UPUA’s 15th Assembly Kicks Off With Longest Meeting On Record

The University Park Undergraduate Association met virtually via Zoom Wednesday for its first meeting of the 15th Assembly, and began with the swearing-in of new student body president and vice president Zach McKay and Lexy Pathickal.

McKay gave his first presidential report of the assembly, and spoke about his plans for the upcoming Assembly, and what he has been working on in the past week.

“Your drive, determination, and motivation has inspired me as well as I’m sure it has everyone who has supported you throughout your entire endeavors throughout this past campaign,” McKay said. “I could not be more proud to work with you this coming assembly. Congratulations to you, sincerely.”

Pathickal then gave her first report as vice president and outlined how the evening would proceed with internal elections taking over the new business for the night.

Speaker Elections

The nominees for Speaker of the Assembly were Erin Boas, Tim Tierney, Steven Zhang, and Adeline Michler.

The nominees each received five minutes to speak about themselves, what the role of Speaker means to them, and how they think they would best fulfill that role. Then the nominees were questioned for up to ten minutes by other members in the assembly.

At-large representative Erin Boas was the first nominee to speak to the assembly. She spoke about how she hopes to further incentivize external events for UPUA members and increase engagement with other parts of the university. She also spoke about hosting speaker office hours to ensure she is accessible and always able to work with assembly members if they would need her. Boas was a presidential candidate for the 15th Assembly, and although she ultimately was not elected, she spoke about some of the leadership experiences and learning moments that came out of that campaign period.

Tim Tierney, at-large representative and former UPUA secretary, spoke next. He spoke about wishing to change the culture within UPUA and how he wants to work on bettering the group cohesion. One of Tierney’s idea is to create a permanent virtual Zoom room to act as a UPUA office for the time being. He spoke about how a lot of their collaboration and work is done in 314 HUB, the UPUA office, and how they are all hurting since they cannot physically be together. Regardless though, Tierney spoke about how committed he would be during this time to improving the culture within the organization and continuing their work despite having to meet virtually.

Representative Steven Zhang then spoke. He spoke about his views on how to better integrate UPUA into the Penn State experience, and how to solve internal conflict within the organization. For Zhang, he believes talking it out and hearing every student’s perspective, even if it means hashing it out over a trip to Sheetz, is an effective way of dealing with issues that he would assist in as speaker of the assembly. Zhang also spoke about how he would try to empower all representatives and increase authentic bonding opportunities for all members.

Representative Adeline Mishler then spoke about how as Speaker of the assembly she would work hard to develop open and transparent relationships within the Assembly. Mishler elaborated on how UPUA’s goal is to primarily serve the students and listen to their concerns, and that this should always be kept in mind throughout the 15th Assembly. She spoke about hoping to create advocacy hearing sessions, and a coronavirus crisis task force if elected Speaker. Mishler also spoke about the importance of mental health and fielded questions about mental health of assembly members, as well as sustainability, and solving internal conflict.

The 15th Assembly took more than an hour to vote for Speaker of the Assembly. The difficulties of figuring this out electronically meant it took a great time to ensure that voting members were the only ones voting, and that they were only voting once. Assembly voting members were sent a link via email, but after voting multiple times the recorded number of votes still did not match up. There was discussion in the Zoom chat about closing the meeting to make sure only representatives were voting, but the Assembly meetings have a responsibility to all Penn State students where they must remain open just as they would if it were taking place on campus.

After the rather extensive time period where assembly members needed to vote multiple times, they eventually figured it out, and Representative Zhang was named Speaker of the Assembly for the 15th Assembly.

Committee Chair Elections

The first committee of the night to elect a committee chair was the Academic Affairs Committee.

Schreyer Honors College representative Lewis Richardson spoke first. He spoke about three pillars which he hopes to focus on as the chair of the academic affairs committee, sharing how he would improve accessibility, accountability, and the general culture of the committee.

Sydney Gibbard, the College of Engineering’s representative, then spoke. She spoke about how her passion for academic affairs really inspires her and motivated her to run for this role.

Paty Birungi, the College of Health and Human Development’s representative, then had her turn to speak. She spoke about her experience as vice-chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and how that position has given her the insight into how she can better improve the committee and be the best fit possible to chair it.

Again, the Assembly had some difficulties with voting and tallying the correct number of votes. Ultimately, Birungi was elected with a majority vote. She will serve as the Chair of Academic Affairs for the 15th Assembly.

Next, the Chair of the Facilities Committee election was held. At-large representative and former vice-chair of the Facilities Committee, Sarah Jordan, was the only one nominated for the role. Jordan spoke about her experience being a vice-chair, and her commitment to serving all students.

Even though this election was uncontested, there was still some difficulty with voting. The assembly was sending out a Google form before each election to check the number of representatives that were present and able to vote, so that when the voting happened, they could ensure they had the correct number of votes. The issue here seemed to be that there were several members who were not filling out the Google form, but still voting through the secret ballot delivered via email, hence throwing off the numbers. Sarah Jordan was still elected as the Chair of the Facilities Committee after more time was spent waiting to confirm the correct voting numbers.

Following the elections for the Chair of the Facilities Committee, the assembly moved on to voting for the Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee. Daniel Risser and Tom Dougherty were the two nominees for this role.

Risser spoke about how he would hope to strengthen the Governmental Affairs Committee and shared his commitment to collaboration and sharing ideas within the organization. Dougherty spoke next and focused his platform on three ideas he hopes to improve within governmental affairs: growth, proactivity, and accessibility.

The Assembly finally seemed to figure out the issues with voting, and this round of voting certainly did not take as long as those prior. Tom Dougherty was elected as the Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee and will serve for the 15th Assembly.

Next, the election for the very first Chair of Justice and Equity was run. The nominees were Najee Rodriguez and Yoo Jin Jeong.

Rodriguez spoke first. He spoke about hoping to elevate and better serve the underrepresented communities at Penn State and shared his plans to do so while also sharing ideas in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Then At-large representative Yoo Jin Jeong spoke about her dedication and drive for the organization, and her two main pillars, empathy, and restoration. After the assembly members discussed and spoke plenty of praise for both candidates, voting began and Representative Rodriguez was elected Chair of Justice and Equity Committee.

The final committee chair election of the night was the Chair of the Student Life Committee, and the nominees were Adeline Mishler and YuNa Choi.

Mishler spoke about her experience leading student programming weeks under the Student Life Committee, and how she has enjoyed connecting and engaging with students as a representative in the past. She also spoke about a coronavirus task force and how she would like to see that come about to continually advocate for students across campus.

Representative Choi spoke of her previous work in student life and how it has impassioned her to want to further continue with the role. Specifically, Choi wants to work on coronavirus-related legislation to better serve and help students given the current scenario.

At around 2:00 a.m. the vote for Chair of the Student Life Committee was held, and Mishler was elected as the Chair.

Rachel Chormanski was elected as the Chief of Staff for the 15th Assembly, and Rachel Schuchman was elected as the Chief Justice of the Judicial Board. A motion was made to suspend all other business on the agenda to next weeks meeting, as the Assembly was now well into their seventh hour of meeting.

Finally, the meeting was adjourned at 2:39 a.m. and is now on record as the longest general assembly meeting in UPUA history.

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a senior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]

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