The ‘Emily And Emily’ (And Terry) Show Comes To A Close As UPUA’s 10th Assembly Meets For The Final Time
by Elissa Hill and Lexi Shimkonis
The University Park Undergraduate Association met last night in 302 HUB for its final meeting of the Tenth Assembly.
Those who showed up expecting fireworks were ultimately disappointed. Nonetheless, before adoption of the agenda, Freshman Representative Bhavin Shah moved to add the censure of Representatives Adam Terragnoli and Abby Baker to the agenda — two participants in the leaked Agnihotri/Fleming Groupme messages.
“This would have been a motion to remove representatives Terragnoli and Baker had there been enough time,” Shah stated, referring to UPUA’s one week notice requirement for removal proceedings.
Representative Alex Leventis objected, and after consulting bylaws and parliamentary procedure, Vice President Terry Ford clarified for the assembly that the censures would need a two-thirds vote to be added to the agenda.
Baker defended herself saying, “I have never slandered another member of this organization.” The motion to add Baker’s censure to the agenda failed 21-17 — a majority, but not the 2/3 needed. The motion to add Terragnoli’s censure to the agenda failed 18-20.
Baker then moved to add the censures of Ford and Speaker Emily Miller to the agenda.
“I have the grounds of misconduct of office and negligence of duty,” Baker stated, referring to an alleged incident between her and Ford that she described in the leaked GroupMe messages. “Not one leader of this organization tried to help me. Not one person tried to make me feel safe.”
The entire room jumped up in objection.
“I’m going to stop this before it starts,” Rep. Isaac Will added. “We’re not here to play a game…we are here to represent the students.” Rep. Nikita Page also joined in, saying, “Lately, we’ve been trying to play this big boy game of politics, real world shit…the legislation that we pass is what matters.”
The motion to add Miller’s censure to the agenda failed 5-32, and the motion to add Ford’s failed 6-32. And with that, the fireworks were over before they were even lit.
During her final report as President, Emily McDonald forced the assembly to remember what they signed up to do.
“I’m gonna give you all 30 seconds to think about exactly why you’re in these seats, what brought you here, what kept you here, so think hard — you have 30 seconds,” McDonald said, tossing her phone down on the table and waiting for exactly 30 seconds. “If you didn’t come up with ‘bettering student life at Penn State,’ then please get up and get out.” When every member of the 10th Assembly remained seated, McDonald said, “Good to see that you’re all still here. Maybe there’s hope.”
“Right here and right now, every single one of us can make a pledge to get back on the right track,” she said. “I challenge you to do one thing every single day that makes this university better…every person in this room can make a difference by pledging to only work for the betterment of this student body. Are you here because you want to play politics, or are you here because you want to make a difference?”
“We as a 10th Assembly have been able to accomplish a whole hell of a lot,” McDonald said. She thanked the student body and the UPUA before emotionally expressing her gratitude to individual members of the steering committee and advisor Barry Bram. Crying as she spoke, McDonald received a standing ovation from the room.
Vice President Ford’s report began with a brief discussion of the Student Advisory Board, Capitol Day, the mental health expenditure, and model lease agreements before getting into the sentiments.
“I have to say, serving as your vice president this year has been the experience of a lifetime,” Ford said. “Our respect in Old Main and our respect in the downtown community and elsewhere is better than it was when we took over.” Ford also received a standing ovation after personally thanking various members of the assembly.
The assembly heard brief liaison reports from At-Large Representative Shawn Bengali, Eberly Representative Samantha Geisinger, ARHS Liaison Kyleigh Higie, and College of Information Sciences and Technology Representative Nikita Page, who expressed their thanks to the assembly for its support throughout the year.
Following a 10-minute caucus breakout, the assembly jumped into its final 12 pieces of legislation, starting with Policy 06-10, “Amendments to Article III of the 2016-17 Revised Election Code,” for which the idea was thought up last week but since amended to instead call on the University Conduct Board to hear Elections Commissioner violations. Though this change was just a one-time thing, members of the assembly hope it can be used next year as a template. The policy passed unanimously.
Further building on last week’s efforts was Bill 20-10, “Steps for State Funding,” which is UPUA’s annual walk to Harrisburg for Capital Day to make a statement for more appropriations. More than just Gatorade and granola bars, the update solved the issue of risk management and safety the assembly was concerned with at the last meeting to provide first aid professionals. Problem solved, the bill passed with a vote of 37-2.
With Bill 23-10 the assembly approved the purchase and installation of a color printer at a cost of $999.99 for its HUB office. Though they are still evaluating potential locations, I can never find a printer in the HUB so hopefully “replace” isn’t meant in the literal sense. The bill passed 38-1.
One of the more interesting pieces of legislation was Resolution 48-10, “Support of New and Innovative CATA Bus Payment Option,” which would investigate how students pay to ride CATA buses. Students are currently required to carry a CATA card or cash. Though the cost of the new option has yet to be determined, the assembly was supportive in finding an easier way to pay for a CATA bus trip as the resolution passed unanimously.
Much of the rest of the legislation was relatively straightforward, so here’s a quick run-down:
- Bill 24-10, “Great Debate Co-Sponsorship” — As the title suggests, this bill allocates some of the assembly’s money toward sponsoring the Great Debate, which will take place in Schwab Auditorium between the College Republicans and College Democrats. Vote: Passed unanimously.
- Bill 25-10, “Funding for HeforShe Event” — Representative Samantha Bentrim introduced the event which UPUA decided to turn into a “very fun and interactive field day.” The HeforShe event will take place on April 3 and the bill passed with a vote of 38-1.
- Bill 26-10, “Big 10 On The Hill Conference Funding” — This legislation provides funds for the members of the assembly (the 11th Assembly) who will attend the event, which takes place in April. The bill passed unanimously.
- Bill 27-10, “Funding for Capital Day Buses” — More event funding, this time to allow for UPUA to pay for buses to transport itself to Capital Day on April 5. The assembly will need either a 47-person or 55-person bus, but with a little wiggle room to choose between the two, the bill passed unanimously.
- Resolution 47-10, “Support of UPUA’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness Week” — This legislation does pretty much what the title suggests, and it passed unanimously.
- Resolution 49-10, “Establishment of a Student Budget Advisory Committee” — In presenting the legislation, Valencia said that McDonald and Ford have been in discussion with the administration to create a committee that would serve as an open channel between students and the administration. UPUA would be in charge of relaying the information from this committee to students. The resolution passed unanimously.
- Resolution 50-10, “Recommendations for the Pennsylvania State University Management Campaign” — Though the assembly previously passed recommendations for the Emergency Management website, this additional legislation creates a campaign to make students more aware of the information. “I think it puts a lot of weight on our shoulders, and I think we should capitalize on this by voting yes,” Valencia said of the campaign. The resolution passed, you guessed it, unanimously.
The 10th Assembly’s final piece of legislation came in Resolution 51-10, “Call for the Addition of a Fifth Student Representative on the Board of Trustees Committees.” The assembly has taken pride in advocating for increased student involvement on the BoT, and with this resolution hopes to create an additional position so that the UPUA Vice President and the CCSG Vice President could both serve on BoT committees, instead of switching off as they do now. Ending as one group, the final piece of legislation passed unanimously.
Various individuals were given the opportunity to reflect on their time in the assembly, including Chief of Staff Garrett Warmbien and Director of Records Lindsey Hannon, who even provided a shout-out to Ryan Belz.
Liaisons from GPSA and CCSG, the other two Penn State student governments, spoke to their good relationships with the 10th Assembly. “I remember when I was in UPUA just how annoying GPSA and CCSG could be,” GPSA President and Onward State Managing Editor Emeritus Kevin Horne recalled. “What has changed is the truly great relationship the three student governments have…the student government delegation has never been stronger.”
Speaker Emily Miller began her report by stating, “I just want everyone to know, and I hope, I really hope that you all already would know, that I will and would help anyone that came to me always and without exception, so please know that,” referring to allegations made in the leaked GroupMe messages that Miller had ignored complaints from Baker outlined in the leaked Groupme.
Miller then spoke to her meeting on Friday about LionPATH, explaining that the University purchased the system because more than 600 other universities use it, although they “realize the interface is not as user-friendly.” Well if more than 600 other universities jumped off a bridge, would Penn State jump off a bridge too?
“I’ll be very proud to compile the work of this group,” Miller said of her final task preparing the 10th Assembly’s final report before thanking individual members of the steering committee and the assembly. “I really hope that I’ve served you and represented this assembly in a way that can make you proud.”
Representative Alex Shockley touted the success of Tuesday’s “What To Fix” Awareness Day before becoming emotional in his gratitude toward the assembly. “When we leave this room today, we put our differences aside, and we move forward,” Shockley said.
Student Life Committee Chair Steffen Blanco asked the committee to help advertise He for She before thanking members of the assembly. “It’s been a hell of a ride,” Blanco said. “Don’t waste a single moment here at Penn State. Time is precious, and these four — or in my case five — years here goes by real quick.”
Representative Ryan Valencia joked of breaking the record for longest report before explaining his hopes for the next assembly to take on problems that low-income students face and to continue to grow borough relations. Valencia’s light-hearted jokes provided a chuckle for the assembly as he told Representative Will that he looks “like a 30 or 40 year old man” and told Representative Blanco “I want to squish you in my pocket and take you everywhere because you’re like a Pillow Pet.”
Things got a little more weird when Valencia addressed UPUA’s leaders: “I’ve seen you at your best. I’ve seen you at your dirtiest,” he said to President McDonald before describing Miller as “a single rose growing from a bush in the middle of winter.” Valencia closed by advising members of the assembly to “choose your passions first, choose titles second.”
Members of the 10th Assembly provided final comments applauding the yearlong efforts of their peers before the close of the meeting.
At-Large Representative Lianne Lu asked the assembly to “please rise to send a message to the media” awkwardly before beginning a We Are Chant. Lu glared at our media table (Hi Lianne!), closing with “We are Penn State. We are UPUA. We are the 10th Assembly, and we are bigger and better than how we’ve been represented. Thank you.”
Don’t worry Lianne, we got your message (whatever it is).
Just before the meeting came to a close, current At-Large Rep Anthony Mitchell announced a write-in campaign for president alongside VP candidate and running mate Zico Khayat.
“Students of our university deserve a student body president that has character and integrity, and is committed to work of the student government,” Mitchell said. “Students of our university deserve a student body president that has character and integrity, and is committed to work of the student government.”
The final meeting of UPUA’s 10th Assembly adjourned at 11:25 p.m. after nearly 3 and a half hours.
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