UPUA Takes Three Hours to Pass Nothing
It took three hours and a plethora of exhausting debate within the UPUA assembly to reach the end of last night’s meeting, but on paper, absolutely nothing happened. Three pieces of legislation came to the floor, all from the Internal Development committee, but the group will be hard at work again as all three were referred back to the committee and deemed unfit for the floor.
The most notable agenda item was Policy 08-09 – Removal of Greek Council Representatives and the Addition of Greek Council Liaisons. Typically, legislation takes some explaining, but this one says it all in the name. The proposed ID policy would essentially remove the voting rights from UPUA’s four representatives of Greek councils. It’s an idea that seems to come up every year — but it requires a 3/4 vote from the assembly which has thus far been unattainable.
The argument, in short, is that the representatives are not democratically elected and therefore should not have a voting spot in the assembly. Further, some in UPUA see no reason to give the Greek councils a seat over other organizations, as students in fraternities and sororities already have representatives. This typically doesn’t sit well with the Greek councils, and IFC President Dan Combs stopped by to address his concerns at last night’s meeting.
“There is an issue with the way my representatives have been treated,” Combs said. “I just feel that I would hate to see this process done in a disrespectful manner.”
Combs explained that his representative, who he didn’t name (Alex Thames is the current IFC Rep), felt his concerns were not being heard when discussing the issue with UPUA. He was also spoken to in a “condescending manner” and that representatives sent from the assembly seemed apathetic according to Combs, staring at cell phones instead of listening to the IFC’s concerns.
The Multicultural Greek Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and PanHellenic Council also had representatives at UPUA. The consensus among them was that they are open to discussing the issue, but felt as though they have been uninvolved in the process and that it was rushed.
Student Life Chair Shannon Rafferty later pointed out that the representatives would retain voting power through the end of the semester, arguing that it is more important to take time and reach an amicable agreement rather than hurriedly push through controversial legislation. ID Chair Ryan Belz defended his committee’s legislation and countered the Greek council arguments.
“It’s disheartening to hear that you feel you’ve been uninvolved in the process and that it’s been hastily brought along,” he said. “I’ll be the first to admit we went about it the wrong way last year, but what more did you want? You’ve been involved in every step.”
Belz also attempted to quell concerns that the legislation is essentially the same piece seen last year, but PanHellenic Representative Alley LaMont didn’t seem to agree. “Not only is sort of the same document, but it’s literally the same document,” she said. LaMont even pointed out that notes from Katie Esarey, last year’s ID chair, were still in the document that she saw.
In the end, Academic Affairs Chair Emily Miller motioned to recommit the legislation to Internal Development and “do this the right way.” The motion passed 33-4, and back it went.
Here’s the rest of the news from last night’s UPUA meeting.
Policy 09-09 – Process for Removal of Liaisons:
This piece of legislation would exempt Greek council representatives from the removal standards of other UPUA liaisons, but it suffered the same fate and was recommitted because it goes hand-in-hand with the prior policy. The vote on the motion to recommit was in favor by a margin of 33-4.
Policy 07-09 – Change to the Process of Filling a Vacancy:
This piece of legislation was sent to the floor a couple weeks back, just after a UPUA representative was removed from the assembly for repeated attendance policy violations. It would vastly lessen the load for the Steering Committee’s process to fill a vacant assembly seat.
An amendment from the College of Agricultural Science Representative Ted Hozza (disclosure: also an Onward State writer) attempted to find a middle ground and avoid implementing a policy that would basically allow Steering to push any candidate through without a legitimate application process. Even that wasn’t enough, as the assembly decided that the legislation was not well thought out and sent it back to committee by a vote of 26-10.
Confirmation of Ryan Valencia:
Valencia came to the UPUA as the potential replacement for ousted representative Malik Cooper. While he isn’t experienced in the world of UPUA, Valencia says he has a passion for student government and gave an impressive speech to the assembly. When facing questions on his experience and UPUA knowledge from a number of representatives, Valencia was rock solid, reeling off initiatives that he supports and proposing ideas of his own.
It seemed like a no-brainer. He would leave the room, someone would call to question, and Valencia would be voted in unanimously. That didn’t happen, though. Instead, a contingent of representatives voiced strong opposition to Valencia.
Belz said that “a few of the 12 candidates” had prior UPUA experience. At-Large representative John Lombardo made an odd speech in which he claimed that he was “strong-armed” into voting for Valencia during the application process.
“We all came to the same consensus at the end of the day,” Governmental Affairs Chair Stephen Payne retorted. “It’s unfortunate if someone felt strong-armed because everybody agreed on the same person.”
There was an interesting dichotomy brewing in the room, with multiple assembly members raving about how impressive Valencia was and others arguing that there were more qualified candidates. The unfortunate reality is that most of the opposition came from UPUA representatives who are also members of the Penn State College Republicans. Valencia is an officer in the Penn State College Democrats. Connect the dots how you see fit.
“I’m really disappointed with the disgusting display of internal politics going on in this room right now,” At-Large Representative Melissa McCleery said. “To grill him about his experience with the UPUA is really inappropriate. I would love to see how many of you could have given me a detailed history of the UPUA before you were elected. You can teach him that if that’s really important to you.”
Whether it was a petty game of politics at play or a handful of UPUA members stepped into an alternate universe where Valencia wasn’t extremely impressive, it simply didn’t matter in the end. He was voted in 27-9.
Representative Garrett Warmbein resigned for personal reasons, according to Wortman. Representative Ted Ritsick also stepped down from his position last night as he is working for a political campaign. Expect to see updates on the two vacancies in the coming weeks as the application process unfolds.