On Sunday, the Undergraduate Assembly, headed by President Abe Sutton, met in order to finalize the budget for the upcoming school year.
While divvying up travel costs, food orders and retreat money may not be the most exciting of tasks, there’s no denying that it’s an incredibly important one - the UA is in charge of over $2 million and also determines how much of that money is allocated to branches of student government, including SAC and SPEC. However, the budget was never actually finished this Sunday, because the UA was busy resolving some internal personal issues, including a petition to impeach Abe Sutton that apparently only failed by one vote.
Certain details surrounding Sunday’s UA meeting are unclear. For example, we doubt anyone outside the UA is sure of exactly to what extent this meeting was brought on by the impeachment attempt. However, there are certain things that we know for sure: The budget for the upcoming school year was supposed to be finalized on Sunday but wasn’t; the UA instead held a closed-door meeting during which they discussed “how [they] work together” with the assistance of a mediator from the Office of Student Affairs; and, most troubling, by the end of the meeting, the budget had still not been finalized.
To summarize, the UA took a meeting that should have been used to address something with significant, tangible effects on student life - again, this is the budget that funds the Spring Fling artists and student groups on campus - in order to talk about their feelings and resolve political infighting that never should have occurred in the first place.
The whole impeachment debacle exemplifies many of the ongoing problems with how the UA is run. First of all, the very idea that the UA president, who is elected by the student body as a whole, could simply be impeached and brought to trial with a 12-person petition and absolutely zero dialogue with the rest of the students at Penn is highly troubling. We also find ourselves wondering: What exactly was the point of raising the petition now? There are only two weeks left in this year’s board members’ terms. To propose something like an impeachment of the student body president - with no involvement of the actual student body, no less - at such a critical juncture during budget season seems pointless and petty.
Students, however, can rest assured - after Sunday’s meeting, the UA members have come to the earth-shattering realization that it is “the friendships [they have] formed that give [their] work meaning.” We still do not know what the budget for the upcoming year will look like, even though elections season starts tomorrow when candidates turn in their applications, but it seems as if the UA would like us to be happy that at least our elected representatives have sorted out their personal drama.
It’s a shame that students are disenchanted with the UA. It’s also a shame that the UA does very little by way of visible action or effective communication with students. Perhaps most shameful of all, students don’t seem particularly surprised - or particularly affected - by anything the UA does. But the only way this will change is if the UA takes it upon itself to rise above bickering more characteristic of kindergarteners than the leadership organization that heads Penn Student Government - and we as the student body take it upon ourselves to hold them to that standard.
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