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Two UPUA Leaders Resign Amid Vote Whipping Accusations

Just one week after the resignation of two UPUA representatives was announced, the assembly was shocked again when two of its leaders said they will step down at the end of the semester. Speaker John Wortman cited time constraints and Internal Development Chair Ryan Belz was vague in his speech, but there was odd tension brewing in the room as the two hinted that other factors were at play.

“I apologize to any representatives I may have hurt in the last week,” Wortman said. “Maybe we disagreed sometimes, but I can say at the end of the day that I did the very best for what the student body needs.”

Belz didn’t give a direct reason for his resignation, but made it clear in his speech that it seemingly came under duress.

“This is not an easy decision or one that I feel is the correct decision, but is one that I feel has the best intentions of the UPUA in mind,” he said.

Belz elaborated after the meeting, making it clear in an interview that he felt he would be removed from the assembly or brought up for censure if he didn’t resign. President Anand Ganjam later explained that multiple representatives came to him and said they were coerced to vote a specific way by the Internal Development Chair, though he emphasized that Belz was never directly told he must resign.

While Wortman admitted after the meeting that a similar situation played a factor in his decision to resign, he stuck to the story that student-teaching and other responsibilities were the primary reasons for his resignation.

Onward State learned last week that a number of representatives were approached by a group including Wortman, Belz, and representatives Terry Ford and John Lombardo, who asked that they vote against the confirmation of Ryan Valencia, who was up to fill a vacant assembly seat.

Wortman admitted that this played a role in his resignation, but said that he stands by his actions and that his record speaks for itself.

The two will remain in their current positions for the time being, but the resignations become effective at the end of the semester.

Here’s a breakdown of the events from the rest of Wednesday’s assembly meeting.

Policy 07-09 – Elections Code:

UPUA’s latest version of its elections code came to the floor Wednesday night. It quickly faced a slew of amendments from the assembly. At-Large Representative Tim Rinehart moved to lower the executive ticket spending limit from $1,000 to $500. Academic Affairs Chair Emily Miller moved to let executive tickets cross-file for assembly seats. Stephen Payne altered how quickly elections commission members can join the assembly.

And it soon became too much for Miller to handle. With issues receiving a ton of debate, including the UPUA potentially funding campaigns, she motioned to recommit the legislation to the Internal Development Committee. The motion just barely passed 16-15, so we’ll be seeing this policy on the floor again soon.

Resolution 14-09 – Condemnation of the Board of Trustee’s Lack of Civility:

In response to the Board of Trustees’ special meeting on the Al Lord resolution, Ford drafted this resolution to condemn the actions of trustees and alumni in what became a heated mess of a meeting.

“That meeting was an embarrassment to our university,” Wortman said. “I’ve never seen so many dignified people disrespected in that way. If I was someone looking to be an administrator or faculty member here, that would dissuade me from coming here.”

Student Life Chair Shannon Rafferty spoke out against the legislation, arguing that it isn’t UPUA’s job to give the Board a slap on the wrist every time it misbehaves.

“Somebody has to hold these people accountable,” Ford said. “If we’re not going to do it, who will? I think we need to be brave enough to say this.”

But if this was a measure of braveness, the UPUA failed the test as it motioned to table this legislation indefinitely – which permanently kills the resolution – by a vote of 23-8.

Resolution 15-09 – Change in the Amount of Late Drop Credits:

While Penn State offers students a maximum of 16 late drop credits, most Big Ten institutions do not limit students at all in this area. This resolution argues that students are at times forced to take a bad grade or are limited in terms of exploring different areas of study because they need to take the limit into consideration.

The resolution asks that the university amend its rules on late drop credits to entirely remove the limit. It passed unanimously.

Resolution 16-09 – Smoke Free Campus:

Smeal Representative Noel Purcell (also an Onward State writer) wrote this legislation, but later determined that he has more resources available to him in benchmarking smoke-free campuses. The legislation was recommitted to Student Life.

That’s all, folks.

About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com 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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