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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

UPUA Constitution Meeting: Disaster

Last night I attended a meeting of the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) to vote on an important resolution regarding the body’s governing document, the Constitution. As is well documented, last year UPUA tried to amend its own constitution and succeeded in passing a revised Constitution by a vote of 25-0-1. However, an administratively-run external committee rejected the voice of the students. Tonight, Representative Crivello, among others, brought to the floor a resolution outlining a plan to ignore the board’s decision and operate under the Revised Constitution.

This resolution intrigued me. It came with a detailed report, so I even took the time to read it. In the end and especially after having served on last year’s association that passed the Revised Constitution, I even felt so strongly as to have someone deliver a speech on my behalf during open student forum. My understanding is that he was in good company as many other student leaders also came out in support of the Resolution. I figured that once I got there after my prior commitment, I would be in for a real spirited debate on an important, well thought out, resolution.

Much to my surprise, this was not at all what I got. After the association got done rushing through the bulk of the agenda, the Resolution was up. Representative Chamberlin immediately filed a point of order that even considering the motion would be unconstitutional. I barely even know what ensued. Much muddled and unorganized debate ensued that even included a five minute recess during which President Lewis tried to make all Representatives stay seated (an attempt that failed miserably). But what it essentially came down to was this: Representative Chamberlin and President Lewis argued that even considering the motion was unconstitutional because it violated the Constitution.

President Lewis addressed all questions on the matter as though this were fact and not debatable, whereas if they had actually debated the resolution, the question of its constitutionality could be discussed. They didn’t even want to let it get that far. Their attempt to prohibit consideration of the resolution is especially ridiculous when you consider that Representative Crivello is without a doubt one of if not the most dedicated members of that organization. The attempt to deny consideration of a resolution he and others worked so hard on is an affront to them and their efforts. If the resolution was unconstitutional, then surely Representative Chamberlin and President Lewis could have proven that with a real argument in the midst of a deliberative assembly debating the resolution. Again, they seemed unwilling to take that step.

Eventually a parliamentarian, the choosing of whom I am not sure, spoke and gave his interpretation of the situation and in light of his recommendations, the UPUA voted to send the Constitution back to the Internal Development Standing Committee. The fact of the matter caused this debate should not even be necessary. A body should not sit there and debate for an extended period the constitutionality of a resolution they drafted and will be voting on. They should not then put themselves at the mercy of one parliamentarian. This again shows the need for some type of court or board of arbitration as outlined in the Revised Constitution to adjudicate such matters. There is a reason every other Big Ten University has a student court: it works. There is a reason that if in the United States Government a law’s constitutionality comes into question, that question isn’t posed to the very people who drafted the law: it works.

I could wax philosophical for hours on this front, but the worst thing about tonight’s meeting is that it left the average student with little more clarity than they had when they read the recent article in The Daily Collegian. The UPUA had a chance tonight to put an end to this mess that the Board of Five charged to review the Revised Constitution created, and they didn’t. Where were all the members who always talk about creating real results for students?

Tonight they had a chance to either approve or reject this document and leave this chapter in student representation behind them. Instead, they chose to prolong the process. Tonight they could have left the issues of being bogged down with a Constitution that means nothing to the average student behind them. Instead, they have sent us down a path of more meetings that students do not understand and more Collegian articles that students do not care about. Maybe in a couple weeks this will be back to the floor just in time for the UPUA to send it back to committee.

So this is what more efficient student representation looks like, eh?

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Wow…I’m kind of amazed. And shocked. well, no, not shocked. Supposedly this kind of infighting and drama was what UPUA was supposed to free of after its creators effected the demise of USG. Apparently, whoever thought this kind of infighting would end was grossly mistaken. And UPUA, far from being the effective, grab the bull by the horns and make psu a better place kind of organization we’ve all been waiting for, has chosen this instead. Its a sad day in student government.

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