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UPUA Shouldn’t Throw Process Out The Window To Put On Airs Of Representation

The University Park Undergraduate Association will vote Wednesday night on whether to change its constitution and bylaws to add three additional voting seats to the assembly: appointees from Penn State’s Black Caucus, Latino Caucus, and Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Caucus.

Student members of these caucuses have been advocating voraciously to UPUA representatives for these seats over the past few weeks, showing up in full force at the organization’s weekly open student forum.

After UPUA leadership explained the true purpose of the ad hoc committee — to evaluate the effectiveness of what its constitution currently calls “special interest seats” — part of the assembly took matters into its own hands with a proposed policy change that blindsided the Governmental Affairs Chair Jake Griggs and some of the most seasoned members of his committee.

The policy change includes all the changes necessary to UPUA’s governing documents to add these seats to the assembly structure. If passed (requiring a 3/4 vote for constitutional changes and a 2/3 vote for bylaws changes), the seats would be a part of the 14th Assembly, which will be elected and take office next semester.

I’m not saying these communities don’t deserve representation. But UPUA shouldn’t throw its process out the window for the sake of putting on airs.

To be frank, students never speak at open student forum. I think more students spoke last week alone than during the entire past year combined. Members of the 13th Assembly, a rather “young” group of students in UPUA terms, don’t know how to handle it. They’d seemingly do just about anything if a large enough group asked them, regardless of the resulting effects on the organization’s long-term efficacy.

No matter their personal or organizational views, they’re simply afraid of being on the “wrong side of history” with a vote against what is at face value a structural change long past due. No representative wants to look like they don’t support diversity and inclusion, even if that’s not their express issue with the policy changes.

Perhaps most telling is the UPUA Steering Committee’s addition of a constitutional change necessary to making the other policy changes “UPUA-legal.” Because adding the caucus seats was a violation of UPUA’s existing constitution, which states that the UPUA “will not restrict Membership based on characteristics of a student, which are intrinsic to the Entity of that student,” part of the changes will modify that language to alleviate the discrepancy.

Call me crazy, but adding a last-minute change to a language that’s likely been part of the constitution for years (if not since UPUA’s inception) makes it seem like this policy change is flying by the seat of its metaphorical pants. It’s not necessary to pass these policy changes so early in the year, hastily pasted together based on outside pressures to the assembly and not based on full consideration of their long-term implications.

Before passing any changes to its governing documents, the assembly should allow the ad hoc committee to run its course and make a recommendation for review. For all we know, the ad hoc committee could recommend an entirely different structure for the assembly than its current make-up. Then what?

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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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