I think that too often people think the students don’t care, but this Board has realized that we do care. You can tell from the conversations that I’ve had with Board members that they truly value what we have to say and they wouldn’t have put us in ex officio roles if they didn’t.”
President Ganjam confirmed after the meeting that he agreed with the decision to close the door on the media and public as the assembly discussed the Freeh report and Lord’s resolution. He said that he doesn’t feel that the representatives would have spoken as freely as they did with public pressure influencing them.
“I don’t believe that all the opinions that were spoken would have been said if it wasn’t a closed meeting,” Ganjam said. “I do think the assembly felt more comfortable in that setting.”
While representatives may have felt more comfortable without worrying about being quoted or overheard by fellow students, it is typically thought that those who are elected should be held accountable for their opinions and shouldn’t be afraid to speak their minds in a public forum. I could go on and on about the plight of a closed meeting and its poor precedence for student government, but former representative Michael Kramer eloquently stated that same opinion during the open student forum.
“It’s admirable that you wish to educate yourselves in a calm and orderly manner, so that you can make an informed decision. However, it’s your responsibility to educate your constituents as well,” he said. “Do they not deserve to hear credible debate and stances on the issue? Mr. Speaker, you referred to closing the meeting as ‘inviting friends over’ to your apartment. However, this isn’t your apartment. This is an official meeting of the UPUA in the HUB. This is the forum in which your voice goes on the record.”
The open portion of the assembly meeting featured very little new business, with Deputy Director of Records Karen Wu being confirmed and sworn in followed by the swearing in of GSPA Liaison Kevin Horne, who previously served in UPUA in several capacities and is currently an Onward State editor.
Movin’ On Liaison and Smeal Representative Noel Purcell said that the top three acts in the spring festival’s poll were Kid Cudi, Third Eye Blind, and Neon Trees. The Movin’ On Core Committee is currently accepting applications, which are due Friday at 5 p.m.