UPUA Discusses Delay In Adding Multicultural Caucus Seats To Assembly

Despite only having one resolution on the agenda for Wednesday, UPUA had a surprisingly worthwhile weekly meeting discussing the delay in adding seats to the Assembly designated for each of Penn State’s international/multicultural caucuses.

At the last meeting of their terms, members of UPUA’s 12th Assembly passed a resolution that created an ad-hoc committee on the organization’s “special interest seats.” UPUA’s current structure includes four special interest seats for the four Greek councils: the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Multicultural Greek Council.

The committee’s official task is to examine the “effectiveness and fairness” of UPUA’s appointed special interest seats and then make a recommendation to the 13th Assembly on any changes or continuity in the structure. In effect, the committee is supposed to consider designating three special interest seats for the three international/multicultural caucuses at Penn State: Black Caucus, Latino Caucus, and Asian-Pacific American Caucus.

As outlined by the resolution, the committee was supposed to operate through the summer “with a goal of formulating a decision by early Fall of 2018.” Don’t shoot the messenger, but the committee has yet to meet.

Fatima Odebisi, vice president of Penn State’s Black Caucus, spoke during open student forum and challenged UPUA to stop talking about “bridging the gap” between their organizations and to actually take some action.

“I feel as though we are treating race and ethnicity as a special interest group. However, that is not a special interest group in my opinion. I did not choose to be black, I am just black, therefore I should have representation and the people I represent should have representation in UPUA,” Odebisi said.

At-Large Representative Seun Babalola echoed Odebisi’s sentiments later in the meeting, saying his conversations over the summer with alumni revealed the idea of adding caucus seats to the assembly originated at least six years ago. He explained how, although the 13th Assembly includes numerous representatives of color, open elections might not always yield the same result.

“Adding caucus seats to this organization adds permanency to the fact that those voices will always remain in the room, and I think that everybody in here who considers themselves to be representatives of the student body should have no problem with adding representation to the room permanently,” Babalola said.

Babalola referenced three open seats in the back of the room, saying how easily they could be filled with representatives from Black Caucus, Latino Caucus, and Asian Pacific American Caucus. “We can’t allow seats back there to remain empty,” he said.

President Cody Heaton said the reason the committee has not met yet was purely organizational — it’s difficult to coordinate schedules to get so many busy people all in the room at one time.

No matter the committee’s recommendation, changes won’t be implemented until the 14th Assembly.

My UPUA beat tenure has taught me it’s rare to have two meaningful conversations in a single meeting, but an additional comment from Representative Jake Springer proved me wrong this week. He emphasized the assembly’s recent trend of passing almost all legislation unanimously, questioning whether every person in the student body truly has the same views on all these issues.

“We have an obligation to bring bills to our committee and the assembly that are not going to be passed unanimously that you think your constituents will agree with. It doesn’t have to be passed on the floor, but it is our responsibility to represent all students, not just the students that think like everybody in this assembly. This is something that I have done, it’s a call on me, and it’s a call on everybody in here to represent all constituents, whether you think you’ll get pushback on committee, by steering, or by the assembly.”

Amen to that.

In other UPUA happenings, the assembly heard a special presentation from Marissa Works and Connor Pardoe from the Performing Arts Council (PAC). The two explained PAC’s purpose to enhance the arts community on campus, the organization’s new general membership, and the Arts App initiative, which provides a calendar of all performing arts events on campus.

Here’s what else you missed from this week’s meeting:

  • UPUA unanimously passes yet anotherĀ super impactful resolution about a decision that was already made, supporting Penn State’s adoption of “Run, Hide, Fight.”
  • Mayor Don Hahn will resume his weekly office hours from 5-6 p.m. Tuesday in the UPUA office (314 HUB) to discuss student involvement in the borough.
  • UPUA Vice President Laura McKinney said initial meetings seem promising on the Heaton-McKinney initiative to provide free menstrual products on campus. The first step would likely be a pilot program in the HUB.
  • The Student Fee Board will meet at 8 a.m. Friday, September 14 in 102 HUB.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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