Terry Ford Sworn In As UPUA President In 11th Assembly’s Inaugural Meeting

Welcome to the next generation. The journey was turbulent, but one disqualification and two write-in campaigns later, the newest group of undergraduate student leaders raised their right hands and took to 233B HUB to get the new term underway.

Once the meeting was called to order, President Terry Ford and Vice President Katie Jordan were sworn in, an honor performed by outgoing president Emily McDonald. After the gavel was passed, Ford swore in the entire new assembly.

When it came time for open student forum, there was one familiar face who just wasn’t ready to leave. Ryan Valencia, former At-Large Rep and Governmental Affairs Chair, took the mic to advise the assembly to stop organizing “Steps for State,” which took place for the third consecutive year earlier this week.

“I was just here today to speak to how much garbage Steps for State is,” Valencia said. “I cannot let any assembly in the future be liable to that danger. I have no idea how it passed risk management.”

Valencia pointed out how some of the student walkers have to travel on dangerous roads right next to cars flying by at 60 miles an hour. Though organization for the next Steps for State is probably 11 months away, Valencia’s recommendation will likely carry a lot of weight, even from beyond the “student-leader grave.”

Next was another special presentation, this time from UPUA Adviser Barry Bram, who offered the new assembly a few opening words. Specifically, Bram offered four thoughts on what makes a good leader — listening, saying yes, doing the right thing, and having fun while not taking yourself too seriously.

“You are here to represent every single student that attends University Park,” he said. “I think this group has a little damage repair to do after this election.”

In his first presidential report, Ford thanked his campaign team and the new assembly.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be sitting here today.” Ford also touched on how the tumultuous (yes I still love to use this word) election has painted UPUA in a bad light. “It’s bizarre that a student government election was so contentious and shrouded in negativity,” he said. “The worst thing that could happen, and did happen, is losing trust with students and administrators.”

“We’re not going to stop being productive just because we’ve faced some negativity.”

As far as actual “stuff” (there’s not much to report on yet seeing as it’s only week one), Ford talked model lease updates, strengthening bystander intervention (“We have to make sure programs like Stand for State are protected,”) and an upcoming meeting with the IFC to talk joint initiatives for the upcoming year.

In her first report as Vice President, Jordan took a page from “High School Musical.”

“We’re all in it together, we’re united,” she said. “So let’s hit the ground running, let’s do it”

Jordan also didn’t have much to report on, and though she still has to get used to sitting at the front table and sharpening those parliamentary procedure skills, she did a good job leading the assembly for the first time and appeared comfortable with and knowledgeable about her responsibilities.

After the standard five-minute caucus breakout, the assembly held elections for the Speaker and various committee chairs. Every position was elected unopposed except for Student Life chair, which was a two-way race. Here’s the new leaders of the of the 11th Assembly:

    • Speaker: Alex Shockley, unanimous
    • Facilities Chair: Brent Rice, unanimous
    • Student Life Chair: Kyra Rogan, 17-13
    • Governmental Affairs Chair: Shawn Bengali, unanimous
    • Academic Affairs Chair: Samantha Geisinger, unanimous
    • Borough Council Representative: Morgon Goranson, 29-1

 

The other nomination for the Student Life Committee Chair was Jorge Zurita-Coronado. In her statement, Rogan said that she knows “diversity hasn’t been her strong suit,” but said she wants to work on it in her term. Zurita-Coronado, who wasn’t in the room during Rogan’s address, pointed out his pre-existing multicultural ties and how he plans to use them to advance UPUA’s goals of diversity and inclusion. The difference between the two sparked a 30-minute debate on UPUA’s relationship with the multicultural community and how they plan to move forward regarding it, instead of the qualities of the candidates themselves. Ultimately Rogan won by only four votes.

All of the candidates were given the opportunity to speak and field questions before voting, where most reflected on the person who held the position before them and what they plan to bring to the role (“I know I have some big shoes to fill,” newly-elected Speaker Shockley said of his predecessor Emily Miller, who was in attendance).

The only other point of contention came during Goranson’s unopposed nomination when he said he may have a summer internship in California. For most positions this wouldn’t be an issue, but the Borough Council Representative is responsible for attending the Borough Council’s weekly meetings (which would be quite the transcontinental commute). The assembly decided to vote on Goranson and if he ended up taking the position in California they would vote again.

The assembly also confirmed Chief of Staff Jen Heckman and Director of Records Brooke Novotnak, both of whom were recommended for the positions by Ford, passed unanimously, and sworn-in immediately.

Ford left the assembly with a final take away from the lengthy meeting:

“Right now on this campus there are students that we represent that don’t feel safe because of their race or religion,” he said. “Despite all of these real challenges, there are people who will tell you that UPUA doesn’t do anything.”

“We can’t solve everything. We are a voice. Right now they don’t see us as this voice — they see us as a group of bickering people that don’t get along. For the good of this organization and for the good of those that we represent, I’m looking forward to changing that.”

The meeting was adjourned at 10:56 p.m. Hopefully late Wednesday nights don’t become the 11th Assembly’s “thing.”

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Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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