Ernest Owens | An inconvenient proposal
The Ernest Opinion | Petition against the UA’s role in reviewing the alcohol policy
February 2, 2012, 11:59 pm · Updated February 5, 2012, 10:10 pm·
The Ernest Opinion
We were guilty. There is no excuse.
Since the Undergraduate Assembly was found to have violated the University’s Antihazing and Alcohol and Drug policies, all elected members except freshmen will now have to attend a mandatory educational session on alcohol and hazing led by the Office of Student Conduct.
As much as I am disappointed that the majority of our governing body, including myself, will be held accountable for the irresponsible behavior of our executive board — who planned and facilitated these acts of hazing — I feel even worse for someone else. I feel sorry for you — the students.
When you elected us, you had faith that we would represent you. That conviction is now a little hazy.
You bought into our campaign slogans and ambitious proposals, giving us a chance. And now, we have let you down. The most powerful branch of your student government is now corrupt.
Hardly anyone is willing to speak out against anything anymore, because the politics of the UA has overshadowed our essential purpose.
Since I wrote a column confessing my hazing experience in November, I have felt the torment and faced the consequence of being a whistleblower. But do not pity me. Looking back, I do not regret a single word of it.
As a member of this campus, you are entitled to know what goes on behind the UA’s closed doors. The UA is supposed to be a vessel for transparent and open dialogue. Unlike other organizations on this campus, we are elected to uphold this precedent.
I stand behind the OSC’s decision to hold UA members accountable for their actions. However, I do not agree with their decision to extend the punishment for hazing to the majority of our members, without singling out the executive board for its distinct role.
OSC made it clear that no organization on this campus is above the law. But the fact that the UA plans to continue to review the alcohol policy — that it violated — disturbs me.
Nothing spells hypocrisy like attempting to rewrite the rules that we broke. The UA is no longer in a position to handle any business relating to alcohol or hazing at Penn.
Could you imagine asking a convicted thief to serve on a jury deciding the fate of a fellow burglar? Hell no.
In the same vein, the UA has no authority to review the alcohol policy. Members should leave the policy in the hands of the other organizations on this campus that helped to draft a revised version of it. The UA would create a disservice to our campus by remaining on the committee and presenting the revised alcohol policy to the administration.
And at the end of the day, this is the UA’s fault. It is our fault for not speaking out collectively against these allegations. It is also our executive board’s fault for fostering the mentality that UA members are victims of the controversy, rather than mere cowards, overly concerned about their reputation and re-election.
Initially, it was not easy for me to come forward with my account. However, I realized that there is more to being a student government leader than the title. What is important is to preserve integrity on this campus even if that means that my status will take a hit.
And so I propose that all students on this campus actively petition against the UA’s involvement in reviewing Penn’s alcohol policy. The alcohol policy can and should be passed without the UA. This can take place through University Council. I urge students to support the other organizations on the committee so that this can happen in the near future.
What I offer is an inconvenient proposal. But its inconvenience favors integrity rather than the swift action of hypocrisy. The only thing that separates a UA member from the average student is arguably the ability to communicate with the administration faster. Given the controversial state that we are currently in, the alcohol policy is best served in your hands, not ours. Just as our founder Benjamin Franklin once said, “resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.”
Ernest Owens, an Undergraduate Assembly representative, is a College sophomore from Chicago. His email address is email@example.com. The Ernest Opinion appears every Friday.