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UPUA’s 14th Assembly Fails To Pass Elections Code In Six-Hour Meeting

That’s a wrap for the semester, folks.

The 14th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association convened for its final meeting of 2019 Wednesday night in the HUB. And it was a long one, to say the least.

Members spent more than six hours discussing revisions for a new elections code that eventually failed, as the meeting continued into the early hours of Thursday morning.

President Laura McKinney delivered a brief report before the election business officially got underway. She mentioned the Assembly’s successful efforts to secure a spot for student representation on the provost task force on tuition, in addition to the Student Affairs Committee’s goal to launch a task force that will examine student poverty.

McKinney said she has an upcoming meeting with the Penn State Commission for Women in which she will work to finalize recommendations for expansion of the menstrual product initiative.

She finished by thanking the 14th Assembly for its hard work and dedication, with a little over three months remaining in the term.

“I really want to thank you and commend you for putting in a whole semester’s worth of work for this organization and the university as a whole,” McKinney said.

After a brief caucus breakout, Lewis Richardson was sworn in as the new Schreyer Honors College representative.

Legislation

In the first order of business of the night, Resolution #23-14: Support of Pennsylvania Senate Bill, passed unanimously. This legislation aims to support efforts to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour for Penn State students.

Members of the Assembly will take part in a “Day of Action to Raise the Wage” this January. They plan to host another phone-banking marathon in which they call government officials and encourage the passage of the bill in the House of Representatives.

Next, Resolution #24-14: Support of “Addressing Bias: Rights, Responsibilities, and Responses” Website, also passed unanimously. This resolution intends to support the creation of this website, which was created over the course of the past year by various student leaders.

“[The website] is intended to offer important resources for students about bias, free expression on campus, and the critical issues surrounding the rights and responsibilities of exercising free speech,” according to a UPUA release.

Resolution #25-25: Support of University Faculty Senate Email Policy was the last order of business before the Assembly dove into discussion about revising the elections code. This resolution passed unanimously, and aims to allow students to have free access to their original university email for a designated period of time after graduating.

Elections Code

After several hours of back-and-forth discussion over controversial amendments, the Assembly failed to pass the new elections code with a final vote of 19-12-1. Although there were more votes in favor of passing the code, a two-thirds majority was required to actually do so.

One of the amendments that was the subject of significant debate involved crossfiling. Vice President Jake Griggs broke the tie with a yes vote for this amendment, making it possible for a candidate to run for both a legislative seat and executive ticket in the 15th Assembly.

Amendment 5.4 entailed removing a clause that would allow candidates to campaign in computer labs, residence halls, dining commons, and the HUB if granted explicit permission. Ultimately, members decided that making an exception for candidates who have permission could lead to certain unfair advantages during the campaign process. The amendment passed 19-15-1.

The Assembly also agreed to change the voting period to 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Election Day. Last year, the polls were open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., but members didn’t feel as though changing the time would have any effect on voter turnout.

Whether students with university-affiliated positions should be able to endorse candidates was another controversial topic. Ultimately, the Assembly voted in favor of allowing students to do this — as long as they clarified they were not doing so as university representatives.

Perhaps the most controversial amendment was the last, which entailed removing endorsements and eliminating tickets. During the last election, candidates running for at-large positions could secure an endorsement from one of the presidential candidates. With limited candidates running on an executive ticket, this led to plenty of problems within the Assembly.

Members voted to remove endorsements completely, invalidating the other amendments related to rules about who can endorse candidates.

Since the code ultimately failed, none of the amendments discussed above will be implemented.

The Assembly will have an option to bring a new version of the elections code back for a vote in January. However, it must have substantial, noticeable differences.

The meeting finally adjourned at 2:03 a.m.

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About the Author

Rory Pelella

Rory is a junior from Binghamton, New York majoring in Spanish and journalism. She has been bleeding blue and white ever since her older siblings decided to create a family dynasty in Happy Valley. She loves anything Penn State (especially Yallah), the Yankees, Knicks, Giants, and a good old fashioned New York slice. Feel free to email her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @rorypelella.

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