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McKinney, Griggs Outline Platform Goals At UPUA Election Town Hall

The University Park Undergraduate Association hosted its Executive Ticket Town Hall Thursday evening. The event allowed sole executive candidates Laura McKinney and Jake Griggs to answer questions regarding their campaign and platform goals.

For the second year in a row, UPUA replaced its traditional debate-formatted event with a question-and-answer Town Hall to accommodate a candidate pool featuring only one executive ticket. McKinney and Griggs answered questions from an audience of about 30 attendees as well as those sent via Twitter.

“All the people that I’ve met through my own personal journey at Penn State have given me so much,” McKinney said in a brief introduction. “And it would mean the world to me, for my senior year, to be able to give that back to them.”

“When my best friend asked me if I would run with her, that’s an opportunity you don’t turn down,” Griggs said.

Moderators Daniel Zahn and Rachel Schuchman then kicked off the question-and-answer session.

McKinney and Griggs immediately highlighted their focus on making the cost of a Penn State education more affordable.

“That’s what most of the platform boils down to,” Griggs said. “It’s providing the most services and the best services to students while keeping college affordable.”

McKinney reiterated the importance of paying attention to the financial aspects of college. She mentioned her work in Haiti as an executive board member of the Caring House Project Foundation, where she provided school supplies and clothes to orphans. She said this experience allowed her to “see poverty firsthand,” and informed the ticket’s decision to address economic and financial issues through its platform.

Zahn then turned the conversation to focus on student representation on the university’s Board of Trustees in the wake of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe’s 2017 decision to break tradition and appoint non-student trustees to the Board.

“It’s becoming very clear that appointing a student trustee is not a priority of Governor Wolfe’s, which is a shame,” Griggs said.

The vice-presidential hopeful was adamant that UPUA would not give up on its push for increased representation, and would be “smarter” about its future advocacy initiatives and exploration of other options. Griggs also called for an effort to connect with young alumni trustees in the future, and mentioned the possibility of adding an at-large student member to the Board.

Griggs and McKinney replied to the first Twitter question of the night, which examined the university’s student conduct process, by emphasizing the importance of making the inner workings of the conduct system clear and accessible to all students.

The Town Hall featured a number of questions focused on the pair’s plans to ensure the representation of historically marginalized communities on campus.

“The events of the past couple of days have been a complete tragedy,” Griggs said. “We obviously stand in solidarity with the black community, as I’m sure all the other communities here at Penn State do.”

When asked how their administration would promote diversity throughout campus when UPUA itself currently lacks diversity, Griggs replied that he and McKinney would work to expand outreach to historically marginalized communities and their representative organizations.

“The addition of the community seats was a very positive thing,” Griggs said, referring to the 13th Assembly’s decision to add representative seats for Penn State’s three international/multicultural caucuses. “That’s not the end of the process, and it doesn’t mean we can just sit back and say ‘job well done’ to ourselves. We understand we don’t have the viewpoint of everyone, we’re not qualified to speak on behalf of everyone.”

Griggs said that the pair’s administration would attempt to offer its support in response to a question about UPUA’s responsibilities when instances of conflict between these communities arose.

“A lot of it is knowing our role,” Griggs said. “We don’t want to speak with a mandate we don’t have.”

McKinney noted that the pair hopes to work with the Borough of State College to ensure that all members of the local community feel welcome, and will increase the accessibility and awareness of UPUA’s All In inclusivity initiatives. She indicated that she plans to continue to advocate for the inclusion of the LGBTQA Student Resource Center in the next round of HUB Robeson Center renovation plans.

McKinney also addressed a call for the improvement of Penn State’s emergency management protocol. She noted that social media often propagates false information and suggested the university take steps to ensure the information it provides students is factual but also timely.

Zahn asked the pair about the significance of a second-consecutive one-ticket election, and a drop in applications for non-executive UPUA positions.

“We would love to have competition. We’re not happy to see that there aren’t more people running,” McKinney said.

One Twitter question specifically asked the pair for its opinions on cross-filing, a practice that allowed candidates to run for an executive and representative seat at the same time and was outlawed by UPUA’s 12th assembly. Candidates who lose an executive election can therefore no longer seek a representative seat after being defeated.

“[Cross-filing] had the potential to do, not more harm, but it could be taken advantage of more than it provided an opportunity to run,” Griggs said.

The event included a discussion of several of the candidates’ announced initiatives based on their online platform, including a motion to promote accessible parking for student athletes.

McKinney noted that after the program’s initial goals had been satisfied, the administration would expand its accessible parking efforts to include other students.

When asked about the Outreach Committee portion of the platform, Griggs said the pair envisions refocusing its approach to be more of “outward-facing facilitator of UPUA.” He and McKinney noted that they would attempt to make the UPUA liaison system more efficient while adding additional liaisons when needed.

Both McKinney and Griggs also emphasized their goal of decreasing or maintaining the cost of textbooks and other course materials.

To conclude the event, Zahn and Schuchman fired off a lightning round of lighthearted questions that provoked some impassioned answers from McKinney and Griggs.

When a Twitter user asked if they considered a hot dog to be a sandwich, Griggs declared, “That is a disgusting question, I hate that question, it’s not a sandwich.”

McKinney disagreed, replying with a confident, “Yes.”

The candidates found common ground in football and convenience stores. They agreed that Tommy Stevens deserves to be Penn State football’s starting quarterback next season. When it came to the one debate on Penn State’s campus more controversial than who should start quarterback, both agreed Sheetz is better than Wawa.

UPUA Election Day will be held Wednesday, March 27. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Students can also vote online.

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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