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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


DENIED: UPUA Constitutional Amendments Rejected

Independent student representation at Penn State has hit a roadblock once again. Not too long ago, the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA), by a vote of 25-0-1, voted to implement a number of constitutional amendments that would enable the UPUA to function more like a real student government, comparable to its counterparts throughout the Big Ten and the rest of the nation.

More recently however, an external Constitutional Review Board, or “Board of 5,” comprised of an administrator, a faculty member, and three students voted against over 40 hours of committee work and a 295 page report filed by the UPUA Constitutional Review Committee, another 30 or more hours of committee work in the UPUA Internal Development Committee which I served on, and the overwhelming vote of the official voice of students.

The vote totals and proceedings of the “Board of 5” as a whole are relatively confidential in that all of their meetings were held in closed session. Even their real decision is an issue of contention.

Some say they have rejected parts of it and accepted others; some say they are still waiting to render a decision. The distinction makes little difference at this point since due to UPUA’s current constitution, any amendments made must sit an “association year” before enactment. The deadline for enactment this year has already passed with the certification of election results and the new association taking their seats.

This decision may seem befuddling to you, but perhaps a bit more information will lend some clarity. The UPUA Constitution as it currently stands requires that all amendments to the Constitution pass this “board of 5” before enactment. The new Constitution eliminated this procedure and instead replaced it with a Board of Arbitration comprised only of students that would check all constitutional amendments for fairness and equity. Maybe this is why the board voted against the Constitution.

Perhaps another reason they voted against this Constitution is because Galen Foulke, a framer of the original UPUA Constitution, had a seat on the Board. Now Galen is a nice, intelligent individual; but why if an impartial Board is supposed to evaluate this Constitution would he be appointed to it? Why would anyone expect him to support a complete overhaul of the Constitution he helped write? Foulke and other framers of the original UPUA Constitution were invited to meetings of the UPUA’s Constitutional Review Committee; the UPUA sought their input. They had their chance.

So why now should Foulke, an administrator, and a faculty member, be able to tell the official voice of students that they can not amend their own constitution as they see fit? Why should a vote of 25 student leaders be hamstrung by three people whose interests may conflict with those of students? I am all for involving administrators and faculty members in the student government in an advisory role, but giving them this kind of mastery over the affairs of students prevents students from furthering their goals at Penn State.

The UPUA’s original structure was formed around the idea that all the official voice of students should be is an advocacy club. The amendments to the Constitution were made under the idea that the student voice should be more. Now that these amendments have failed, the student voice at Penn State will unfortunately still remain in the hands of a glorified club.

It’s time to face facts. The UPUA is going to have a very hard time accomplishing anything when it doesn’t even have the power to amend its own governing documents. It remains to be seen how the UPUA and other student leaders will react; but let’s hope that the students and their leaders at this University have the backbone to stand up and rebuke this decision.

The “Board of 5”s decision threatens the principle of shared governance and the independence of students in dealing with their own affairs. Let’s now see how much those principles matter to UPUA and students at Penn State as a whole.

Mike Anderson serves Safeguard Old State as the Associate Director for University Relations. He served in UPUA’s First Assembly as a University Faculty Senator and College Representative. You can contact Mike by e-mailing him at mike@safeguardoldstate.org.

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Comments

Dear Everyone who voted for UPUA,

I hate to say we told you so…but…we told you so. Is there a removal process for this board? Probably not. For someone who ” hates checks and balances”, Mr. Foulke sure does enjoy checking the elected voice of students. My suggestion would be to abide by the Constitution that the assembly has agreed to and see if anyone actually challenges it. There’s no clean way out of this.

ab

The only removal process for the board is amending the constitution…ironic?

The new UPUA President has said that she will operate under parts of the new and parts of the old Constitution. The UPUA hasn’t taken a definitive stance on this in the form of a resolution or opinion to this point. We’ll see how many people remember after 4 months of summer.

do u guys have a copy of this new constitution? can u post it or make it available to download?

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