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There are those who have no idea what the UA is or does -- i.e. 90 percent of the student body; those who couldn't care less about what it does (the administration); and finally, you have your other branches of student government, who like to obsess over every little thing the UA does or doesn't do. So, who's to blame for all of this? Well, it all depends on who you talk to. For those pre-frosh not yet acquainted with the wonderful world of Penn politics, here's lesson number one: there is always someone to blame. And remember this next rule, you must always, always complain about something, but never, ever do anything about it. When in doubt, just pass the blame on. In the last few semesters, this blame passing has become so prevalent that it is now the official "sport" of the student government here at Penn, and the cycle begins anew with each Sunday night UA meeting. Members of the body may spend an entire 50-minute session debating and voting on an issue, only to have the resulting resolution completely disregarded by both their fellow students and the administration. For example, when the UA passed a resolution in February opposing the vending ordinance the University had recently submitted to City Council, it had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the decision process. In fact, vending has been severely limited on campus due to the same bill that the UA voted to oppose ("UA criticizes U. over vending ordinance," DP, 2/17/98). With no evident progress from week to week, the UA is touted as "ineffective" and the search for a scapegoat begins. While the UA faults the administration for not taking student views into account, it's hard to blame University President Judith Rodin for choosing to ignore the advice of a body which is a fairly homogenous and an inaccurate representation of the student body. And the mud-slinging simply can't end there, as non-Greek members of student government point to the heavy Greek presence on the UA as the underlying reason behind the body's general futility, further dividing the campus among already pronounced partisan lines. Well, for once, maybe, just maybe, no one is at fault. Try as it may, without fundamental changes, the UA will never be able to achieve the necessary results to placate its critics. In its role as an advisory board without any direct legislative power, the UA -- and its student body constituents -- are at the mercy of the administration and will never have a real voice in the issues that matter. The current infrastructure of the UA is simply not effective, but unfortunately, the remedy is out of the hands of its members. The only road to empowerment for the UA is to get one of its members appointed to the body where the real decisions are made -- the University Board of Trustees. In 1994, the Board of Trustees approved the appointment of four non-elected Pennsylvania officials in return for $35 million in state funding. So, if the the state can have a four-fold say in University issues, why can't we the students, who pay hundreds of millions a year in tuition, have just one voice?

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