Every year during the season of Penn Student Government elections, the student body is bombarded with signatures, platforms and the opportunity to elect a new president, vice president and general body of the Undergraduate Assembly. While the election is usually met with mild disinterest from the student body, we believe that the UA president and vice president have the platform to shift Penn’s culture for the better each and every day. We are Justin Hopkins and Calvary Rogers, and we are running for UA president and vice president to establish a more effective, transparent and collaborative UA.

We are running for UA president and vice president because we believe this campus needs a renewed sense of community, founded on bridges built between the differing voices, opinions and identities of our student body. Nonetheless, we have worked day in and day out to categorize our platform into five major themes: tuition costs, valuing minorities, transparency between the UA and student body, academic policy and mental health.

Every year, student tuition increases by a rate of 3.9 percent, as approved by the University Board of Trustees Budget and Finance committee. With new UA access to Trustees through this committee going forward, the undergraduate voice over our tuition would be strengthened more than ever before through advocacy for a lower rate. The reasons for doing so are manifold, including that these increases directly impact the lives of so many students on a day-to-day basis with far-reaching implications. While Trustees establish tuition costs three years ahead of time, we know that our advocacy will at the very least allow our Penn successors to see the change for which we can begin to push.

On another note, we are running to establish a stronger sense of collaboration and support for underrepresented students and organizations. If we are fortunate enough to be elected, we look forward to holding biweekly one-on-one meetings with various umbrella organizations and their constituents, specifically underrepresented groups, as a way to be able to discuss projects the UA is working on, can work on and should be working on, as well as things on which we can partner. This collaboration also will help us establish a genuine relationship that we feel past UA administrations have lacked from an executive level. We believe it is not just important for us to establish a deep relationship with minorities, but to also amplify their voices by giving them a direct seat at the table.

Given an extensive transparent and effective relationship to the general student body, we seek to partner with The Daily Pennsylvanian to publish on a consistent basis what the UA is working on so that students have a better idea of what their UA representatives are doing. As the relationship between the DP and UA is in desperate need of strengthening, we hope to be able to work out the details of this partnership if elected.

Regarding academic policy, we hope to tangibly expand upon the work of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education and Calvary this year through advocacy within the Vice Provost’s Office of Education that entails expanding half-credit course listings, easing stringent exam policies and broadening pass-fail course structure. Because we hope to foster collaboration with other student government branches, we want to deepen the UA partnership with SCUE to maximize the efficiency of academic change through transparency.

Finally, as recently highlighted in the DP’s analysis of Penn vacation days last week, mental health issues continue to grip this campus. First, we want to work with the administration to establish Counseling and Psychological Services Satellite Offices to help deal with its limited physical space on Market Street and allow easier access for students across campus, especially for preliminary appointments. Furthermore, we will push for any initiatives that decrease stress and competitiveness on a policy-wide level, like the club guidelines for new membership that the Student Activities Council and Wharton Council have recently established.

Regarding Penn’s vacation schedule, we believe that working with the Trustees committees we can develop immediate changes to the next considered budget and schedule. We recognize substance abuse on campus is a major issue as well, and look forward to partnering with CAPS, Student Health Service and Student Intervention Services to tackle the issue through mentorship and counseling that promotes second chances.

Throughout these past few years at Penn, we firmly believe that we have demonstrated what an efficient, collaborative and transparent vision to empower students on campus can truly entail. For more about us and our platform, check out bridgesforpenn.squarespace.com. Your opinion, your identity, your community, your voice and your vote matters. Vote for us this week for a UA that works not just for you, but with you.

JUSTIN HOPKINS is a College junior studying political science and CALVARY ROGERS is a College sophomore studying political science. They are running for UA president and vice president respectively. Their email addresses are justh@sas.upenn.edu and calvary@sas.upenn.edu and their campaign website is bridgesforpenn.squarespace.com.

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