Your Voice | Responses to UA hazing allegations


UA members respond to Friday's columns about hazing within the organization




On Friday, The Daily Pennsylvanian published columns by College senior Mo Shahin and College sophomore Ernest Owens about hazing within the Undergraduate Assembly. Printed below are two letters from UA members in response to the columns.

Letter from the UA President

Dear members of the Penn community,

I am writing to you on behalf of the UA Executive Board with regard to recent DP opinion columns concerning the UA and alleged hazing violations. With this brief note, I hope to shed some light on a difficult and unfortunate situation that has raised a number of justified questions.

First, we must apologize and take full personal responsibility. The quotations from last September are accurately attributed and represent an inexcusable treatment of the serious subject of hazing. Regardless of whether those quoted played a role in the proceedings, the UA at that point in time did a disservice to its new members and we, as committee directors, failed to speak up for what is right. None of us condones the act of hazing in any form, and we are deeply sorry if anyone felt discomfort due to the event.

Second, we would like to address the allegations related to this year’s events. Although we took proactive steps to create a welcoming environment for our new members, we did hear hazing concerns from one author of the related opinion columns immediately after the event. We take such concerns very seriously, and we hold ourselves to a high standard of scrutiny. Since we believe in the fairness of Penn’s system and in the importance of due process, we referred ourselves two weeks ago to the administration and the Office of Student Conduct. We volunteered all details related to our case and the inquiry is ongoing.

In closing, we again apologize for this situation and any disappointment or anger that any of you may be feeling. We are truly sorry. Each of us firmly believes in the dignity and respect of every individual on this campus. As UA members, it is our job to represent your interests, ensuring that your time at Penn is the best that it can possibly be. We think the most productive way forward is to fulfill our duty to you by redoubling our efforts and our advocacy initiatives.

We welcome your feedback: all members’ contact information can be found here.

Sincerely,
Tyler Ernst
UA President and Wharton and Engineering senior

***

A bonding experience

Last year, as a freshman, I was initiated into the Undergraduate Assembly. I was one of the seven students who “waited for acceptance” with Ernest Owens. I voluntarily participated in this event, as evidenced by the fact that College sophomore Inigo Rumayor, a fellow newly elected member, chose not to participate and was not penalized in any way.

I bonded with my fellow new members by participating in a scavenger hunt and taking pictures together all over campus. I was not forced to drink and did not see anyone tied to a chair over the course of the night. Owens writes, “Clubs and organizations are arenas for students to showcase their specific abilities in their desired fields.” This was exactly what happened when 2011 College graduate Grant Dubler had me name the current Supreme Court justices as part of initiation. It was a direct result of that conversation that he ended up giving me internship advice for this past summer.

Does this sound like fraternity hazing? It didn’t feel that way to me, though it clearly did to Owens. I hope Owens does not resent fellow UA members over the very event that helped me grow closer with them.

It was on this night that I first spoke to College junior Chris Cruz about his plans for organizing a Dining Advisory Board, something that is now a reality. It was this night that I learned to collaborate with other new members, whom I had previously competed against.

It may be that Owens did not have a similar experience, and my heart goes out to him if that is the case. I hope we can work together to improve the process for future years: to ensure continued safety of new representatives, while promoting bonding between the new representatives and making sure all are comfortable with the experience.

Abe Sutton
Wharton and College sophomore

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