UPUA, Geisinger & Co. Face Off In Weekly Assembly Meeting
Sparks flew during Wednesday’s weekly meeting of the University Park Undergraduate Association over the confirmation of a new Eberly College of Science Representative.
If you haven’t been following along with the UPUA elections saga, last year’s Eberly rep and Academic Affairs Chair Sammy Geisinger ran for student body president in March and was beat out by current president Katie Jordan. To make things more interesting, the Eberly rep position was vacant following the election. Brandon Yonel, who filled the position later, resigned at the beginning of this semester.
Per UPUA’s bylaws, Eberly first had a chance to nominate someone for the position, but when they failed to do so, the process fell into the hands of UPUA’s steering committee, which consists of the organization’s committee chairs. You can read the full statement from UPUA describing the process as tweeted below:
Please read below regarding the nomination of the Eberly College of Science Representative. pic.twitter.com/dWvdYkiv8Y
— PennStateStudentGovt (@UPUA) September 28, 2017
Reviewing four applications (including Geisinger’s), Steering ultimately nominated Thomas Andrews for the position, a senior who recently picked up a math major within the college. Three students spoke out regarding the nomination during the meeting’s open student forum, including Geisinger herself and her former running mate Jorge Zurita-Coronado.
The first student to take the floor was Anthony Zarzycki, an outspoken critic of UPUA who’s previously run in the student government’s election. Last year, Zarzycki tallied in dead last as the only candidate on the ballot to receive less than 1,000 votes for at-large representative.
“It’s not your concern to answer to the students of the Eberly College of Science and their concerns and grievances with what’s happening in UPUA. It’s the academic representative who’s supposed to be doing that, and not your job,” Zarzycki said, addressing Vice President Alex Shockley. “You shouldn’t be electing them. If this is going to be student government, then it needs to be based on fair and free elections, and not about a half a dozen people who do not belong to that college who get to decide.”
Zarzycki went on to criticize his perceived lack of transparency for the process by which Steering brought its nomination to the floor, at one point putting Jordan on blast for her vote, to which she quickly clarified neither she not Shockley have any vote on matters brought before Steering, including nominations to fill vacancies.
“We have [Geisinger] who was the Eberly College of Science Rep for two years, who got 32% of the students’ vote in the last election. I wonder why she isn’t picked. It might be because we don’t like differing opinions here. I don’t know, but frankly she has gotten more votes, which is more than one, than [Andrews] did, so this should be a put to fair and free election and not brought before a bunch of people in a backdoor meeting that get to decide.”
Geisinger herself spoke next, explaining she’s disappointed not by her rejection from the position but by the process and the rationale behind Steering’s choice. She advised those in the assembly to stop being power-hungry and petty, and challenged them to prove they are there for the right reasons.
“Since the majority of steering, once again, has a personal vendetta against me, they obviously felt as though their emotions were more important than my qualifications, which is even more alarming considering they brought one of my initiatives to committee last week,” Geisinger said. “It saddens me that an organization I believed in and once wanted to lead is letting issues like this slide by. It’s the assembly’s job to ensure that leadership is acting correctly on behalf of the student body, and we should all know by now that they aren’t.”
Though he was hesitant, Zurita-Coronado took the floor to close out open student forum, speaking briefly on how ridiculous it was for the assembly to continue dwelling on last spring’s election.
“I feel as though I need to come up and speak up here. Like I said, I didn’t want to, because I don’t want to get involved in this, but the fact that, you know, we ran a ticket on the idea that we, it wasn’t because of us, it was because of the students we wanted to represent, and now, you know, we’re caught up in this election once again and it’s stopped becoming fighting for students. It’s become about ourselves and what we want for ourselves. This isn’t necessary. We have students on this campus who need to be represented.”
It’s an interesting tactic to talk about something in order to express how frustrated you are to be talking about it, but I digress. You can listen to the full open student forum session here:
After heated comments from some representatives about whether Andrews or Geisinger was more qualified, which were deemed non-germane by Shockley, Andrews was confirmed by the general assembly with a vote of 21-14 — uncommon for an organization that rarely sees close voting margins.
It’s worth noting that for most Steering-nominated confirmations, representatives don’t know what other applicants may have passed through Steering consideration, so this type of situation hasn’t been an issue in the past where discussion on the confirmation centers on a feud between two candidates. I’d be willing to bet most of the assembly doesn’t know who the other two candidates were for this vacancy besides Geisinger and Andrews.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend the representative from Penn State Transportation Services for staying calm, cool, and collected during his presentation immediately following a tumultuous open student forum. Oh yeah, and the assembly passed a few pieces of legislation, too. Nothing groundbreaking.
Let’s remember at the end of the day this is only student government.