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UPUA Elects New Speaker, Ends Robust Fall Semester

The University Park Undergraduate Association ended the fall semester with a robust meeting, seeing the Speaker of the Assembly and the Internal Development Chair tender their resignations while two representatives were elected to take their seats.

Speaker John Wortman announced his impending resignation from his role earlier in the semester, citing time constraints in the spring as his reasoning, but said Wednesday that he would be leaving the assembly altogether. ID Chair Ryan Belz previously implied that he was forced out of his position after concerns arose about representatives being threatened to vote a specific way. He will remain on the assembly after stepping down as chair.

“I’ve never been the kind of representative that just shows up every Wednesday and votes and I don’t want to take a seat away from someone with more time on their hands next semester,” Wortman said. “You all know that I’m a Lord of the Rings fan and as a wise old wizard once said: All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

The election for the UPUA’s next Speaker brought two assembly members head to head: Eberly College of Science Representative Tim Rinehart and At-Large Representative Jon Garfield.

Rinehart said that the UPUA “can continue to move on a trajectory where conversations are led by pettiness and egotistical clashes. Or we can come together as a body united by a common goal, or we can come together as a body united by a common goal.”

He cited his experience speaking at Board of Trustees meetings, testifying in front of the Food and Drug Administration, and representing his college in the Faculty Senate. Rinehart then quoted JFK:

“United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do — for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder,” Rinehart said.

Garfield was up next and spoke about his work with the borough council representative, member of the facilities fee, and sustainability. He discussed the need for the speaker position to be unbiased and “speak on behalf of the entire assembly with no political qualms.”

There was minimal debate before Rinehart took the seat at the front table by a vote of 27-8-1.

“There you go,” Garfield said before shaking Rinehart’s hand.

The vote for ID Chair came next, with At-Large Representatives John Lombardo and Steffen Blanco both receiving nominations. Lombardo discussed his experience on student government at the Wilkes-Barre campus and supported the idea of eventually dissolving the ID committee in lieu of a University Development committee less focused on internal issues.

Blanco voiced his support for that idea as well, also delving into his past work on five different UPUA committees. A handful of representatives rose in support of each candidate, but it wasn’t as close as the discussion may have seemed. Blanco won by a vote of 24-12.

The assembly also tacked on a new At-Large Representative in Abby Baker, a member of the freshmen council. Baker brought up potential initiatives like a week dedicated to diversity. She was confirmed 34-1.

Here’s the breakdown of what happened with the seven pieces of legislation on the agenda:

Resolution 14-09 — Support of All-Student SAFB:

This legislation relates to a motion made at a Student Activity Fee Board earlier in the semester. Wortman moved to remove the voting power of all non-student members of the board, arguing that a fee by and for the students should be allocated by students alone.

The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution 15-09 — Support of Moving BOT Public Comment:

The Board of Trustees currently has no policy regarding where the public comment section of the meeting should be held. This resolution argued that holding such a section after legislation has already been voted on negates its purpose.

The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution 16-09 — Exploration of Dual Degree Programs:

This piece of legislation was recommitted to Academic Affairs because it needed further work.

Resolution 17-09 — Support of Uber:

This was one of the most hotly contested bills of the night. Freshman representative Alex Shockley raised concerns about Uber’s background check policy. A motion to table the legislation indefinitely failed, as did a motion to send it back to committee. The resolution, which essentially just supports the idea of Uber expanding to State College, passed 28-8-2.

Bill 07-09 — Finals Frenzy:

UPUA has previously held this event to give out supplies and more to students ahead of finals week. The organization will be giving out snacks and study materials on Friday in the HUB as this passed 36-2.

Resolution 18-09 – Diversity Statement:

According to Student Life Chair Shannon Rafferty, this charges the executive with releasing a statement “encouraging the Penn State community to be more accepting of people who may be different from themselves.”

It passed unanimously.

Resolution 19-09 — UPUA Co-Sponsorship of Global Networking Social:

This resolution aimed to co-sponsor an event occurring during International Student Orientation during the first week of the spring semester. The legislation came under fire by Wortman, Academic Affairs Chair Emily Miller, and others for being rushed to the floor and first disseminated to the assembly minutes before the vote. Regardless, most people seemed to think that the bill was straightforward enough that it shouldn’t be tabled.

It passed unanimously after some minor amendments by Wortman.

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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