Many people across campus see student government as ineffective and useless. Some candidates have been campaigning on the basis that the Undergraduate Assembly has profound problems and is in need of major reform.
I view student government with a much more positive perspective because I have seen how diligence, strong interpersonal relationships and hard work can effectuate change on campus. It is undoubtedly true that the UA has problems. Sometimes these problems dampen our effectiveness, but we have made strides to fix what is not working and to improve what is.
Having served on the UA for three years — both as Treasurer and as the Civic and Philadelphia Engagement Committee director — I have long-established relationships with administrators, including Penn President Amy Gutmann, Provost Vince Price and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli. These relationships matter because key administrators trust me to execute project proposals rather than just offer big ideas without actually doing the legwork.
I do not just have big ideas for the UA. I also have a track record of tangible accomplishments that proves how effective leaders can make a positive impact on student life.
In the budgeting process this year, I allocated an additional $70,000 to the Student Activities Council so that your clubs and groups will have more funds than ever before. I worked with the Social Planning and Events Committee and class boards to merge Skimmer and Fall Fest into a campus-wide event that will help boost school spirit and increase attendance at games.
I collaborated with the five undergraduate minority coalitions to help create a plan to increase faculty diversity. I worked to protect your voting rights, not only by writing a resolution regarding the PA Voter Rights law, but also by following through with state legislators to permit PennCards as a valid form of identification. I also helped to organize campus-wide support for the DREAM Act.
We have made progress, but work remains.
Even if we do not always claim credit and communicate our work as clearly as we could, student government is working for you. We take a positive approach and do not take ourselves too seriously.
What’s most important is that we are only just beginning: all of these accomplishments are just a first step. Having been on the UA’s executive board, I have learned from both the current board’s strengths and its weaknesses. I understand the UA has problems and I am prepared to fix them — while remaining positive and focusing on moving forward.
We need to do a better job of understanding your needs. I will create an effective liaison system to increase your access to Penn administrators. I will boost transparency — by working closely with The Daily Pennsylvanian and utilizing our school-wide email more effectively — so that you know what your student government is doing for you. I experienced these problems firsthand, and I am ready to tackle them head-on.
I will pursue more opportunities to bring the campus together at big events like athletic meets. I will also engage in dialogues about some of the most challenging issues on campus, such as the undergraduate socioeconomic divide. I will continue to expand programs and services like PennCycle, established by College junior and UA representative Chris Cruz, so that students who live west of 38th Street can access bikes. I will work to restructure 898-RIDE to make it a service that is actually useful for students. The rest of my platform is available at www.JakeForUA.wordpress.com.
If you are reading this column, you have already done your duty to inform yourself in order to select a candidate that will represent you and all undergraduates most effectively to the administration. If you still have questions about me, or my platform, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s “Jump Start” the UA together!
Jake Shuster is a College junior from New York, NY. He is the Undergraduate Assembly’s treasurer. His email address is email@example.com.