With an eye towards transparency, collaboration and unity, the leaders of Penn Student Government met Thursday for the annual State of the School.
The event was organized around a series of speeches given by the leaders of the six branches of PSG and each of the Class Board presidents. Nominations and Elections Vice Chair for Education and event organizer College junior Catherine Wang opened the talks. “All the branches have been working hard all year, and now they’ll get to share their results with us,” she said.
Social Planning and Events Committee President Josh Oppenheimer, who was the first to give a speech, fielded a question about the prestige of the Fling concert artist. “We’ve got Nickelback opening for the cast of Glee!” he joked. But with a knowing smile on his face, he added seriously, “I can promise you that, it being the 40th anniversary of Fling, there will be a really awesome concert.”
Oppenheimer also highlighted the high-profile events of this semester, including the Connaissance spring speaker.
In addition to the annual events, new initiatives were announced Thursday evening. Scott Dzialo, outgoing chair of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, announced a new program called OPenned, which would collate all major speaker events on campus and present them online.
Dzialo organized his talk around the theme of “pursuing the goal of one university.”
“The fact is that we’re siloed. Nursing students think about Nursing, College students think only about College classes, and Engineering’s working too hard to get out of the Quad,” he said, launching into a discussion of new programs designed to “break students out of their ‘silos.’”
The crowd lit up as Dzialo revealed the beginning stages of a new health care minor, marketed towards pre-med students who want “a human experience,” as well as the Cross Currents program designed to promote inter-school courses.
Alec Miller, chair of the NEC, announced the creation of the Commission on Undergraduate Assembly Debates, a group created to sort out the format, logistics and topics of the UA’s debates in the upcoming election. CUAD fills the role of a commissioner, usually appointed by the UA president, and is tasked with making the debates more engaging. Miller claims that CUAD’s efforts will lead “to greater voter turnout.”
Transparency was a large part of the decision to create CUAD, Miller said, as well as education, a key goal of the NEC. Together, CUAD represents every school except Nursing and every class year.
Jen Chaquette, who is chair of SAC, came on to talk about the debt issue. “Dealing with the moratorium has been one of our achievements this year,” she said, speaking on the motion SAC took to not recognize any more student groups until it had settled its debts. She also showed that with the new debt policy, group debt has been cut in half, and costs are falling.
Dan Bernick, UA president, got up to take the penultimate speaking spot. “I had the chance to make a nice PowerPoint with images and text,” he said, rising to stand in front of the projector screen. “But I didn’t want to because this is all you need to know,” he concluded, and gestured towards the five words on display: “Working for You: Undergraduate Assembly.”
Bernick expanded on the UA’s three functions: service, funding and advocacy. Among his talking points were the expansion of legal services into tenant-landlord disputes, the budgetary process and detailing some student-submitted advocacy questions.
Closing, Bernick said, “It doesn’t matter to me if people know who I am or what the six branches are. All I care about is if someone has a problem, that they know they can take it to us, and we’ll help them solve it.”