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UPUA Elections: Why You Should Vote

The time has finally come, the day we’ve all been waiting for. The day when you see a “student leader” or two or four run around from the wee hours of the State College morning until the drinking hours of the evening, whipping votes for themselves as they bombard fellow classmates with iPads and laptops queued up to elections.psu.edu. That day, my friends, is UPUA Election Day and it’s tomorrow.

UPUA Election Day holds a special, bizarre little place in my heart. I fancy myself something of a UPUA veteran — I’ve been ’round the election block a few times. First, as a freshman running for the Liberal Arts Representative seat, then as a sophomore running for the same spot, and finally as a junior, cross-listed in races for President and for an At-Large Representative seat. I only lost one of those races, and winning 3/4 seats ain’t bad! I’ve loved my time in UPUA, because it gave me a chance to give back to the place that has given me so much. But of course, not everyone has those same feels for UPUA like I do.

For those not involved in the student government “scene” (if you can even call it that), UPUA elections can seem pointless. You don’t know these people, you don’t know what they do, and quite frankly you probably don’t care. But really, you should, for a couple of reasons.

UPUA Controls A Lot Of Money… Like, A Lot.

One major reason you should vote in the UPUA election on Wednesday is simple: UPUA controls a good chunk of your student activity fee money. The student activity fee is a mandatory charge each student pays every semester in order to fund student services, events, and organizations. Money from this fund is used to pay for SPA acts, the Movin’ On music festival, student legal services, and various other campus events and services. UPUA gets a nice portion of this money to do with it what it pleases — $140,000, to be specific.

Obviously, a student organization can do a lot with $140,000. In previous years, it’s helped to fund a late-night extension of White Loop services downtown, pay for keynote speakers on sexual violence and mental health, buy pizza for blood donors, and create and distribute the S Book, the freshman handbook. With $140,000 on the line, you probably want to know who’s handling this money, what their priorities are, and whether or not you think you can trust them. By voting, you can help control what happens with that $140,000.

UPUA Is A Channel For Student Voice To The Administration

It can be hard to get a direct line to the powerful people at Penn State as an average student. Without the name of a student organization backing you, it can be challenging to get an administrator or high-level governing body to pay attention to a message. Over the past nine years, UPUA has built relationships to connect students with the most powerful players at the university, and ensure that students have their voices heard. UPUA can help a student know where, when, and to whom to direct a particular grievance. Additionally, by getting fellow students in those spots, UPUA has established relationships in those avenues for change.

The UPUA President has recurring meetings with the Board of Trustees (which controls the business and legal side of the University), and pretty good access to the University President, as well as the Vice President for Student Affairs (who deals with all aspects of student life). Beyond that, each member of UPUA is a part of an organization where they can contact other people to find the right person that can get something complex accomplished. The relatively few members of UPUA are oftentimes the ones representing the wide variety of opinions at Penn State to these powerful bodies and individuals, and ensuring that those people are representative of your opinions and worthy of that responsibility is necessary.

Voting Gives UPUA Clout

By actually voting in the UPUA elections, you’re contributing to the organization’s relevancy on campus. It’s hard for someone to take seriously an organization that is elected by only a tiny portion of the population, say five percent. But an organization becomes much more respected and real when it’s clear that the people it represents believe in it. When 25 percent of the student body votes in the election, it gives some backing to those people elected. It says that people care, and that’s crucial in order for the organization to be able to function in the influential ways that it’s intended to.

Sometimes, UPUA Is The Only Authority To Speak Up

When the Sandusky scandal first broke in 2011, Penn State shut down. The administration was silent, and no one in Old Main provided official comment from the university. At a time when Penn State had no representation to the media, UPUA stepped up. Then-President TJ Bard spoke on behalf of Penn State students day after day, giving a genuine perspective to the nation of what was happening on campus.

As the UPUA website states, “During their [President TJ Bard and Vice-President Courtney Lennartz] term, news broke of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and news vans flooded State College. President Bard rose to the occasion and spoke in nearly 600 interviews with the media during a time when the University cut off all communication with the public. As a result of the fallout, the Six Points for Change were developed in order to open communication lines between the three student governments of Penn State and the administration.”

This was a time in Penn State’s history when the people representing the student body truly mattered, and when those voices were heard not just on campus, but across the country. When choosing who you would want representing all 40,000 of us to our country, that’s no decision to take lightly.

Voting Gives Back To Penn State

If you’re not running for UPUA, maybe enacting change at the University isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re content with watching Netflix after class all week, and slammin’ back the Natty every weekend. I respect that. But there are Penn Staters who want to spend their time doing research on how other campuses have implemented bike share programs, or sending out surveys to gauge interest in making Penn State a smoke-free campus. By voting, you can be a piece of helping to enact change on campus. You don’t have to do that research or write those surveys, but you can help elect people who you know will carry out their time in the organization with pride and passion. By doing that, your vote gives a little something back to Penn State.

UPUA elections will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Students can vote at polling places on- and off-campus, or online at elections.psu.edu. We encourage you to take a minute out of your day to vote!

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About the Author

Melissa McCleery

Melissa is a senior majoring in Women’s Studies, Political Science, and Spanish. In the little free time she has, Melissa likes to cook, spend all her money at The Phyrst, and add to her collection of blue and white striped clothing. She can be reached via Twitter (@mkmccleery) or email ([email protected]).

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