Hayley Brooks & Ali Kokot | Student government has a problem
Think Twice | With a fresh batch of UA leaders, it’s about time we learned what they do
April 3, 2012, 12:26 am·
Haley Brooks & Ali Kokot
Wah wah wah. Whether we’re whining about our professors, school facilities or our social lives — we’ve all got something negative to say about pretty much everything Penn. Our daily qualms include:
• The Quad is roach-central.
• No bathrooms on the first floor of Van Pelt. Really?
• What is the awkward ketchup situation (vat and spoon?) at 1920 Commons?
Someone actually thought of that. More on that later.
But despite our blabber, we rarely transform these tirades into action.
Beneath the corny Undergraduate Assembly election posters adorned with shameless rhyme schemes — “Sex Under The Button, Vote for Abe Sutton” … umm — that we saw last week, student government may actually be the outlet for our grievances.
It could be that special someone who actually listens to us kvetch … for free. With these representatives in tow, who needs a shrink?
It never previously occurred to us to forward our complaints because we didn’t know who to contact or how to contact them.
Do we seek out the UA, NEC, ABCDEFG? We just don’t know. But we’ve taken it upon ourselves to find out.
Dan Bernick, College sophomore and president-elect of the Undergraduate Assembly, explained to us that for complaints, the UA is our dartboard.
“People literally don’t know what we’re there to do,” he revealed. “But really, we’re all about you guys.”
Students approached him bothered by the $5 tennis court fee at Penn Park, so the UA fixed it. One of Bernick’s fraternity bros thought the ketchup situation at Commons was stupid and Bernick got the ball rolling.
Here’s how it works:
Phi Psi guy → Dan → UA → UA member that sits on Dining Advisory Board → Voilà! Ketchup dispensers at Commons. Well, almost. We hear there’s now a hybrid situation of sorts, some dispensers and some spoons goin’ on. But Bernick assured us that the UA is on it.
But what if you’re not one of Bernick’s buds? If you have something to say, the UA still wants to hear from you, which leads us to Bernick’s running project: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though we drew it out for you, you don’t need to know the bureaucratic trajectory between your problem and its solution. You simply send in your complaint, receive a response (written by a real human) and leave it to them. It’s like room service!
The UA exists to deal with overarching issues that plague our campus but it’s also there to address the day-to-day nags.
As College senior and UA Speaker Cynthia Ip detailed, beyond the “sexy new projects,” much of the UA’s work takes place in meetings upon meetings. It boasts partnerships with nearly every office at Penn — from academic policy to alcohol policy — allowing it to affect a broad range of change, Ip explained.
Engineering and Wharton senior Tyler Ernst, current UA President, was involved in revising Penn’s alcohol policy to “impact event cost favorably, among many other changes,” he wrote.
Though that’s still in the works, on the extracurricular end, the UA increased the Student Activities Council’s funding this year to benefit the rising number of student groups and Skimmer, Ip said.
Bernick, however, acknowledged the UA does have a “communication problem” and needs to present its accomplishments to the student body more efficiently.
Maybe we don’t give the UA enough credit — surmounting the obstacle course that is the Penn bureaucracy is no simple task.
Right now, students don’t have faith in their government and don’t approach it with their concerns. That’s why things remain stagnant.
But through better visibility, maybe the UA will emerge from this pervading cycle of cynicism. It all sounds peachy, but let’s hope Bernick and his assembly actually make it happen.
The UA is not sixth grade student council. With serious funds and leverage — they still can’t give us recess all year. (Darn!) Yes, they can enact change, but let’s get real.
We’re through with whining aimlessly, so we’re going to end this column and email the UA. You should too. Apologies in advance for the spam!
Hayley Brooks and Ali Kokot are College sophomores from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and New York, N.Y., respectively. Their email addresses are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Think Twice appears every Tuesday.