What does the Undergraduate Assembly do?
We hear this question a lot, and we’re sure you do too.
They do the airport shuttles — most people know this much, and UA members seem to be well aware that in past years, the assembly rightfully earned the nickname, “airport shuttle club.” Past UAs have been largely aloof and ineffective, only coming in sight of students when an all-undergrad email lands in their mailbox, it’s time to get a cheap ride to PHL or in late spring/early fall when posters go up on trees bearing a host of new names begging for a vote.
This is what the UA is supposed to do:
“In order to provide a means for responsible and effective participation in the organization and control of the affairs of the University.”
We don’t mean to say that past iterations of the assembly have failed at this mission. But as we are in election season (or rather, election week, thanks to the NEC), undergraduates have the opportunity to vote students onto the UA who will succeed at effectively participating in University business inaccessible to most individual students.
To participate properly, the UA, its members and — most of all — its president need to be representative of the entire undergraduate student body. Jane Meyer provides us all with the best hope of genuine representation and advocacy and has our support.
While we have concerns about Jane’s ability to follow through on projects, a skill she put on display less than other candidates, the president’s role is to represent all undergraduates to the University. The UA has all sorts of schemes — the infamous shuttles being one of them — but the president’s proper role is not to make sure pet projects are implemented or even started. The president has the enormous, often unfulfilled, responsibility of being our voice to the many-headed monster that is Penn’s administration. If either of the candidates has a chance at being a good voice for every undergraduate, it’s Jane.
Ray Clark is similar in this regard. If any of the vice presidential candidates is ready to properly represent the voices of the many undergraduate student groups that have seats on the UA Steering Committee, it’s Ray.
His focus is not on projects or advancing his own agenda. As far as we can tell, he is dedicated to advocating for others. And he does not just hope to work with or advance the agendas of a select few; Ray appears to be set on listening to others and — most importantly — uniting the diverse array of student groups that he would be elected to represent.
Penn undergraduates need a uniting force and a representative voice. Other clubs or other student leaders can spend their time on shuttles or events. Our next president and vice president, as well as the rest of the next UA, will be tasked with this challenge.
Jane and Ray present the best chance for living up to it. We sure hope that they do.
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