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Apocalypse Now: UPUA Doesn’t Censure Ryan Belz

The #CensureBelz saga came to a head at Wednesday night’s UPUA assembly meeting as the assembly reached a 17-17 stalemate — and needed a two-thirds vote — to censure College of Communications representative Ryan Belz.

The censure vote, which acts as an official reprimand, comes after weeks of Belz blatantly acting as an obstructionist within the assembly. Smeal Representative Noel Purcell, also an Onward State writer, made the censure motion at last week’s meeting.

Purcell cited Belz working against his own constituency as the reason for the censure. The Communications representative tried to amend the assembly’s bylaws to ban members of the student media from being able to serve on student government.

“This is nothing personal in any way, shape, or form. It has nothing to do with silencing Belz. By intentionally impeding the legislative process just for the sake of it rather than looking to move forward, he is not working toward our mission as an organization,” Purcell said. “He tried to disenfranchise members of his own constituency. He’s a good representative who does his work, but we need to speak against representatives turning every UPUA meeting into a sideshow just because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.”

Belz responded to criticisms from the assembly, which included refusing to slate a plethora of motions to amend the UPUA by-laws two weeks ago, most of which didn’t receive a second vote. He explained that he stands by all of his actions.

“Through thick and thin, I am proud to say I am the College of Communications representative at UPUA. I stand by each and every word I have said and each and every action I have done. I’m not here to apologize,” Belz said. “The student body deserves representatives who say what others are unwilling to. I’m doing what I believe is in the best interest of my constituents and the university community as a whole.”

The assembly was extremely varied throughout discussion on the censure. Some representatives agreed with the reason for the censure but felt it negatively impacted UPUA’s mission to better student life. Others just disagreed with the idea of a censure in general.

That’s all good and well, but the major issue with the assembly’s debate was that it diverted into ad hominem arguments on Belz’s character and record. Instead of debating the motion to censure, representatives were discussing their opinions on censures in general, which wasn’t germane conversation. The assembly had its chance to discuss the option to censure representatives when it debated the organization’s by-laws two weeks ago.

The most compelling, albeit unrelated, moment of the debate came from At-Large Representative Zach Longstreth, who supported Belz with an odd speech about how Belz is an oddball. Seriously though, he called him an oddball.

“I’m rising today to give the assembly a glimpse into the life of an oddball,” Longstreth said. “His opinions are unpopular, his attire is usually – well today it looks okay but it’s usually orange. He watches NASCAR, boasts about shaking hands with Jeff Gordon, and once told me a story about the time he almost missed a bus in New York City to pay $100 for a shirt that Donald Trump once wore.”

Longstreth was cut off as At-Large Representative Melissa McCleery, who also writes for Onward State, pointed out that the debate is not supposed to involve his character. He was eventually allowed to finish his biography on Belz before explaining that the two main issues plaguing the assembly are a lack of communication and the grouping of representatives through characterizations. As examples, he mentioned the College Republicans, College Democrats, and the Onward State staff.

Just before the assembly began voting by secret ballot, which is the legislated procedure for a censure, Belz motioned to have a third party count the votes. Vice President Emily McDonald typically counts the votes. In this case, UPUA Adviser Barry Bram was asked to come to the front of the room and tally the 17-17 tie.

Thus ends the story of the #CensureBelz movement, though I have a feeling that this isn’t the last you’ll hear from Belz.

Here’s the rest of the rundown from UPUA’s assembly meeting.

Bill 11-09 – Great Debate Co-Sponsorship:

This bill looked to spend $30,000 – later amended to $25,000 – in order help fund a Great Debate hosted by the College Democrats and Republicans. The bi-partisan event will pit two “high-caliber speakers” against each other on April 28. The event will cost a total of $76,500. The Democratic speaker will cost $35,000 and the Republican will run $40,000, with Schwab Auditorium costing $1,500 to rent out. The names of the speakers can’t be released because of concerns regarding contract negotiations.

Ryan Valencia and Terry Ford, both UPUA representatives who are members of the College Democrats and Republicans respectively, strongly urged the assembly to pass the legislation, explaining that the event would not occur within UPUA’s funding.

McCleery stood on the opposite side, explaining to the assembly that members of UPUA are planning an event of their own involving speakers on sexual assault. She said that the assembly may need the money down the road.

The argument fell short though as the assembly voted 23-11 in favor of funding the event.

Confirmation of Election Commissioners:

The UPUA assembly confirmed five election commissioners to oversee the coming student government election, with Meeten Doshi, who ran for president in 2014, coming in as the head commissioner.

The sixth spot, in which former Panhel president Meg DeMallie was up for as publicity commissioner, is still unfilled however. DeMallie spoke for less than a minute, breezing through her experience before saying that she “ran a ton of million, bajillion events.” McCleery brought DeMallie’s qualifications into question, stating that there have been issues with her dealing with the media in the past. She also lambasted DeMallie for being “rude” and rushing out of the meeting before the vote. It was later clarified that she had to proctor an exam. Purcell also brought up the fact that he didn’t trust DeMallie’s ability to deal with student media in her capacity, based on her tenure as Panhel president.

DeMallie failed by a vote of 15-17. The other five commissioners were confirmed 30-1.

UPUA also moved around some money within its budget, supported the establishment of a Student Budget Advisory Committee to provide student input to the university budget, and voted for the continued support of the Course Watch List. Project LionPATH, which will replace ISIS as Penn State’s information system, could potentially have a wait list instead of a watch list.

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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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