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UPUA Representative Says Assembly Is ‘Limiting’ His Voice

“I appreciate the consistency on trying to limit my voice,” said Ryan Belz, the UPUA College of Communications Representative.

He was addressing the UPUA assembly at the conclusion of Wednesday night’s weekly meeting, strongly implying that his colleagues in the undergraduate student government are in some way plotting against him.

But let’s Quentin Tarantino this UPUA recap and rewind to the start of the meeting so that you can better understand Belz’s worrying assertion.

It all started with the confirmation of Garrett Warmbein, a former UPUA representative looking to join the assembly’s executive board as the Executive Consultant for Mental Health and Wellness. Warmbein previously chaired the UPUA’s mental health roundtable and said he wanted to “provide help to the executive branch in regards to mental health.”

Warmbein resigned from his role as a representative during the fall semester. When he was put up for confirmation on Wednesday, Belz brought up the resignation — which Warmbein said was due to personal reasons — as a point of contention.

“The issues to which you’re speaking of are not wide-reaching. I resigned last semester after I dealt with a number of personal issues that are since resolved,” Warmbein said.

When he left the room for discussion, Belz again brought up the resignation.

“I rise in opposition to the nomination of Garrett. As a former representative who had to resign, I feel it’s not beneficial to the organization to bring him back in,” Belz said. “I think there were other matters that played into his resignation.”

Student Life Chair Shannon Rafferty was quick to respond, citing Warmbein’s dedication and hard work with the UPUA in the past while condemning Belz for bringing up personal problems.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to bring up personal issues that led to his resignation,” she said. “As someone who had insight into what he was dealing with, I don’t know anybody who would have been able to recover as quickly as he did.”

The secret ballot vote was 33-1 in favor of Warmbein’s confirmation.

Shortly after, Freshmen Council member Brent Rice was up for confirmation for an open at-large seat when Belz again rose to speak out against a potential member.

“I rise in strong opposition,” Belz said. “As a former member of the steering committee, and having sat through his interview previously for another at-large opening, I know we had issues with confirming a freshman.”

But Belz was quickly cut off by Emily McDonald, the assembly’s vice president, who informed him that his remarks were not “germane conversation for the floor.” In other words, Belz is not allowed to discuss private interviews in front of the entire assembly. He attempted to challenge the ruling, but was voted down 33-1 by the assembly. Rice was then confirmed 32-2.

When Policy 10-09 – UPUA Election Date Change came to the floor, Belz was again a minority vote within the assembly. The legislation looked to move the UPUA election from March 30 to April 1 in order to avoid a conflict with Capitol Day, which the assembly walked to last year.

“As the original author and an original co-sponsor of this legislation, I rise in opposition to this legislation in its current state after amendments were made,” Belz said. “I was forced to resign after being threatened to be impeached for playing politics, or as it was called, ‘vote-whipping.’ If this is passed this evening, you will all be playing politics.”

He explained that the concept of moving the election until after Capitol Day was a political play by representatives who wanted to lobby within the state legislature. Other representatives countered that it only made sense to require those who worked for a year on Penn State student issues to see them through to the end.

“This is our way of concluding the work we started,” Ryan Valencia, at-large representative, said. “This is obvious and logical.”

Belz’s amendment to move the election to March 26 failed 33-2 before the legislation itself passed 33-2.

For those keeping score at home, that’s five votes with Belz falling in the vastly small minority all five times. While Belz once seemed like an impassioned, emotional, and zealous representative who stood up for what he believed in no matter the issue, he has strayed far from that characterization in recent weeks.

While I can’t speak to his claims of a forced resignation, it certainly seems that Belz has approached governance with a vindictive attitude instead of what the organization stands for: the betterment of the student body and student life at Penn State. I also can’t speak to Belz’s claims of some sort of group-silencing attempt by his peers in the UPUA, but let’s complete the Quentin Tarantino by returning to the ending.

At face value, the accusation of the assembly’s consistency on trying to limit Belz’s voice sounds crazy. But honestly, when he has become seemingly incapable of responsible and well-intentioned governance, it’s difficult to blame his fellow representatives if that’s the case.

Here’s the rest of the highlights from Wednesday’s meeting:

Resolution 22-09 – Support of Installation of Hydration Stations:

You might have noticed that many campus buildings have replaced the old-fashioned porcelain water fountains with high-tech Hydration Stations, which are able to fill bottles with filtered water. There are currently just 41 of these stations at Penn State. With this legislation, UPUA is urging the Facilities Fee Advisory Committee to spend approximately $2,500 for each station of its $250,000 budget to install more of these stations in highly-trafficked areas.

The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution 23-09 — Support for Permanent Student on Project Decision Review Board:

The Project Decision Review Board (or PDRB) is a Penn State board hat reviews all capital expenditure projects with a price tag of more than $5 million. The PDRB currently consists exclusively of Penn State administrators, but the university’s three student governments are now advocating for a student voice on the board by means of a permanent membership position. The administration already approved the student addition, so this resolution simply acts as a gesture of approval and gratitude. The legislation also outlines a recommended selection process.

The resolution passed unanimously.

In other news, Greg Schlosser — also an Onward State writer — was confirmed 33-0-1 for an executive board position as the Director of Communications. Schlosser previously served as Social Media Manager for the UPUA.

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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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