Each year the Undergraduate Assembly completes its budget negotiations before spring break to avoid the political infighting that can characterize election season.
But this year, infighting seems to have arrived early - the latest hitch in a tumultuous budget process which has failed to produce a finalized budget for the next academic year.
It came in a failed petition to impeach UA President and College and Wharton Senior Abe Sutton, signed by a reported 11 UA members - one short of the necessary 12, or one third, of the UA’s 36 members.
This was followed by a closed door meeting, where the Office of Student Affairs mediated between UA members. Budget negotiations were postponed to make room for the event.
“Abe was abusing his power, working for the title instead of action,” said an anonymous UA member, who explained that she sympathized with the motives of the authors but chose not sign the petition.
Wharton senior and UA Treasurer Tiffany Zhu, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, allegedly was pressured to make allocations in the UA budget for for food at UA Steering meetings. Sutton allegedly said he would complicate motions regarding the SAC moratorium, if she did not make the allocation, the anonymous UA representative, a former UA member familiar with the situation and UA vice president, Gabe Delaney said.
These sources also say that a former UA member penned a letter saying Sutton made her feel “emotionally distressed,” Delaney, who is a College Junior, said.
"Our mental health needs to come first. I never intended to hurt anyone and hope that every student feels safe and secure," Sutton said in an emailed statement in response to questions from the Daily Pennsylvanian. "Our personal interactions are what matter in the long run and apologize if I have unknowingly hurt someone I consider a friend."
Sutton also cited his work as UA president in response to the allegations, including work with PRISM, the Interfaith Center and the other groups. "My time on the UA has been focused on action ... I have spent my time supporting students, not seeking the limelight,” he said. “It has never been about me nor should it be."
However, the impeachment petition seems to have dissipated as soon as it appeared. Members of the UA who complained now mostly want to talk about the budget process and getting things done.
Budgeting is carried out primarily by the UA Budget Committee, which is led by Zhu, the treasurer. Typically, the entire budget process occurs earlier in the year.
According to Delaney and the UA sources, there was a mix-up about the due date of Zhu’s budget. The Budget Committee consequently faced a choice of whether to release a rougher draft of the budget on the night of February 16 and follow the initially proposed timeline, or to delay the entire process. Ultimately, Zhu drafted the budget on February 16 and it was debated February 23.
The budget amendment meeting will be held on March 16. UA members and other student government branches can discuss the budget at the meeting, and a final vote will take place on March 23.