Onward State *Would’ve* Endorsed McKay-Pathickal For 2020 UPUA Election…If It Were Allowed

Disclaimer: This is not an official endorsement from Onward State. It is the opinion of one writer, who has since filed his endorsement with the Elections Commission. You can do so here: McKay/Pathickal, Boas/Larson. Other individual writers’ endorsements that have also been filed are included at the bottom.

Under this year’s University Park Undergraduate Association Elections Code, registered student organizations (RSOs) are not allowed to make endorsements. Instead, they must be made on an individual basis.

Although Onward State is not an RSO and operates independently of the university, this bylaw has been interpreted to include us. We do not agree with this policy. We believe it infringes on our own autonomy and freedom of press. But out of an abundance of caution to prevent the ticket we’d ultimately end up endorsing from being unjustly penalized by the Elections Commission, we aren’t making an official organizational endorsement in this year’s election.

However, I am personally endorsing and voting for Zach McKay and Lexy Pathickal to be Penn State’s next student body president and vice president. Additionally, as noted below in their individual endorsements, so are fellow editors Ryen Gailey, Matt DiSanto, and Jim Davidson, who also all sat in on our session with each candidate and have spent much of the last few years covering governance within the university. Had the election code been interpreted differently, it’s safe to say what we would have done.

While I found both tickets impressive and can see how much both care about improving our university community, I believe that McKay and Pathickal will bring a welcome breath of fresh air and a needed renewal of accessibility to our student government. Simultaneously, having led committees in the previous Assembly, their experience shows they understand the nuances of the organization, its mission, and its role within the university.

One thing that stood out to me particularly while meeting with McKay and Pathickal and watching them in the debates is their emphasis on increasing transparency and visibility within UPUA. Notably, both have committed to releasing the details of their discretionary spending, which will provide a new window into the details of the (maybe juicy, but more likely mundane) day-to-day spending habits of UPUA.

Of particular interest of us, they devoted a portion of our stop on their campaign’s “listening tour” to student media-focused initiatives like hosting press conferences and ensuring our staff will have access to him throughout the week while working on stories. I took this as a major positive and hope it leads to more detailed coverage on our part if McKay is elected.

When we met, McKay mentioned that he believes part of the president’s job is to do things like attend Performing Arts Council events and be an active, visible part of all different aspects of the Penn State community — not just the mainstream ones or those reserved for only a select powerful few. This vision has stuck with me over the last few weeks and made me think about what I’d want in a leader for our student body: someone who’s a selfless supporter of students and a devoted, receptive advocate for them.

There are areas of McKay and Pathickal’s platform of which I’m a bit skeptical, like how a common lunch hour would work or if the university changing its default search engine would be the best use of its resources. However, initiatives like improving the university’s sexual assault and misconduct reporting and prevention procedures, advocating for a student maternity/paternity leave program, and installing AEDs in all residence halls give me hope for a better future for Penn State students. And even for the areas of the platform that I might not agree with, I’m excited to see what the 15th Assembly accomplishes under McKay and Pathickal’s leadership — especially given their campaign’s emphasis on listening to constituents and responding to our changing needs.

Like other news outlets in advance of elections, Onward State has historically endorsed a candidate in the UPUA election each year and published an accompanying editorial announcing and explaining it — unless an obvious conflict of interest existed.

Part of why we decided to still write a post sharing our individual staffers’ endorsements this year is we believe we have a responsibility to inform our readers beyond a social media graphic with a one-sentence-long, boiler-plate quote. We think it’s even more important to provide that context in the first election since 2014 that’s both contested and doesn’t include the current vice president, who has historically won handily.

Further, we believe that the intervention of the Judicial Board/Elections Commission into an election and an independent news outlet’s coverage of it is dangerous. It sets uncomfortable precedents that defy the very principles of democracy and infringe on our responsibilities as an independent organization focused on providing fair, honest, and thorough coverage of the university.

We’ve held this mission closely through our 11-year history and will not tolerate censorship of any form that deters us from its pursuit. When Graham Spanier summoned our founders into Old Main during the early days of Onward State in hopes of convincing them to become an RSO, they refused. And in doing so, they sought to avoid the type of situation at hand: ill-conceived censorship, for example, by an arm of the student government.

That’s a standard we will always uphold and fight to protect.

The individual endorsements of other Onward State staffers who met with each candidate and have covered UPUA and related topics this year are below.

Ryen Gailey: McKay-Pathickal

I am choosing to individually endorse McKay and Pathickal for the roles of student body president and vice president. It has been my pleasure to cover UPUA meetings for Onward State, and get to see all of the work McKay and Pathickal have accomplished.

I am more than hopeful that their commitment to their work and the Penn State community will continue if they are elected. Their living, breathing platform in my opinion absolutely best reflects the needs of the students and shows their commitment to constantly listening to students and reflecting what they want in the truest, most honest form. When getting to meet with McKay and Pathickal, I appreciated beyond words their ability to speak about their platform as an open discussion, meaning, they were seeking feedback, trying to inspire change, and really putting their living platform to work. 

I greatly appreciate McKay and Pathickal’s commitment to transparency and honesty. They have willingly and openly answered any and all questions I have had for them, and also have made transparency a key part of their platform in terms of finances within UPUA. In addition, I believe that the experience in student government of which they both possess would bring to the university great, valuable change. As a student, as a journalist for Onward State, and as a member of the Penn State community, I stand behind and fully endorse McKay and Pathickal.

Matt DiSanto: McKay-Pathickal

I’m supporting McKay and Pathickal for their shared experience in student government and their diverse platform. I’m especially supportive of their policies surrounding promoting sustainability, increasing civic engagement, and preventing on-campus sexual assault and harassment. They’re committed to ensuring every student’s voice is heard and understood, and that means a lot to me. After attending several UPUA meetings this year, I know firsthand just how dedicated they are to serving the student body. I believe that through their shared experience within UPUA and around campus, they’ll work to make Penn State a better place for every student.

Jim Davidson: McKay-Pathickal

Zach McKay and Lexy Pathickal are an experienced team with a platform based on the concerns of the students they represent. Their combined familiarity with UPUA — its structure, the problems that it faces, and its strengths — will allow them to pass meaningful legislation while making lasting change. Their campaign platform’s focus on issues of transparency and addressing sexual assault on campus includes an outline of attainable and meaningful goals and concerns that will make a difference in the student experience at Penn State.

Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to read both candidates’ platforms (McKay/Pathickal, Boas/Larson) and take an active role in deciding what comes next for our student body.

Voter turnout has declined over the last couple years and is at risk of falling even more given the current circumstances. But with the uncertainty of our future due to the current coronavirus pandemic situation, the students advocating on your behalf to university, local, and state officials are more important than ever.

Remember to vote Wednesday, April 15 at!

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected]. All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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